Photo: Financial Times

Biden Administration Delivers TPS for Venezuelans, Finally

By honoring his electoral promise, the new U.S. President went further than the Trump administration in protecting Venezuelans in irregular status—but not as far as Colombia did

We’ve been writing about the long awaited Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Venezuelans in the U.S. for years now, and it was finally delivered today. The first post we published on the subject was a piece by Betilde Muñoz-Pogossian dated May 02, 2019—just a few months after Juan Guaidó took oath as caretaker President. Feels like it was ages ago. And, in fact, considering the severity of the Venezuelan crisis, it was. As Venezuelans flocked from the patria it had become evident that measures needed to be taken in order to protect the migrants in their countries of destination. Since the Trump administration was so closely involved with the caretaker government it was reasonable to expect some kind of measure that would protect Venezuelans in the U.S., many of which are in the country under expired visas or trapped in the middle of processing asylum requests (many of those won’t prosper because, truthfully, they may not comply with the prerequisites). But nothing came. Until his last day in office when he signed an Administrative Memorandum (DED) with instructions for the Secretary of Homeland Security to take appropriate measures to defer for 18 months the removal of Venezuelans, or aliens without a nationality, who last resided in Venezuela, and who were in the country as of January 20th, 2021.

It felt like a half-assed farewell gift to a vulnerable group who supported him unconditionally, and which was important in the narrative that delivered him Florida in the 2020 elections. It also felt as a last minute hail mary to steal Joe Biden’s thunder if his administration pulled through with the promise to deliver the TPS.

The DED can be removed more easily than the TPS, and the TPS has a better infrastructure to process requests and work permits. 

But as Betilde wrote, the DED is not a status. It doesn’t grant the same level of protection as the TPS, from Betilde’s piece:

DED is a benefit that allows certain foreign nationals from designated countries and regions facing political or civic conflict or disaster to live and work in the United States. This form of relief from removal provides an administrative stay of deportation for a specific period of time. It’s not the same as TPS; the main difference is that DED is a temporary protection from deportation while TPS is a temporary immigration benefit. Deferred Enforced Departure and Temporary Protected Status allow foreigners the opportunity to work, but the U.S. President has the constitutional power to designate DEDs, while the power to designate a TPS rests with the Secretary of Homeland Security.

Also, as immigration lawyer and Foro Penal member Julio Henriquez explained to us in an interview, the DED can be removed more easily than the TPS, and the TPS has a better infrastructure to process requests and work permits. 

TPS, however, is not perfect. Unlike the Colombian version, which grants a 10-year permanence status for Venezuelans in Colombia as well as a pathway to residency, the U.S. version is only for 18 months. And the people under this benefit have to live under the uncertainty of renewal every year and a half. The truth is that Venezuelan migration has to be understood as a long-term or even permanent event. The faster the world realizes this the easier it will be for our migrants to integrate to their new societies, and become strong enough to help their families back home and, who knows, grow even more useful for the moment, in the future, when Venezuela is ready to change and the idealized age of rebuilding finally comes.