Back in March 2021, a couple of months into the first year of the new administration, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas announced the designation of Venezuela as a beneficiary of Temporary Protected Status, or TPS. That meant that anyone from Venezuela who had arrived before March 8th, 2021 and had irregular status (who also complied with the requisites included in the measure) could adhere to the TPS to legally stay, work and live in the United States. We covered this here.
But all TPS designations have an expiration date. According to the policy, the Venezuelan TPS was set to expire by September of this year. Fortunately, an announcement was made last week extending it for another 18 months, meaning that anyone who came to the U.S. before the same date of March 8th, 2021 will be able to continue adhering to the TPS status until March 10th, 2024.
Many interpreted this not as a time extension, but as an extension of the number of people who qualify for the status. However, the extension only applies to the expiration date of the status without including any new people as beneficiaries. In other words, when it was approved in March 2021, it was estimated that around 323,000 Venezuelans in the U.S. were eligible to apply. The extension benefits that same group of people. The recent announcement only applies to the expiration date.
Let me explain. The TPS is approved as a temporary measure to respond to particular humanitarian or political circumstances in the designated country. The idea is that things will change and the TPS will no longer be needed. This is why they usually have an expiration date. But TPS status designations are often renewed, and designated countries have benefited from the measure for decades. Just to take a look at another case within our region, El Salvador was designated a TPS beneficiary country on March 9th, 2001 and still remains one. That is, for 21 consecutive years people from El Salvador who arrived before March 2001 (and complied with the requisites set forth in the measure) are still living in the U.S. and benefiting from the TPS.
That may very well be the future of Venezuelans with TPS in the United States, probably until things change in Venezuela—and even if things were to improve. Why? Because what happens is that these communities settle in the U.S., contribute to the economy and become part of the social landscape, and politically, they also mobilize and can affect electoral outcomes. What has also been the norm is that governments of the countries of origin end up including the protection of “TPsianos” or TPS holders as part of the bilateral agenda with the U.S.
This extension is positive for those 300K Venezuelans, but insufficient to give protection to so many others who don’t qualify.
The question is, thus, what happens to those who arrived after March 8th, 2021? What happens to those who don’t comply with the requisites in the TPS designation and are in irregular status in the United States?
In order to protect these Venezuelans, we would either need a re-designation of Venezuelans as TPS beneficiaries with a change in conditions to qualify for the status, or we need to pursue other regularization avenues.
One that is in the works is the Ley de Ajuste Venezolano HR 7854, already introduced in the U.S. Congress. If approved, it would allow all Venezuelans who have been in the United States as of December 31st, 2021 (regardless of when they entered the country) and counting one year and one day of continuous physical presence in the United States to obtain Permanent Residence. If you want more info and want to be part of the movement to get it approved, visit https://leydeajustevenezolano.org/.
As Venezuelans keep coming to the United States, we will need to advocate for new measures that can give them protection. We should also extend our hands to help them settle. It is our duty as global citizens and as Venezuelans.
* Opiniones are personal. They do not represent those of the Organization of American States (OAS).
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