TPS Redesignation and Direct Repatriations: the Carrot and the Stick

During this past few days the Biden administration rolled out its new policy toward Venezuelan migrants

Aduana del Ecuador, Rumichaca. Cientos de venezonalos en situacion de movilidad humana esperan en fila para sellar su pasaporte y continuar con su viaje. Al dia, lelgaban entre 3000 y 7000 personas buscando salir de Colombia para viajar, en su mayoria, a Peru. La espera en esta fila se extiende hasta 4 dias, durmiendo en la calle o en zonas techadas de la Aduana. Durante las noches, la temperatura puede llegar a bajar hasta 3 grados Celcius.

Working at a private immigration law firm in the United States, I get to sit in legal consultations as an English/Spanish interpreter. I listen to clients tell their whole immigration history to our lawyers, in search of a path to a legal status, permanent or temporary. Many of those clients would give anything to be eligible to apply for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). And now this figure was extended and redesignated for Venezuelan nationals for 18 months on September 20, 2023. 

But the news of TPS extension and the new redesignation came with a bittersweet counterpart. Today, just a few days after the Secretary of Homeland Security made his announcement, and the notice was posted on the Federal Register, our home country’s name is headlining articles again: The U.S is resuming direct deportation flights to Venezuela. The news was dropped by anonymous U.S officials after the U.S Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, met with Alicia Barcena, Mexico’s Secretary of Foreign Affairs, and other foreign ministers from Colombia and Panama on Wednesday, according to the Associated Press. 

With this redesignation, Venezuelan individuals who have continuously resided in the US since July 31, 2023, are eligible to apply for TPS starting on October 3, 2023

The Maduro regime called it an organized repatriation and linked the migration of Venezuelans to the sanctions. Later in the day, the official communiqué by the U.S. Department of State was posted online:

“In keeping with our commitment to enforce our immigration laws, and to continue strengthening the consequences for those who cross our border unlawfully, the United States is announcing today that it will resume direct repatriations of Venezuelan nationals who cross our border unlawfully and do not establish a legal basis to remain.”

It was clear that the redesignation would not come without a strategy to deter “unlawful border crossings” into the United States. What does a TPS redesignation mean? In short, it means that thousands of more Venezuelan citizens are now eligible to apply for TPS. Redesignation is in fact great news for almost 500,000 Venezuelans who had crossed the border before July 31st, 2023—it is very likely that any migrants who crossed after that date will fall within the group that can be deported to Venezuela.

Along with an important injection of funds into the border wall (yes, Trump’s border wall), the possibility of deporting Venezuelans straight to their homeland sends a clear message that the Biden administration is looking to tackle the border crisis head on.

A Sigh of Relief

While the extension was expected, the redesignation was an uncommon surprise by the Department of Homeland Security. The TPS is a protecting figure applicable to people on US soil who come from countries that are going through extreme negative conditions such as ongoing armed conflict or environmental disasters. As you may know, extreme negative conditions haven’t ceased in Venezuela.

I majored in Global Studies and throughout my years in college, and after graduating, I have dedicated my career to immigration and refugee resettlement. In fact, I’m a TPS holder myself. During my junior year of college, I lost my Venezuelan passport, and when I realized it would be nearly impossible to get a new one, I applied for TPS, knowing this status would bring safety to my life in the U.S. Back then, applying for TPS scared me.  I came to the U.S as an international student, and part of me wanted to keep it that way. Having my passport and my visa meant freedom, to be able to travel out of the country whenever I wanted, and to not have to deal with the complex U.S immigration system besides my international student status. I thought I did not want things to change, and in 2021, applying for TPS meant saying goodbye to that freedom, it meant that I needed protection from my own country, and that scared me a lot. Today, I feel lucky and grateful I have the opportunity to be a TPS holder. 

If you—as a foreigner in the US—are granted a TPS, you can’t be deported, you are authorized to work in this country, and you can apply for an authorization to travel. The extension of TPS covers all of those Venezuelans who are beneficiaries of the 2021 designation, allowing them to live and work in the U.S until September 2025.

With this redesignation, Venezuelan individuals who have continuously resided in the US since July 31, 2023, are eligible to apply for TPS starting on October 3, 2023, according to the Federal Register Notice posted on October 3, 2023. Although we wish any Venezuelan citizen was eligible for TPS regardless of the date they started residing in the U.S, every single TPS designation comes with a required continuous residence requirement date, and for Venezuela’s redesignation, it is July 31st of this year. 

This redesignation will be quite helpful for those eligible. Thousands of Venezuelans have come to the US in the last few years with the hopes of finding better opportunities while our country fails to keep us safe. There are many Venezuelans in the U.S without immigration status, so they don’t have access to work authorization, can’t open a bank account, can’t get a driver’s license or a state ID. 

Being eligible for TPS will be a life changer for those who need it, a new drop of hope, a step closer to safety and stability. Moreover, it will help many vulnerable migrants that have been subject to abuse and exploitation due to the lack of documents or a status to get out of that cycle, get documentation, and get closer to better, safer opportunities. 

Camila, whose name I changed to keep her identity safe, opened up to me about how this redesignation means safety for her: “Back in Venezuela I graduated from medical school. Sadly, I could not work as a doctor due to the country’s current situation. I watched people suffer and die from the lack of medical supplies and financial resources.” She decided to come to the US in search of making her dream of working as a doctor with adequate resources come true. “For me, the most important change the TPS will bring is a substantial improvement in the quality of life, the freedom to live without fear, the feeling of peace, and mostly, stability in all aspects of my life”, she says. Camila will be submitting her TPS application to USCIS very soon. 

It might be stressful for migrants and refugees to think it is temporary, that it can expire. I get it. It makes me a little anxious sometimes too. However, we need to focus on the positive aspects after going through so much back there. It is still a protection, a chance to feel peace of mind, one that most people do not have. For many, it is a chance to get a driver’s license, to apply for that one job they have wanted for a long time or to escape from that boss that exploits you because they know you are not legally authorized to work. 


  • If you are a beneficiary of the 2021 designation, do not forget to re-register during the re-registration period happening from January 10th, 2024 to March 10th, 2024 so you do not lose your TPS status. 
  • If you are planning to apply, make sure to check the USCIS website on the TPS for Venezuela for specifics or legal counsel. This text is not legal advice.

Victoria E. García

Philadelphia-based paralegal working at a private immigration law firm and soon-to-be immigrant wellness case manager at a refugee resettlement agency.