In a humanitarian move, President Biden has issued an executive order allowing thousands of Venezuelans who fled the crumbling South American country in hopes of a better life in the U.S. the chance to apply for temporary protection and avoid deportation.
“Biden’s order allows about 300,000 Venezuelans in the U.S. to apply for Temporary Protected Status,” reported Suzanne Gamboa of NBC News. “If it is granted, recipients can remain and work in the U.S. for 18 months.”
Originally mentioned as a campaign promise while Biden was campaigning for the Presidency, foreign policy experts say the pledge is designed to encourage Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro to initiate significant reform in the once-prosperous country that has since been impacted by economic disaster, leaving most of its citizens living well below the poverty level.
“The living conditions in Venezuela reveal a country in turmoil, unable to protect its own citizens,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said. “It is in times of extraordinary and temporary circumstances like these that the United States steps forward to support eligible Venezuelan nationals already present here, while their home country seeks to right itself out of the current crises.”
While in office, former President Donald Trump and the Republican-led Senate had tried imposing sanctions on the country to force Maduro out but had refused to support legislation granting Venezuelans protected status, instead ramping up deportation as part of their ongoing war against immigrants.
A senior Biden administration official interviewed by the Associated Press called the Trump administration’s focus on ongoing sanctions instead of protections for the country’s citizens “a failed strategy.”
“The United States is in no rush to lift sanctions,” the official who insisted on anonymity said. “But we need to recognize here that unilateral sanctions over the last four years have not succeeded in achieving an electoral outcome in the country.”
“Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, is a temporary, renewable benefit that grants protection from deportation and permission to work to people who are unable to return to their countries because of natural disasters, armed conflicts and other conditions,” said Gamboa. “To be eligible for the protected status, applicants must show continuous residence in the U.S. as of Monday, March 8. The Homeland Security Department will announce a 180-day registration period when applications can be filed with Citizenship and Immigration Services.”
Government officials said all potential TPS candidates will also undergo thorough security and background checks.