WASHINGTON—The Biden administration is granting temporary protection for hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans living in the U.S. who fled the economic crisis in their home country.
An estimated 349,000 Venezuelans live in the U.S., according to a 2018 report by the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan organization that conducts research on migration. More than half of Venezuelan nationals make their homes in Florida.
The report said the top four counties by concentration for Venezuelans in the U.S. between 2014 and 2018 were Miami-Dade County, Florida; Broward County, Florida; Orange County, Florida; and Harris County, Texas.
Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas designated Venezuela for Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, until September 2022, which will enable Venezuelan nationals, and those whose last residence was in the country, to file for a TPS application and be shielded from deportation.
The status is a form of humanitarian relief for individuals when the U.S. deems a country is too dangerous for people to return.
“The living conditions in Venezuela reveal a country in turmoil, unable to protect its own citizens,” Mayorkas said in a statement.
“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.”
Venezuelan nationals who are in the U.S. must apply for TPS during a 180-day registration period, while also meeting certain eligibility requirements. The status will also allow those in the program to receive work permits.
On President Donald Trump’s last day in office, he signed an executive order to prevent Venezuelans from deportation through the Deferred Enforced Departure program, but many were left in limbo as the Biden administration decided to not open applications for that program.
In Venezuela, the economy has collapsed, leading to a shortage of medicine and food and the government is embroiled in a political crisis.
Republican and Democratic senators praised the designation.
Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, said in a statement that this designation will provide temporary relief to those fleeing.
“Venezuela remains a nation in crisis,” he said. “I am glad the Biden Administration shares that commitment, and I support granting TPS status to eligible Venezuelan nationals currently in the U.S.”
Sen. Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also praised the move.
“For years, the world watched in horror as man-made humanitarian and political crises turned Venezuela into a failed state—leaving the Venezuelan people to face political violence and without access to food, water, and electricity,” he said in a statement along with Sen. Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat.