The decision could exclude up to 250,000 migrants who came to the United States after March 2021
The Joe Biden administration has extended temporary legal protections for hundreds of thousands of Venezuelan migrants who fled their home country, allowing them to legally live and work in the US for another 18 months.
The Department of Homeland Security announced the move on Monday, with DHS chief Alejandro Mayorkas saying Temporary Protected Status granted last year would be extended by another 18 months for some 343,000 immigrants.
“This action is one of many ways the Biden administration is providing humanitarian support to Venezuelans at home and abroad, together with our regional partners,” Mayorkas said.
However, the renewed legal protections will apply only to those who arrived in the country prior to March 2021, when the last extension was approved by the White House, meaning that up to 250,000 Venezuelans who’ve migrated since could be turned away.
While Senate Democrats have urged the administration to grant protected status to more recent arrivals, with 22 lawmakers pointing to “deeply troubling conditions” in Venezuela in an open letter published last Friday, a source cited by Reuters said the White House fears that could “encourage more irregular migration.”
Officials were under a Monday deadline to decide whether the protections would be extended. They were previously set to expire in September, but will now be in place until March 2024.
According to the United Nations, more than 6 million Venezuelans have fled their country due to instability, violence and lack of opportunity, describing the situation as one of the largest displacement crises in the world. The government in Caracas remains under heavy US sanctions for alleged abuses, though the Biden administration has said it’s considering easing some of the penalties should President Nicolas Maduro agree to meet with opposition figures.