Due to the dangerous conditions in Venezuela, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) helped pass the S.50: H.R. 161: Venezuela Temporary Protected Status Act of 2021. This act aims to protect eligible Venezuelan citizens residing in the U.S. who cannot safely return to their home country. In addition to other criteria, Venezuelan citizens applying for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) must demonstrate they have been continuous residents of the U.S. since March 8, 2021, and have been continuously present in the U.S. since March 9, the effective date of the TPS. Considering these prerequisites, USCIS estimates around 323,000 citizens are applicable for TPS.
The Venezuela Temporary Protected Status Act allows beneficiaries to remain in the United States for an extended period of 18 months or until September 9, 2022, when the act is no longer active. They are also authorized to obtain Employment Authorization Documents (EAD) during this period as long as they follow the requirements of their TPS. An EAD allows non-citizens to work in the U.S. for a certain period of time. Beneficiaries can also apply for authorized travel outside of the U.S. but retain the same immigrant status after returning. It is important to note that TPS does not lead or result in permanent resident status. Whatever past status a beneficiary had remains intact after the act ends.
Current Conditions in Venezuela
This bill is highly necessary when considering the harsh conditions in Venezuela. Poverty in Venezuela increased from 48.4% in 2014 to 96% in 2019. In addition, 80% are currently living in extreme poverty. At least 2.3 million Venezuelans are facing food insecurity. From an economic perspective, in this same timespan, Venezuela’s economy declined by 66%. This has made Venezuela the country with the highest inflation rate in the world. Healthcare has diminished greatly as well, with pharmacies experiencing shortages of approximately 85% of necessary medicine. Also, about 70% of surveyed hospitals lack access to clean water. In terms of violence, Venezuela is among the world’s most violent countries with nearly 7,000 extrajudicial killings between January 2018 and May 2019. In addition, the Venezuelan Violence Observatory NGO calculated 46 murders for every 100,000 people during 2020.
Benefits of the TPS
TPS was created under the Immigration Act of 1990 and is currently serving 470,000 people from 10 different countries dealing with severely unsafe conditions. Under the current Biden-Harris administration and the newly written U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, citizens currently benefiting from TPS can access a path to citizenship that wasn’t available before. This act has not yet passed but has gathered attention and would be highly beneficial for both the U.S. economy and immigrants from countries facing violence and civic unrest. After all, current TPS holders have a labor force participation rate of over 80% and are expected to contribute $164 billion to the national gross domestic product over the next 10 years.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said, in accordance with the Venezuela Temporary Protected Status Act of 2021, “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.”
– Juan Vargas