The United States will renew but not expand Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Venezuelans in the country, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said on Monday, a move that leaves tens of thousands of recently arrived Venezuelans without access to the humanitarian program.
The Biden administration will offer an 18-month extension of TPS for Venezuelans who were in the United States by March 8, 2021, but not expand the program to more recent arrivals, DHS said.
U.S. President Joe Biden, a Democrat, has greatly expanded use of the TPS program, which provides deportation relief and work permits to immigrants in the United States if their home countries experience a natural disaster, armed conflict or other extraordinary event. At the same time, Biden has struggled both politically and operationally with high numbers of migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, including Venezuelans.
The Biden administration granted TPS to Venezuela in March 2021, citing economic and political turmoil and human rights abuses under Socialist President Nicolas Maduro. Democratic lawmakers and advocates had urged the administration to offer the protections to more recently arrived Venezuelans.
Since January 2021, U.S. Border Patrol agents have detained more than 144,000 Venezuelans at the southwest border.
The Biden administration remains deeply at odds with Maduro and has kept in place much of the strict sanctions program against his government established under former U.S. President Donald Trump.
Washington has taken a few steps in recent months to slightly soften its Venezuela policy as it tries to coax Maduro to resume political negotiations with the country’s opposition.
“This action is one of many ways the Biden administration is providing humanitarian support to Venezuelans at home and abroad,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement announcing the TPS renewal.