The Urgent Need to Redesignate and Extend Venezuela for Temporary Protected Status (TPS)

Update: On September 20, 2023, the Biden administration extended and redesignated TPS for Venezuelan nationals who arrived on or before July 31, 2023. celebrates this decision that will stabilize 242,700 current TPS holders and enable 472,000 new members of our communities to care for themselves and their families. This is a popular decision, one that a strong majority of the American electorate support, including 67% of battleground state voters.
“Out of sheer desperation I’ve decided to walk," she said, "so I can take care of my children back there who are still alive.”
Yolanda Pimentel, Venezuelan mother of three who left her country by foot.

Venezuela has been reeling from a profound political, economic, and human rights crisis. With over 7.7 million people forced to leave their home, Venezuela has surpassed war-torn Syria and Ukraine as the top country of origin for refugees worldwide. In the United States, hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans live with the daily risk that they could be deported back to the conditions they fled—a deadly tragedy the Biden administration can avert by redesignating and extending Venezuela for Temporary Protected Status (TPS).

Congress created the TPS program to provide protection from deportation and work authorization to individuals from designated countries that face unsafe conditions in their home countries due to armed conflict, natural disasters, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions. The Biden administration designated Venezuela for TPS in 2021, citing “a complex humanitarian crisis marked by widespread hunger and malnutrition, a growing influence and presence of non-state armed groups, repression, and a crumbling infrastructure.” They extended this designation further in 2022.

This enabled Venezuelans who entered before March 2021 to continue to work and sustain themselves as their nation faces a severe humanitarian emergency. However, Venezuelans who have arrived since 2021 live with the daily fear that they will be yanked from their newly found safety and deported to violence and instability

Far from improving, conditions have spiraled since the Biden administration’s first TPS designation for Venezuela. Venezuelan nationals are fleeing an escalating repression of human rights defenders and political dissidents, an unprecedented economic collapse, and widespread hunger and poverty—spurred by a crumbling health system and gutted state institutions. The U.S. State Department issued its highest travel warning (Level 4- Do not Travel) for Venezuela due to the prevalence of homicide, armed robbery, kidnapping, atrocities committed against opponents of Nicolás Maduro’s dangerous regime, and shortages of basic necessities such as gasoline, food, electricity, water, and medical care.

A TPS redesignation would simply update the cutoff date for the program and give hundreds of thousands Venezuelan nationals the ability to work as they move through the asylum process, bringing immediate relief for people seeking economic stability and the communities in which they live. Many Venezuelans have sought refuge in the United States and joined our communities, including major metropolitan areas such as New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC. They are eager to work and care for their families, but they could be deported back to the same perils they fled.

Crimes Against Humanity

For the past four years, the United Nation’s Human Rights Council has led an independent Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) in Venezuela documenting egregious and widespread human rights violations—including sexual violence, several hundreds of extrajudicial executions, and rampant cases of arbitrary detention

The situation keeps worsening. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Venezuela saw an increase of 157% on attacks on human rights defenders, as well as a surge in attacks on media and news organizations. In September 2022, the United Nations extended the FFM’s mandate for two additional years to further investigate crimes against humanity committed by Maduro’s government. The Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (which began investigating Venezuela in 2018) also extended in 2022 in light of the alarming reports unveiled by international factfinders.

“The mission has reasonable grounds to believe that Venezuelan authorities, far from dismantling the structures involved in previous patterns of violations and crimes through genuine institutional reforms and accountability, have instead retained or even promoted some of the individuals responsible for the violations and crimes.”
September 2023 Report of the UN independent international fact-finding mission on Venezuela 
“Our conclusion is that in Venezuela, serious human rights violations continue, and that these violations are not isolated events. Rather, they reflect a policy of repressing dissent,”
Marta Valiñas, Chair of the UN independent international fact-finding mission on Venezuela

Escalating Political Crisis and Repression

Venezuelan authorities engage in a deliberate policy to repress political opponents. With the upcoming 2024 presidential elections in Venezuela, this policy has converted into a systematic campaign to quash dissent. The Venezuelan government already barred three potential candidates from taking part in opposition primaries and intensified threats, surveillance and harassment. Maduro has partnered with armed groups and guerillas to terrorize his opponents and maintain his grip on power.

In September 2023, the FFM highlighted the involvement of Venezuelan authorities in the commission of serious human rights violations against actual or perceived political opponents, including arbitrary detention and torture. This finding adds to a horrific record, as Venezuelan security forces are alleged to have killed 19,000 people between 2016 and 2019. Although the forces that killed and tortured with impunity (the “Agents of the Special Action Forces” or FAES) were dissolved in 2022, the Venezuelan National Police went on to create a new force: the Directorate of Strategic and Tactical Actions. Far from promising, the FFM recently called this new force a “mere change of name that demonstrates the persistent impunity and continuation of gross human rights violations.”

Meet Juan Miguel, a Venezuelan #TPS holder who has been able to further his education and work to help his community. Thanks to the Biden Admin’s redesignation of TPS for Venezuela, more families like Juan’s will be eligible for work authorization and deportation protections.

Free-Falling Economy, Food Insecurity & Health Crisis

According to the International Federation for Human Rights, a staggering 94.5% of the Venezuelan population lives in poverty. Basic resources, including water and electricity, have become a rarity. The treatment and distribution capacity of drinking water in 2022 is only 40% of Venezuela’s capacity in 1998. In 2021, 74.2% of the population suffered blackouts because of crumbling infrastructure in the generation of electricity nationwide. 

Nearly half the Venezuelan population (or an estimated 12.3 million) face food insecurity, with over 15% of children suffering acute or severe malnourishment. Venezuela is the second hardest hit nation in the world by food price inflation, after Zimbabwe. Extreme weather patterns stemming from El Niño further compound Venezuela’s economic collapse with delays in planting, crop losses, and livestock challenges, according to the World Bank. 

Venezuela’s severe humanitarian crisis has also reached healthcare. According to the International Rescue Committee, health services are strained and medicine inaccessible for some 9.3 million people. Lack of access to healthcare also means that preventable and treatable diseases pose a significant threat to children, the elderly and pregnant women.

“Dr. Huniades Urbina, a pediatrician and board member of Venezuela’s National Academy of Medicine, said some children underperform academically because they arrive at school weak and hungry after going as much as 12 hours or more without eating. He added that children born during the crisis have had their growth stunted by about 5 to 6 centimeters (2 to 2.4 inches) on average due to poor nutrition.”
Associated Press (March 2023)

The Biden Administration Must Redesignate and Extend Venezuela for TPS

In response to the unprecedented crisis facing Venezuela, multiple U.S. Senators and members of Congress, state governors, mayors, business leaders, and labor unions have called on the Biden administration to redesignate TPS so displaced Venezuelans are safe, can work, and can care for their families. Far from controversial, redesignating Venezuela for TPS would be very popular with the American electorate, who support the TPS program. Redesignating Venezuela for TPS would also provide protection and stability to families and communities in the U.S.

Now the largest refugee crisis in the world, Venezuela’s human rights and humanitarian crisis has reached historical levels. Two international bodies (a UN fact-finding mission and the International Criminal Court) have extended their years-long investigations due to credible reports of crimes against humanity. With a presidential election in 2024, Venezuelan authorities are poised to expand political repression, extrajudicial killings, torture, and arbitrary detentions. Nearly every adult and child in Venezuela is food insecure and living in poverty, with long-term impacts on health and access to basic resources. Returning hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans to these conditions would be a death sentence for countless families. 

Redesignating Venezuela for TPS would provide vital humanitarian relief to Venezuelan nationals currently living in the U.S., allowing them to obtain work authorization and to contribute to American communities across the U.S. Current TPS holders and potentially eligible TPS holders from Venezuela contribute billions of dollars to the economy each year. Enabling hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans to work will continue to empower the American economy, help address historic labor shortages in urban and rural areas across the United States, while keeping people safe. 

Redesignating TPS for Venezuela would also support thousands of Americans, as eligible Venezuelans live in households with at least 113,000 U.S. citizens. Doing so would align with the Administration’s goals of realizing a more humane, safe, and orderly immigration system, while keeping individuals and families safe and together.

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