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Venezuela Temporary Protected Status Act of 2021
Priority Bill Spotlight

As political instability and humanitarian crises in Venezuela grow under the brutal dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro, leaders in Congress have introduced the bipartisan Venezuela Temporary Protected Status Act of 2021. The bill would grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for eligible individuals from Venezuela living in the U.S., protecting them from deportation and allowing them to apply for work authorization.

“...this legislation would also authorize up to $10 million to improve migration and asylum registration systems, and establish reception centers and shelter capacity for asylum-seekers, in countries surrounding Venezuela.

Relief and opportunity for 200,000 Venezuelan immigrants

For years, elected leaders, lawmakers, and advocates have denounced Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s dictatorial regime, accusing him of violating human rights, silencing free speech, and using lethal force against the Venezuelan people.1 This violent assertion of power has exacerbated other systemic problems in the country, including limited access to healthcare, food and fuel scarcity, and a historic economic collapse—all in the midst of a global pandemic, Maduro’s response to which has also been criticized. And Venezuelans who have tried to flee face a difficult road to safety.

Recognizing that returning to Venezuela under the Maduro regime would be extremely dangerous,2 lawmakers in Congress have put forward bipartisan proposals to provide Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Venezuelans living in the United States today. This would protect Venezuelans from deportation and grant them the opportunity to apply for work authorization, as well as with travel authorization in extenuating circumstances.

Representatives Darren Soto (D-FL), Mario Díaz-Balart (R-FL), and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) have introduced the bipartisan Venezuela Temporary Protected Status Act of 2021 (H.R. 161). Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), incoming Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has introduced a companion bill in the Senate (S.50), joined by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Cory Booker (D-NJ).3

In 2019, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that approximately 200,000 individuals would benefit from legislation establishing TPS for Venezuelans. According to the Pew Research Center, more than half of Venezuelans in the U.S. live in Florida.

Background on Temporary Protected Status

TPS was created with passage of the Immigration Act of 1990 to provide temporary protection to foreign-born individuals in the U.S. for whom returning to their home country is unsafe or impossible. TPS allows them to maintain legal status and secure work authorization to support their families and contribute their skills.

Either Congress or the Secretary of Homeland Security can designate countries for TPS if they determine that a country faces ongoing armed conflict, environmental disaster (like an earthquake, flood, drought, or epidemic), or some other extraordinary conditions that would not allow its nationals to return safely.

TPS designations are typically for 18 months, and can be extended for those currently protected, or redesignated, allowing more recent entrants to apply. TPS has strict eligibility requirements; protections are generally available only to individuals who were in the U.S. at the time of designation and who are admissible to the U.S. under immigration law.

More than 470,000 people from ten countries are currently protected by TPS. They contribute significantly to the workforce, the economy, and their communities. Approximately 273,000 U.S. citizen children have parents who are protected by TPS.

By designating Venezuela for TPS, Congress can provide temporary but critical stability and certainty for these families.

DED for Venezuela currently in effect, but Venezuela TPS Act goes further

On January 19, 2021, President Trump announced that Venezuelan nationals in the United States would be granted Deferred Enforced Departure (DED), a policy that defers their removal and allows them to apply for work authorization.

While DED provides critical protections, there are benefits to having Congress establish a TPS designation for Venezuela. For one, TPS is created by Congress and rooted in statute, while DED is simply an extension of the President’s authority to conduct foreign policy.4 A Congressional TPS designation would cement Congressional intent to protect Venezuelans.

A TPS designation could also help eligible Venezuelans access a path to citizenship under the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021. This bill, announced by the Biden-Harris Administration, would provide a legalization process for TPS recipients.5

In addition to protecting Venezuelans already in the U.S., this legislation would also authorize up to $10 million to improve migration and asylum registration systems, and establish reception centers and shelter capacity for asylum-seekers, in countries surrounding Venezuela.

Congress should act to protect Venezuelans in the U.S.

Congress has a bipartisan solution to protect hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans living in the United States today. Returning to their home country in the midst of a humanitarian crisis and a global pandemic would be far too dangerous. By designating Venezuela for TPS, Congress can provide temporary but critical stability and certainty for these families.

  1. The Trump Administration recognized opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the legitimate president of Venezuela in 2019, a policy incoming Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said he will continue.
  2. The bill opens with a litany of findings documenting the situation in Venezuela. Among evidence provided, the bill notes that inflation in Venezuela reached 20,000% in 2019, the highest in the world; that the percentage of Venezuelans living in extreme poverty reached 80%; that more than 50% of medical professionals have left the country in recent years, with 88% of hospitals lacking basic medicines; that at least 505 people, including 24 children, were executed by state security forces between 2015 and 2017, with another 7,000 extrajudicial killings were reported from 2018 to 2019; and that more than 5,400,000 Venezuelans have fled the violence, oppression, and hardship in the country.
  3. DED has previously been granted to individuals from China, the Persian Gulf, El Salvador, Haiti, and Liberia.
  4. The American Dream and Promise Act of 2019(H.R. 6), passed by the House but never taken up by the Senate, would have created a pathway to citizenship for both TPS and DED recipients.
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