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“They Will Be Able To Get Into The Economic Ecosystem Of The City”: Venezuelan Immigrants Begin Applying for TPS Following New Redesignation

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Eligible immigrants have begun applying for relief under the Biden administration’s recent extension and redesignation of Venezuela for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). More than 242,000 Venezuelans are currently protected under the program, according to the Biden administration. Under the expansion, an additional 472,000 Venezuelan nationals will now also be eligible to apply.

Among them is Jhonnattan, who was among the first to apply in New York City and asked to be identified only by his first name, NBC News reports. While he currently has an asylum claim pending after fleeing death threats in 2017, the asylum backlog means it could be years before he sees a ruling in his case. New York, where Jhonnattan settled with relatives after arriving to the U.S. from Venezuela in June 2022, has one of the biggest backlogs in the nation

Applying for TPS could allow many Venezuelans quicker access to work permits in order to work legally and more fully contribute to their communities. In Jhonnattan’s case, he recently got his driver’s license (“New York is one of 18 states that allow noncitizens to get a driver’s license,” NBC News notes), opening up a world of new opportunities while he waits for his case to play out. 

“It’s time to give it my all to whatever comes my way and always keep my head held high and stay positive,” he told NBC News.

The New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) said roughly 60,000 Venezuelans could benefit in New York City, which has been facing stresses under recent arrivals. NYIC, the Hispanic Federation, and the New York Legal Assistance Group are among a number of organizations helping eligible immigrants in the city with their TPS applications. 

“Project Rousseau, an organization offering immigration services, has helped nearly 200 asylum-seekers, many from Venezuela, file their TPS applications over the past week,” NBC News said. AID for AIDS, which has been aiding asylum-seekers in a number of ways in addition to its work with communities at risk of HIV, has organized regular educational workshops and legal clinics featuring assistance from Florida-based paralegals.

“They will be able to get into the economic ecosystem of the city,” AID for AIDS Executive Director Jesús Aguais, himself an immigrant from Venezuela, told NBC News. “We will be able to fill [employment] positions in a legal way, people will be able to start paying taxes, and they will get out of the shelter system, although they are already getting out of the shelter system.” 

The benefits of this kind of relief spread far beyond immigrant households. “Rochester, Syracuse, Utica and other cities have come roaring back – and none of this would have been possible without new immigrants arriving in our communities,” New York state Senators Samra Brouk and Rachel May recently wrote in a joint City & State op-ed. TPS holders are integral parts of our national economy, along with Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) holders paying billions of dollars in taxes annually. Both populations contribute an estimated $4.6 billion in state and federal taxes, according to the TPS National Alliance.

“New Americans have also helped upstate communities respond to unique challenges,” Senators Brouk and May continued. “Look no further than the Bosnian community in Utica. After decades of fires and neglect left homes in disrepair, Bosnian refugees – many of whom arrived with building and repair skills – helped to rebuild neighborhoods in East Utica.”

The Biden administration has announced a number of TPS redesignations in recent weeks, for Afghanistan in September and Cameroon earlier this month. These redesignations are part of a concrete set of policies that the Biden administration is pursuing that can make a meaningful difference in trying to address a broken immigration system that Republicans refuse to help modernize. 

However, other announcements from the administration that it will build miles of new border wall and resume deportation flights to Venezuela have angered and confused advocates and communities and is sowing a contradictory message on immigration. Deportations to Venezuela are resuming despite the Department of Homeland Security citing “increased instability and lack of safety due to the enduring humanitarian, security, political, and environmental conditions” in its recent announcement of the redesignation of TPS. In an example of how dire the situation has been in Venezuela, even Florida’s Marco Rubio urged the Biden administration to act on relief last year, and has railed on dictator Nicolás Maduro. Rubio, of course, co-authored the Senate’s 2013 comprehensive immigration reform bill, only to disown it as part of his failed 2016 presidential campaign and awkward lurch to the right-wing.

Recent polling has shown that a pro-immigrant vision that includes a coherent set of policies, like TPS designations and redesignations, isn’t just the right thing to do, but also smart politics. 

“In redesignating TPS for Venezuela, President Biden made a very popular decision with the American electorate with 67% of battleground state voters supporting this news,” Global Strategy Group said in polling commissioned by FWD.us and SEIU. “The concept of TPS is widely supported, as is President Biden’s decision to use it to protect immigrants whose home countries are considered unsafe.” 

Notably, more than half of respondents, 54% to 40%, said they wanted to see President Biden take action to address the immigration system, the polling said. “Voters see TPS as part of a broader solution to address the situation at the border and fix the country’s failed immigration system.”