WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration said Wednesday it is granting temporary legal status to hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans already in the country as it grapples with the growing number of people fleeing the South American country and elsewhere fleeing to arrive at the US border with Mexico.
The move – along with a promise to speed up work authorization for many migrants – could appease Democratic leaders who have pressured the White House to do more to help asylum seekers, while giving fuel to Republicans who say the president was too lax on immigration.
The Department of Homeland Security plans to grant temporary protected status to an estimated 472,000 Venezuelans who have arrived in the country by July 31, 2023, to make it easier for them to obtain work authorization in the United States, a key demand Democratic mayors and governors are struggling to get a major one number of migrants in their care.
That’s in addition to about 242,700 Venezuelans who had already qualified for provisional status before Wednesday’s announcement.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas granted the extension and an 18-month extension for those who already have temporary status due to “Venezuela’s increasing instability and lack of security due to ongoing humanitarian, security, political and environmental conditions,” the department said in a statement.
The government said it would expedite work permits for people who have arrived in the country since January through a mobile app for scheduling appointments at land crossings with Mexico called CBP One, or through parole for Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans with financial sponsors and arrive at an airport. The aim is to issue them a work permit within 30 days, compared to around 90 days currently.
The promise of expedited work permits does not apply to people who cross the border illegally and apply for asylum. According to the law, they have to wait six months to receive a work permit.
Spagat reported from San Diego.