Lara Jakes and Anatoly Kurmanaev, New York Times, March 8, 2021
As many as 320,000 Venezuelans living in the United States were given an 18-month reprieve on Monday from the threat of being deported, as the Biden administration sought to highlight how dangerous that country has become under President Nicolás Maduro.
The immigrants also will be allowed to work legally in the United States as part of the temporary protective status the administration issued as it considers the next steps in a yearslong American pressure campaign to force Mr. Maduro from power.
“The living conditions in Venezuela reveal a country in turmoil, unable to protect its own citizens,” Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, said in a statement. “It is in times of extraordinary and temporary circumstances like these that the United States steps forward to support eligible Venezuelan nationals already present here, while their home country seeks to right itself out of the current crises.”
Two senior Biden administration officials said the new protections would be offered to those who can prove they are living in the United States as of Monday. The cutoff date aimed to discourage smugglers from enticing other Venezuelans to make the arduous journey to the United States at a time the Biden administration is already struggling with how to accommodate thousands of Central American migrants headed to the southern border.
Though the Trump administration had resisted issuing the same protections — despite intense lobbying from Mr. Maduro’s opponents — President Donald J. Trump delayed deportations for many Venezuelans in the United States on his last day in office.
Geoff Ramsey, a Venezuela expert at Washington Office on Latin America, a policy group, said the legal protective status was generally more durable than a presidential order, and noted that the Department of Homeland Security had not been given time to fully enact Mr. Trump’s 18-month deferred deportations.
Carlos Vecchio, the Venezuelan opposition’s envoy to Washington, called the new protections “a just, urgent and necessary measure that is finally a reality.”
The new protections were welcomed by Democrats and Republicans in Congress who had appeared divided on the approach to immigration policy under Mr. Trump.
Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, said he supported the protections, although “it is critical that we continue working with our democratic allies to secure a Venezuela free from tyranny and ensure this temporary status in the U.S. does not become a permanent one.”