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Extending, expanding TPS for Venezuelans a positive step, says Doral councilwoman

Venezuelan expats in Sunrise celebrate receiving Temporary Protected Status (TPS) last year.
Wayne K. Roustan
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Venezuelan expats in Sunrise celebrate receiving Temporary Protected Status (TPS). (2021)

The Biden administration announcement to extend and expand a special immigration program specifically for Venezuelans will remove major obstacles for hundreds of thousands to gain a stronger foothold in the country, says a top city official from Doral, home to the nation's largest Venezuelan community.

“I think it is actually helpful to our community because we have these folks that are already part of our city that are contributing, that have already integrated,” said Doral Councilwoman Maureen Porras, who is also an immigration attorney who advises many Venezuelan immigrants seeking legal U.S. residency.

Porras told the South Florida Roundup that the extension and expansion of "Temporary Protected Status," or TPS, for Venezuelans is welcome news for Venezuelan nationals living with uncertainty about their legal status in the U.S.

“[Having TPS] is a way for them to really fully contribute to the fullest extent that they can," she says.

Doral City Councilwoman Maureen Porras is an Immigration Attorney and Legal Director of a global nonprofit organization where she has worked as a public interest lawyer since 2016.
Doral City Councilwoman Maureen Porras is an Immigration Attorney and Legal Director of a global nonprofit organization where she has worked as a public interest lawyer since 2016.

Porras says it could also be a boost to the economy in Doral, which has been dubbed “Doral-zuela” because of its large Venezuelan community. An estimated 30% of the city residents are Venezuelan.

“The residents that we have in our city are contributing. They're investing. They're buying, you know, properties there. They have businesses. And so what we're really seeing is people that are working, that are progressing,” she said.

The Homeland Security Department said this week it plans to grant TPS to an estimated 472,000 Venezuelans who arrived in the country as of July 31, making it easier for them to get authorization to work in the U.S. That’s in addition to about 242,700 Venezuelans who already qualified for temporary status in March 2021.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas granted the expansion and an 18-month extension for those who already have temporary status due to “Venezuela’s increased instability and lack of safety due to the enduring humanitarian, security, political, and environmental conditions,” the department said in a statement.

The South American nation plunged into a political, economic and humanitarian crisis in the last decade under President Nicolás Maduro’s government, causing a massive exodus of nearly 7.2 million people, according to the UN's High Commission on Refugees. About 6 million have fled to nearby countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

In the U.S., Venezuelans represent the nation’s fastest-growing Hispanic group, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This week, Census officials reported that the number of Venezuelans tripled from more than 215,000 people to more than 605,000 people from 2010 to 2020.

The administration took the action in response to mayors and governors who have been clamoring for Biden to figure out a way to get newly arrived migrants to be able to work legally, so they can support themselves.

Democratic officials in New York, Massachusetts, Chicago and elsewhere have complained about the strain that newly arrived migrants are putting on their resources, especially in New York, where the government is required to provide housing for anyone who needs it. The city is currently paying to house about 60,000 newly arrived migrants.

TPS application process for Venezuelans

Porras said complete details of the TPS application process for Venezuela are pending, but she said anyone seeking to apply should immediately gather documents to prove their eligibility, mainly that they were in the U.S. on or before July 31, 2022.

“There's a lot of things that have to be done for the TPS application, including demonstrating that you have been physically present in the U.S. since the cutoff date” she said. “And so right now, what we're telling individuals is to start collecting that information that's going to be necessary.”

She added that those who had previously applied to TPS would not have to reapply. The administration granted TPS for the first time to Venezuelans inMarch 2021.

Listen to the full episode of the South Florida Roundup here or wherever you get your podcasts.

Helen Acevedo, is WLRN's anchor for All Things Considered.
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