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Venezuelans in Nevada cheer TPS extension, acknowledge it’s an incomplete fix

Though it will allow many immigrants the ability to legally reside in the U.S., the program’s benefits come in 18-month increments and don’t lead to citizenship
Jannelle Calderon
Jannelle Calderon

Venezuelans in Nevada say it’s “truly a blessing” that the Biden administration extended Temporary Protected Status (TPS) last week, allowing more than half a million Venezuelans who are already in the U.S. to live and work here legally for the next 18 months. 

But immigration advocates also acknowledge it’s just a short-term fix for a major immigration problem.

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas determined that Venezuela’s “extraordinary and temporary conditions … prevent individuals from safely returning,” citing increased political and environmental instability since 2013 at the hands of socialist President Nicolás Maduro Moros, plummeting oil prices, a seven-year recession, skyrocketing inflation and shortages of basic goods.

Zoraida Caldera, director of the Fundación Cultural Venezuela, an immigration and Venezuelan community advocacy group based in Las Vegas, said that Venezuelans in the U.S. often send money back to their families to keep them afloat as high poverty and unemployment rates, food insecurity and limited access to medicine swamp the country.

“Us Venezuelans are very, very competent, well-studied and hard-working people … They all come with the priority of ​​working and providing some money, because we are all supporting our families there,” Caldera said in Spanish. “This extension is truly a blessing for our people in general, because not only those who have to be here are benefiting, but the families we leave behind.”

A Pew Research report published last month found that between 2010 and 2021, the Venezuelan population in the U.S. increased by 169 percent, making it the fastest-growing group among Hispanic immigrants. 

According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), there are approximately 242,700 current TPS beneficiaries from Venezuela and approximately an additional 472,000 who may be eligible under the redesignation. The redesignation for Venezuelans is limited to those who arrived in the U.S. before July 31, 2023.

TPS was created in 1990 and allows DHS to offer temporary deportation protections and work permits to immigrants from certain countries experiencing conflicts, including Afghanistan, Syria, El Salvador, Haiti, Ukraine and Honduras. 

Francis Garcia, a TPS holder from Honduras, said she left her home country 26 years ago because of the need to survive and establish a safe future for her children. The TPS program allowed her to work and make a living in the U.S. and, for her, going back to Honduras is not an option, she said. 

“You don't move and leave something because you are happy, because things are going well for you … When we all leave our countries, practically risking our lives, it is because we are experiencing something worse,” Garcia said in a Spanish interview. “I always say programs like TPS are just Band-Aids for a very big cancer … Even though it doesn't cure the ailment, it makes it a little less painful.”

But being tied to a temporary permit causes Garcia stress every 18 months, she said, when she needs to renew her TPS — from the paperwork to the uncertainty about whether Honduras will continue to be covered under the program. Garcia immigrated at the age of 19 and said she would not know how to or where to work if she had to return.

TPS does not provide beneficiaries a path to lawful permanent residence or citizenship, but eligible TPS recipients could apply for that status. 

Rico Ocampo, organizer director with Make the Road Nevada, said in a statement that while the news of the extension for Venezuelans may “relieve some members” of the immigrant community’s concerns, there is still more work to be done to ensure that path. 

“We urge the Biden administration to extend and re-designate TPS for other countries needing the same protection,” Ocampo said in the statement. “We also call on Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship for the more than 11 million immigrants who currently call this country home.”

While some TPS holders have been in the U.S. for more than two decades and have established a life away from their home country, Caldera said that some would love to go back once the political tensions are resolved, even if it’s only for vacations, to show their children and grandchildren their homeland. 

“What we hope is for Venezuela to change its government … I have my whole life here — I have been in this country for more than 42 years,” Caldera said. “But if I could, I would return to my land.”


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