The Biden administration is offering temporary relief and work permits to hundreds of thousands of Venezuelan migrants living in the U.S., multiple outlets reported on Monday.
An order signed by Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Monday makes around 320,000 Venezuelans living illegally in the U.S. eligible for protection under the Temporary Protected Status program. TPS is granted to migrants whose home nations are too dangerous to return to because of armed conflict, natural disasters, or other issues.
“Because of conditions there, it is not safe for Venezuelans to return,” a senior Biden administration official told reporters.
Senator Bob Menendez (D., N.J.), head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, applauded the decision on Monday.
“We are striking a blow to the Maduro regime, which has for years deprived its own citizens of education, health care, basic freedoms, and even food,” Menendez said in a statement. “As a result of actions taken today, upwards of 300,000 Venezuelan women, men, and children…will no longer live in fear of being returned back to Maduro’s humanitarian catastrophe.”
Senator Rick Scott (R., Fla.) also commended the announcement.
“For years I’ve been calling for this action as well as a long-term solution for TPS, and I applaud the administration for heeding my calls to grant TPS for Venezuelans,” Scott said in comments reported by Vice News.
Venezuela is set to introduce a 1 million bolivar bank note, worth 52 U.S. cents, as inflation continues to rattle the country’s economy. President Nicolas Maduro, the successor of socialist leader Hugo Chavez, is accused of sidelining the country’s opposition parties and preventing free and fair elections. Maduro has relied in part on paramilitary gangs to silence dissent from his government’s policies.
Roughly 5.4 million Venezuelans have fled the country in recent years, according to figures from the United Nations.