WASHINGTON - The Biden administration said Wednesday that it was granting temporary legal status to hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans who are already in the country as it grapples with growing numbers of people fleeing the South American country and elsewhere to arrive at the U.S. border with Mexico.
The move - along with promises to accelerate work permits for many migrants - may appease Democratic leaders who have pressured the White House to do more to aid asylum-seekers, while also providing grist for Republicans who say the president has been too lax on immigration.
The Homeland Security Department plans to grant Temporary Protected Status to an estimated 472,000 Venezuelans who arrived in the country as of July 31, 2023, making it easier for them to get authorization to work in the U.S., a key demand of Democratic mayors and governors who are struggling to care for an increased number of migrants in their care.
That's in addition to about 242,700 Venezuelans who already qualified for temporary status before Wednesday's announcement.
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 administration said that it would accelerate work authorizations for people who have arrived in the country since January through a mobile app for appointments at land crossings with Mexico, called CBP One, or through parole granted to Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans who have financial sponsors and arrive at an airport. It will aim to give them work permits within 30 days, compared to about 90 days currently.
The promise of accelerated work permits does not apply to people who cross the border illegally and seek asylum, who, by law, must wait for six months to receive work permits.