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Biden extends Temporary Protected Status to nearly 400,000 Venezuelan Migrants

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

Last night, the Biden administration announced it will be extending temporary protected status, or TPS, to over 400,000 Venezuelan migrants already in the United States. That status keeps people from being deported and is often applied to those from countries where armed conflict or natural disasters prevent them from returning home safely. NPR's Jasmine Garsd has been reporting on this, and she joins us now. And, Jasmine, we just mentioned that this is an extension, so help us understand why this is so significant.

JASMINE GARSD, BYLINE: It's a really big deal. There already were around 240,000 Venezuelans covered by TPS before this. This is going to add over 400,000 more. Now, one of the reasons it's such a big deal is that TPS opens up the ability for those people to work legally in the U.S. So a lot of the people who've been arriving to the U.S. seeking asylum are from Venezuela. Almost everyone I've spoken to says they are fleeing armed violence and government persecution, and they fear for their lives should they be sent back.

Now, here's the thing. When you are an asylum-seeker, you have to wait for months - I mean, sometimes even over a year - to get a legal work permit. And so what cities like New York and Chicago have been saying is, that's going to cost us a lot - sheltering people who can't work for the foreseeable future. And I should say it's also business owners who have been saying, listen. There's a labor shortage in the U.S. We need workers. Let these folks work. So back to your question - if you get temporary protected status, or TPS, you can apply for that work permit right away.

SUMMERS: OK, but, Jasmine, this is temporary, though, right?

GARSD: Absolutely. In this case, Venezuela has gotten TPS designation for 18 months, after which that country's conditions are going to be reevaluated. It is a sort of limbo, but the argument here is it's a limbo where people are protected from deportation and can work legally. They don't have to go into the underground economy, meaning working undocumented without labor protections. And, of course, a more permanent fix would have to come from Congress. But as we know, Congress has been too divided to do any sort of comprehensive immigration reform.

SUMMERS: Right. So before we end, I do want to ask you about the politics. Is this expansion of TPS getting any sort of political pushback?

GARSD: Yes. One of the arguments that has been made against this is if you give people who come here TPS, you give them the right to work, protect them from deportation, well, then you're encouraging more people to come to the U.S. without documentation. I should mention this TPS extension only applies to Venezuelans who arrived in the U.S. on or before July 31. But nevertheless, Republicans say a message is being sent. If you come here, we will accommodate you. On Wednesday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott also posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, this, quote, "I officially declared an invasion at our border."

SUMMERS: NPR's Jasmine Garsd. Thank you.

GARSD: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Jasmine Garsd is an Argentine-American journalist living in New York. She is currently NPR's Criminal Justice correspondent and the host of The Last Cup. She started her career as the co-host of Alt.Latino, an NPR show about Latin music. Throughout her reporting career she's focused extensively on women's issues and immigrant communities in America. She's currently writing a book of stories about women she's met throughout her travels.