Dozens of senators joined Tuesday in a letter addressed to the Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, and the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Alejandro Mayorkas, to request that the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) be reassigned to Venezuela and Nicaragua.
The Senate leadership, made up of Chuck Shumer and Dick Durbin, along with Bob Menendez, Kirsten Gillibrand and 22 other senators, stipulated that both countries “clearly qualify for a TPS designation under our immigration laws and deserve the use of the authority of statutory appointment of the Executive”.
The TPS is a program that was launched in 1990 in order to grant immigration relief to people from countries whose conditions temporarily prevent citizens from returning safely.
Through TPS, beneficiaries access “temporary relief from removal” and can access work permits in the US.
“A reassignment of TPS for each of these countries would extend these same benefits to people already in the United States. The reassignments would also provide critically needed support to states and localities across the country working to welcome back by allowing TPS recipients to work,” the senators said in the letter.
The TPS for Venezuela was designated for the first time on March 8, 2021 for a period of 18 months, only for people who could demonstrate their presence in the country on or before said date.
“Since then, Venezuela continues to be plagued by violence, instability, and repression, and Venezuelans suffer from the historic collapse of the country,” the senators added in a written communication.
According to the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), some 323,000 individuals are eligible for TPS under the Venezuelan designation, and there are currently approximately 111,700 beneficiaries.
In the case of Nicaragua, TPS was designated in January 1999, after Hurricane Mitch devastated the country in October 1998. Recently, DHS extended for 18 months the benefits of Nicaraguans who are already beneficiaries of the program.
With the extension announced in June, Nicaraguans will be able to re-register from November 6, 2023 to January 5, 2024. Beneficiaries must have arrived in the US on or before December 30, 1998.
Some 4,000 Nicaraguans are current TPS beneficiaries.
“In recent years, conditions in Nicaragua have drastically worsened, which justifies the reassignment of the country’s TPS,” the senators noted. The letter adds that President Daniel Ortega has “transformed Nicaragua into a police state in which the executive branch has established a regime of terror and the suppression of all freedoms through the control and surveillance of citizens.”
The only independent senator added to the letter’s signature was Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who generally sides with Democrats.
Some 16 organizations that offer legal services and guidance to migrants said they supported the letter sent by the senators. Among them, the National Immigration Law Center, the Venezuelan American Caucus and UnidosUS.
“Many citizens of Venezuela and Nicaragua residing in the US have been protected due to the current TPS designation which has allowed them to find safety and security and has given them the ability to legally work to support themselves and their families. In turn, they can contribute significantly to their home communities, which helps stabilize their home countries,” the letter continues.
The senators appealed to the authority provided under law by Congress to DHS and the State, to reassign TPS to both countries.