The Joe Biden administration announced Wednesday measures to ease the bottleneck that the U.S. immigration system has created in many cities in the United States. For a second time, the government has extended Temporary Protected Status (TPS), a legal status granted to Venezuelans who are already in the country. This will allow 472,000 Venezuelans to obtain work permits and protect them against deportation for 18 months. The TPS program was launched by Biden a few years ago, and last summer it was extended by Alejandro Mayorkas, the head of Homeland Security. The measure will only apply to Venezuelans who arrived in the United States before July 31, 2023.
A source from the Department of Homeland Security indicated that the decision was made in response to the “extraordinary conditions” in Venezuela, which prevent Venezuelan nationals from safely returning to the country. As a result, the U.S. government has extended TPS for Venezuelans, a policy that was set to expire in March 2024 and will now do so in 18 months. As of October 1, the U.S. government will also expedite work permit procedures for migrants who have an appointment with immigration authorities.
This was one of the main demands of several mayors in the country, who complained that shelters in their cities were overwhelmed by the spike in migrant arrivals. The mayors, in particular the Democrat leaders in New York and Denver, as well as some cities in California, had called on the federal government to speed up the procedures to enable migrants to work and continue their path within the country.
By extending TPS, Biden seeks to relieve the pressure caused by the rise in undocumented migrants. With this goal in mind and in view of the 2024 presidential election, the U.S. president also announced tighter border security. On Wednesday evening, the government said that it will accelerate the deportation of families who arrived in the United States irregularly. The move comes after the Department of Homeland Security reported a record-high number of irregular crossings in August. That month, authorities detained 91,000 migrants who made the trip with a family member. It was the highest figure recorded in four years. Authorities have deported some 1,600 people from the same family and promise to increase the speed of deportations in the coming weeks.
The Biden administration will also send 800 soldiers to the U.S.-Mexico border to boost security. That will bring the total number of soldiers at the border to 3,300. The government previously deployed 2,500 members of the National Guard to several hot spots along the border. The decision comes amid a rise in migrant crossings, particularly into Texas. U.S. media have published images of the hundreds of people who have arrived and are now waiting to be processed in communities in the Republican stronghold. Some news outlets indicate that up to 8,000 people cross the border every day.
U.S. authorities have not confirmed this figure, but admit that there has been a significant increase in migrant arrivals. They said the official numbers will be released soon. Homeland Security has confirmed that the capacity of detention centers has been expanded to 23,000 people. Starting today, these centers — made up of large white tents — will be able to receive an additional 3,250.
The United States has deported 250,000 people since May 12, when Title 42 came to an end. This policy — a Covid-19 restriction introduced under the Donald Trump administration — facilitated fast-track deportations on the grounds of health concerns. The Democratic government left the measure in force for two years and used it as a tool to streamline border management. When it expired, the government braced for a surge in migrant arrivals. While this was not seen immediately, figures indicate that the migratory flow has risen at a constant rate since then. The 2022 fiscal year (October 1, 2022 to September 30, 2023) is shaping up to record the highest number of illegal crossings in recent history.
The U.S. government argues that conditions that have led to an increase in migration have not changed, citing the economic impact of the pandemic, climate change and the need to flee authoritarian regimes.
Republican voters consider cracking down on irregular immigration a top priority, and it is one of the main issues of the Republican presidential primary. Former U.S. president Donald Trump considers his hard-line position on immigration as one of his strong points: during his administration, migrant families were separated at the border in the hope that this would reduce the number of crossings.
The Biden government, however, calls on Republicans in Congress to support a special request for $4 billion for border control and other measures to combat illegal crossings. Without this money, the administration says that it will be unable to address the situation at the U.S-Mexico border.
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