The Biden administration has recently announced that it will offer Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans living in the United States as the South American country faces political and economic turmoil under the Maduro regime.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will temporarily provide deportation relief and work authorization documents to Venezuelans currently living in the U.S. for at least 18 months. But the program’s history has shown us that it is far from being temporary and has become a mechanism that allows individuals to remain in the country permanently.
Enacted in 1990, TPS was originally created to provide temporary protection to foreign nationals unable to return to their homelands due to armed conflict, natural disasters, and other exigent circumstances. It has since become a permanent quasi-amnesty that, in some cases, has been continually extended for two or three decades or led to outright amnesties.
Many TPS recipients have seen their designation extended for many years—in some cases more than two decades—even though the conditions in their country have vastly improved. El Salvador received TPS in 2001 and still maintains this status. Honduras received TPS in 1999 and has yet to have it revoked. Nicaragua was given TPS in 1999 and still has it today. These are just some of the many egregious examples of how the program has been abused.
Granting TPS to Venezuelans does little to address the core issue at hand: improving domestic conditions in Venezuela. In fact, it would almost certainly make things worse by encouraging more people — including those best equipped to resist the Maduro regime — to abandon their country and never return.
The TPS designation also rewards the Maduro regime with billions in hard currency—via the form of remittances or money earned in the United States that is transferred to relatives, friends or business associates who remain in Venezuela. The flow of remittances to Venezuela is the second largest source of foreign earnings after oil. It is entirely possible that the corrupt regime absorbs this money and prevents it from ever being distributed rightfully to the intended recipients.
Furthermore, the designation could also further worsen our nation’s border and humanitarian crisis. Venezuelan migrants may flee their country to the U.S. border in hopes that they can take advantage of the program (even though it only applies to those living in our country as of March 8, 2021). The border simply cannot handle additional surges of illegal migration as it already faces record numbers of migrants and limited resources amidst a pandemic.
Rather than providing TPS to nationals of yet another country, Congress should pass legislation that reforms the long-abused program by establishing clear time limitations and creating statutory tests that must be met to grant or extend the TPS designation. Our nation must view this program as a temporary program—not one that grants a permanent amnesty.
While there is legitimate hardship facing the Venezuelan people languishing under an oppressive dictatorship, a TPS designation that does little to address the domestic situation in Venezuela. At the same time, it would exacerbate an already full-blown crisis at our southern border.