The Biden administration is granting temporary protected status to Venezuelan migrants living in the United States and is also working to coordinate international pressure against President Nicolas Maduro to hold free and fair elections, senior U.S. officials said on Monday.
The decision, which could aid an estimated 320,000 people, fulfills a promise that President Joe Biden made during the 2020 election campaign to give shelter to Venezuelans who left their homeland amid economic collapse, humanitarian crisis and political turmoil under Maduro.
Venezuelans in the United States will have to show they have been residing in the country continuously as of March 8, 2021, in order to qualify for the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation, the officials told reporters. If they meet the criteria, they will be given an 18-month reprieve to stay.
The decision stems from “extraordinary temporary conditions” in Venezuela, including “widespread hunger and malnutrition, growing presence and influence of non-state armed groups, a crumbling infrastructure,” one of the officials said.
“It is not safe for them to return,” the official added.
Some 5.4 million Venezuelans have emigrated in recent years, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
When Biden took office on Jan. 20, he inherited from his White House predecessor, Donald Trump, a program of harsh sanctions that further tightened the economic noose on the OPEC member state but failed to unseat Maduro.
One of the senior administration officials reiterated the White House position, reported by Reuters late last month, that Biden is in “no rush” to lift sanctions on Venezuela.
But the official stressed that Biden was moving away from the mostly unilateral approach of Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign and coordinating more closely with international partners in an effort to force Maduro to hold free and fair elections.
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The official insisted that Maduro and his loyalists will find “no quarter anywhere” until they negotiate in earnest with the opposition. However, Maduro has shown no signs of making any concessions.
At the same time, the official said the administration was reviewing Venezuela sanctions to make sure they are effective against their intended targets and not “unnecessarily” punishing the Venezuelan people.
ARTICLE SOURCE: thefederalistpapers.org