Late on Wednesday, the Biden administration announced a significant policy change that grants legal status and work authorization for 18 months to hundreds of thousands of Venezuelan migrants already residing in the United States.
This decision comes after robust advocacy efforts by prominent New York Democrats, including Governor Kathy Hochul, Mayor Eric Adams, and congressional party leaders. The policy change primarily impacts approximately 472,000 Venezuelan migrants who arrived in the United States before July 31. It offers temporary protection against deportation and eliminates the months-long waiting period for them to apply for work authorization.
In an unusual departure from the stance of their party’s president, New York Democrats argued that the social safety net in the city would be strained by the arrival of over 110,000 recent Venezuelan migrants. They contended that allowing these individuals to work and support themselves more expeditiously was essential.
Positive Step Forward
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas stated that the decision was based on the precarious conditions in Venezuela, which make it unsafe for these individuals to return. However, he emphasized that immigrants who entered the country after August were not covered by this policy and would face removal if found to lack a legal basis for remaining.
In a joint statement, Senator Chuck Schumer and Representative Hakeem Jeffries, both prominent New York Democrats and leaders in the Senate and House, expressed support for the decision. They noted that the Homeland Security Department estimated that nearly half of the migrants currently residing in New York are Venezuelan migrants affected by this policy change. They described it as a “positive step forward” that would enable immigrants to temporarily work, fill vital job roles, and support their families while awaiting asylum determinations. Furthermore, they highlighted the cost reduction for New York taxpayers concerning the sheltering of asylum seekers.
Control of the House may be determined next year
Democratic leaders in other states, including Illinois, have also been advocating for similar assistance and praised the administration’s move.
As the number of Venezuelan migrants in Northern cities continues to rise, straining resources and budgets, Democratic candidates and strategists have grown increasingly concerned that the crisis could negatively impact their standing among voters. Republicans, especially in states like New York where control of the House may be determined next year, have wasted no time in exploiting the sense of chaos and discord within the Democratic Party for key swing seat races.
The administration’s decision, part of a broader set of actions to address the influx of migrants attempting to cross the border, was announced while President Biden was departing from New York City after a four-day visit to the United Nations General Assembly.