Venezuelan Migrants Face Hurdles Learning About New Status for Work Permits

A month after the Biden administration granted new protections to some Venezuelan migrants who have recently arrived in the U.S., those who could benefit seem to have little to no guidance from New York City officials.

Venezuelans who entered the country before July 31 will be able to apply for Temporary Protected Status (TPS), which provides provisional relief from deportation and a quick route to obtaining a work permit. New York City has been receiving thousands of migrants, including Venezuelans, since the spring of 2022. They have been sent on buses and planes by governors and mayors from other states, including Texas Governor, Greg Abbott and the Democratic Mayor of El Paso, Oscar Leeser.

The new measure, announced on Sept. 20, could benefit migrants like Inés Cruz, 26, who arrived in New York in September 2022 with her 4-year-old son and her husband. But Cruz said she heard the news through social media.

“Maybe they will help us at the shelter. I don’t know, and I can’t tell you,” she said, referencing the Midtown Manhattan shelter where she’s staying. “But I have a friend working for the government and she told me she is going to receive the training so that she can help us to fill out the TPS form.”

Henderson Sosa, 25, a Venezuelan who arrived in New York a year ago, said he heard about the new measure, but didn’t know how to apply.

The United States regularly grants TPS to people who can’t safely return to their countries of origin due to ongoing conflict or natural disasters. Venezuela had received an 18-month TPS designation in 2021, and it was later extended until September 2022. This protection is provisional and does not lead to a green card or citizenship.

Cruz and Sosa are among 472,000 Venezuelans in the country who are now eligible for this temporary status. In a recent WABC-TV interview, Mayor Eric Adams estimated that about 15,000 Venezuelans in New York City could benefit.

Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul have spent months pressuring the White House to make it easier for migrants to obtain work permits. Since the spring of 2022, New York has received more than 116,000 asylum seekers, overwhelming the shelter system and straining the city’s budget.

Venezuelans make up around 41 percent of the migrants who’ve come to New York City since 2022, according to city data shared with City & State. Migrants from Ecuador and Colombia accounted for 18 percent and 13 percent of the recent arrivals, respectively.

Hochul announced on Oct. 2 that there are 18,000 job openings throughout the state from almost 400 employers waiting for people with permits to apply. But filling those spots can be a challenge.

This new TPS extension will not cover people like Derian Polanco, 26, who arrived in New York City from Venezuela with his wife and 3-year-old son in early August. He says he’s interested in getting information about how to apply for asylum. Asylum applicants must wait 150 days before they can request work authorization.

“I was told that I will be given all that information, but that I have to wait,” he said. “Honestly, we are not told anything.”

As for Mayor Adams, he has said that he is “hopeful that we can continue to partner with President Biden to extend Temporary Protected Status to the tens of thousands of other migrants in our care from other countries.” The mayor’s office didn’t respond to inquiries regarding what help the city would provide Venezuelans so they can apply for TPS.

Immigrant-rights organizations like Make the Road New York have celebrated the news. “This is something really good for Venezuelans in the country,” said organizer Vicente Mayorga.

“This is awesome,” said Fabián Arias, a pastor at Saint Peter’s Church in Manhattan, who has spent more than two decades helping immigrants.

“This provides certain relief for Venezuelans to be able to live with a certain dignity,” Arias said. “But we must keep working hard so that all immigrants, no matter where they come from, can live in equal conditions, with dignity, and with the same opportunities.”

His church and Make the Road New York are providing legal assistance to asylum seekers in the city, regardless of their countries of origin. Mayorga and Arias would like to see similar protections for migrants from other countries.

“The Ecuadorian, Peruvian, and Colombian community feels very hurt and very resentful and sees no hope,” Arias said. “They have great joy for their brothers from Venezuela but at the same time have great sadness because they cannot access this.”

About the author(s)

Gabriela Henriquez is a Venezuelan journalist studying at Columbia Journalism School. She is a fellow at the Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.