This week, the Biden administration authorized Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for eligible Venezuelans living in the United States. The 18-month reprieve from deportation also makes it possible for beneficiaries to apply for work authorization.
Shannon Gleeson, professor of labor relations, law and history at Cornell University, studies the impacts of TPS on immigrant workers. She is also a signatory to a recent letter urging President Biden to create a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and co-chair of Cornell's Migrations initiative.
"As the federal government and the Venezuelan community gears up for this important change, four cautionary tales remain from past TPS victories.
"As past immigration policy changes reveal, the creation of an immigration benefit will not alone ensure that the most vulnerable immigrants will apply. Many immigrants from national origin groups who have benefited from TPS, as well as the nearly 800,000 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) beneficiaries, relied on local legal services providers to help shepherd them through this complicated process. As research with Els de Graauw has found, for those unable to afford a private lawyer, nonprofit organizations and local governments have been critical to these programs’ success.
"On the whole, Venezuelan migrants in the United States are more highly educated professionals, relative to other foreign-born workers. Yet, because of language limitations, barriers to foreign credential transfer, and the current economic recession, many find themselves struggling to find work in their profession or at all. Therefore, the barriers facing low-wage workers should not be ignored. Indeed insufficient resources for labor standards enforcement, the challenges of bringing forth a workplace violation claim, and the increasing economic and workplace safety strain caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is relevant to even migrants who are well educated and have work authorization.
"TPS provides much needed work authorization. However, my work with Kate Griffith revels that the complicated, uncertain, and often disjointed U.S. immigration bureaucracy presents a unique set of challenges for TPS workers and the businesses that employ them. Therefore, as we consider the short-term solutions for migrants needing humanitarian aid, we cannot lose sight of the precarious positions they continue to endure as temporary migrants with uncertain futures. Absent a permanent path to citizenship, particularly in an era where immigration enforcement targets both workers and employers, TPS is not a silver bullet for addressing workplace inequality and discrimination.
"Many Venezuelans individuals who may be eligible for TPS are currently in detention. This week’s announcement is a hopeful sign that some of them may soon be able to leave what has become potentially lethal conditions before, and especially now, with the COVID-19 pandemic. We must continue to be vigilant of the trauma that an enforcement focused immigration system (characteristic of past Republican and Democratic administrations) continues to pose for immigrants in U.S. immigration prisons and at the southern border, many of whom have also fled economic and political crises."