Leer en Español
Lucia had to drive herself to the hospital when she felt the first contractions. She had been waiting for more than a year for a paper that would give her some status in the U.S., so when the police stopped her to ask for her documentation, the Venezuelan had to tell the truth: “I don’t have any.”
This Venezuelan is one of the 295,111 migrants waiting for the U.S. to approve their application for Temporary Protected Status (TPS), an immigration benefit granted to nationals of a dozen countries experiencing extreme hardship, such as armed conflict or natural disaster.
Venezuelans (181,520) and Haitians (104,807) account for the bulk of TPS applications that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has to approve, according to the most recent data as of March 2022.
The agency should process each case in 180 days. Still, more than half a dozen Haitian and Venezuelan migrants consulted by EFE reported times longer than those estimated by USCIS, which currently takes about 10.5 months for Venezuelan citizens and nine months for Haitians.
The Biden Administration blames the delays on the pandemic, and fiscal and personnel problems.
Meanwhile, thousands of migrants who aspire to obtain such protection are left in limbo without permission to work legally and even, as in the case of Lucia, without any documentation.
The delay in the process means that the objective of the migratory benefit, which is to give protection to people coming from countries in complicated situations, is not being fulfilled, experts tell EFE.
“There is not enough emphasis placed on processing these applications quickly and making sure that the people who were promised protection actually receive it,” said Danilo Zak, policy director at the National Immigration Forum.
A USCIS spokesperson told EFE that they had seen a “dramatic increase” in TPS applications from Venezuelans and Haitians since the middle of last year.
The U.S. announced it would grant such relief for Venezuelan migrants in March last year and for Haiti in August.
Some 320,000 Venezuelans meet the criteria to obtain this benefit, and as of July of this year, the U.S. had approved 111,700 applications.
Regarding Haitians, the Government estimates that 115,000 in the country are eligible for TPS, and, as of March 2022, there were more than 100,000 applications pending approval.
For those who obtain approval and a work permit, the delay in processing means that the documents they receive have little time to be valid.
TPS is valid for a maximum period of 18 months, after which the government decides whether or not to renew it, and individuals must re-register. The TPS registration period for Venezuelans —renewed until March 2024— ends in November, so people who have not yet been approved or were approved very recently have little time to re-register.