If you’re a Venezuelan immigrant in the U.S., could you be deported? What you need to know

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The Biden administration announced on Thursday that it will resume direct deportation flights of Venezuelans “who cross our border unlawfully and do not establish a legal basis to remain,” after the U.S. reached an agreement with Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro’s government.

The resumption of deportations directly to Venezuela comes as the United States struggles to contain irregular migration to the U.S.-Mexico border. Political, social and economic crises have pushed millions of people out of their home countries across Latin America and the Caribbean in recent years. Over 7 million people have fled Venezuela alone, according to the United Nations.

Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans have come to the U.S.-Mexico border since 2021. Customs and Border Protection counted more than 387,000 encounters with nationals from the South American country between October 2021 and August of this year.

What exactly does Thursday’s announcement mean for Venezuelans in the United States? Who could be deported and who doesn’t have to fear being sent back? Here’s what you need to know.

Who is at risk of being deported?

Venezuelans without a lawful immigration status in the United States could be sent back to their country. That includes Venezuelans in the United States who have illegally crossed into the country, lost all their immigration appeals or opted to not challenge a judge’s decision are at risk of being sent back to Venezuela, said John de la Vega, Miami-based immigration lawyer from Caracas. Also at risk: Venezuelans who failed to convince border officers they had a valid case for asylum, and had a judge affirm the officer’s decision.

De La Vega also said that people who don’t apply or aren’t eligible for Venezuela’s Temporary Protected Status, a federal deportation protection that allows people from countries in turmoil to work and live in the United States, could also be in danger of being sent back to the South American country.

The Biden administration recently extended Temporary Protected Status to Venezuelans who arrived in the U.S. before Jul 31.

“People who are in the United States who can’t or don’t appeal their cases, and do not request Temporary Protected Status, are the people who have no protections,” said De La Vega. “They have no legal basis to stay here.”

Who does not have to worry about deportation?

Venezuelans with a legal immigration status in the United States do not have to worry about the announcement. People with visas, green cards, refugee status or who have qualified for Temporary Protected Status, as long as they have not done something to violate the conditions of their stay, such as committing a crime.

If I am deportable, do I have any options?

It depends.

Undocumented Venezuelans in the United States could be eligible for Temporary Protected Status under the federal government’s recent expansion of the program, which made about 472,000 additional people eligible. The extension, which the Venezuelan-American community and immigration activists hailed as a victory, offers temporary deportation protections and work authorizations.

But there are conditions that Venezuelans must fulfill to join the program. They must have had continuous residence in the United States on or before July 31. Being convicted of a felony or two misdemeanors also bars them from applying for TPS, as does any action that would exclude someone from getting asylum, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. More information about Venezuela’s TPS program can be found here. Information about general eligibility requirements is available here.

De La Vega recommends that Venezuelans without legal status in the United States talk to a lawyer to understand their options, since immigration is complex and every case is different.

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