PolitiFact FL: Offering TPS to Venezuelan migrants does not ‘grant voting rights’

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WLRN has partnered with PolitiFact to fact-check Florida politicians. The Pulitzer Prize-winning team seeks to present the true facts, unaffected by agenda or biases.

The Biden administration’s move to extend Temporary Protected Status to nearly 500,000 Venezuelans in the United States will prevent them from being deported and give them access to employment and travel authorization. But it won’t automatically let them vote in federal elections, despite some viral claims on social media.

One such TikTok video featured a clip of Fox News host Jesse Watters discussing the administration’s announcement.

“I’m watching (Joe Biden) give half a million Venezuelans temporary amnesty this week,” Watters said in a segment archived Sept. 21. “No deportations and they get work permits and Social Security numbers. And that gets them drivers licenses. And in Pennsylvania, you get a driver’s license, they mail you a ballot. In New York, you have a Social Security number, you can register to vote. That’s the point.”

In the TikTok video, as Watters spoke, half-obscured Fox News banners read, “Biden gives nearly 500k migrants legal status,” “Biden’s handouts encourage more migrants,” and “migrants will get Social Security numbers.”

The text a TikTok user added to the Fox News clip claimed: “Joe Biden grants voting rights to 500,000 invaders.”

TikTok identified this video as part of its efforts to counter inauthentic, misleading or false content. (Read more about PolitiFact’s partnership with TikTok.)

Screenshot from TikTok

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PolitiFact

Describing Venezuelans who might be granted Temporary Protected Status as “invaders” is wrong. An “invasion” is an armed operation to take control of foreign sovereign territory by force, and many immigrants who cross the border illegally turn themselves into Border Patrol agents to ask for asylum, experts previously told PolitiFact.

Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, is a provisional benefit granted to people from certain countries who are living in the U.S. DHS cannot detain or deport people with TPS because of their immigration status.

But TPS “does not lead to lawful permanent resident status or give any other immigration status,” the DHS website said.

The Department of Homeland Security designates countries for TPS when nationals are temporarily prevented from returning there safely because of armed conflicts, environmental disasters or epidemics, according to a department website.

Venezuelans who were in the U.S. as of July 31 became eligible to sign up for TPS “based on Venezuela’s increased instability and lack of safety due to the enduring humanitarian, security, political, and environmental conditions,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a Sept. 20 statement.

Venezuelans who arrived in the U.S. after July 31 are ineligible for TPS and face deportation if they lack other legal basis to be in the U.S., Mayorkas said.

DHS said there were already about 242,700 Venezuelans with TPS and that about 472,000 more Venezuelan nationals might now become eligible for TPS.

The Biden administration’s announcement followed pressure from leaders — including Democratic governors and mayors — whose resources are stretched thin by the increasing number of migrants arriving in cities such as New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles. Leaders had urged the federal government to expedite migrants’ work permits.

Overall, the majority of Venezuelans in the United States live in Florida, according to the nonpartisan Pew Research Center.

Does Temporary Protected Status grant voting rights?

The TikTok video claimed Biden granted almost 500,000 Venezuelan migrants voting rights, but that’s inaccurate.

TPS recipients can apply for permits to work legally in the U.S., but the protection is temporary and does not make them U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents.

Federal and state laws prohibit noncitizens from voting in federal and state elections; so TPS recipients cannot vote in presidential or congressional elections.

Federal law allows noncitizens to vote in nonfederal elections — such as school board or city council elections — when permitted by state or local law. A small number of cities has moved to let noncitizens vote in local elections, but has faced legal challenges for doing so.

It takes many years, sometimes a decade or more, for immigrants to become U.S. citizens and gain voting rights.

People who have TPS and who have employment authorization documents may obtain Social Security numbers, which let employers report those people’s earnings to the U.S. government. The TikTok video suggests that simply having a Social Security number or obtaining a driver’s license allows someone to vote, but that’s not so.

To vote, besides being a U.S. citizen, people must meet a state’s residency requirements, be at least 18 years old and be registered to vote by a state’s voter registration deadline, according to USA.gov, an online government information portal.

Watters focused specifically on Pennsylvania and New York in his segment, so we contacted officials in those states.

There are no situations in which someone with TPS could vote in Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania’s State Department told PolitiFact.

To vote in Pennsylvania, someone must be a U.S. citizen for at least 30 days before the next election; be a state resident for at least 30 days before the next election; and be at least 18 years old by the next election, according to the state’s website.

Similarly, the New York State Board of Elections told PolitiFact in a statement that people granted Temporary Protected Status are not U.S. citizens and would be ineligible to vote. To vote in New York, someone must be a U.S. citizen who is at least 18 years old and lives in the state for at least 30 days before the election.

Our ruling

A TikTok video claimed that Biden granted “voting rights to 500,000 invaders.”

The Biden administration said that about 472,000 Venezuelans who were in the U.S. as of July 31 can apply for TPS, which will prevent their deportation and let them obtain work authorization documents.

Only U.S. citizens can vote in federal elections, and TPS recipients do not automatically become U.S. citizens. It’s possible that a Venezuelan granted TPS could eventually become a U.S. citizen, but that’s not happening immediately under the Biden administration.

We also found no evidence that the Venezuelans who may be eligible for TPS are “invaders,” a term experts say applies to an armed group intent on seizing U.S. sovereign territory by force.

We rate this claim False.

Our Sources

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