Will Work Authorization Draw More Venezuelan Migrants to the U.S.?

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Is it a case of a wish come true or “be careful what you wish for”?

The news that the Biden administration would grant work permits to hundreds of thousands of Venezuelan migrants who had already entered the United States was welcomed by Democratic leaders from cities overwhelmed with a large influx of migrants unable to work legally.

The hope is that the move will let many Venezuelans make enough money to move out of shelters, where the cost of housing them is straining big cities, especially New York. But could it end up backfiring by attracting even more Venezuelan migrants to cross the border?

The work authorization extends temporary protected status, known as T.P.S., to more than 400,000 Venezuelans who have entered the country since March 2021 and were on American soil by July 31 of this year. Alejandro Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, warned that anyone who arrived after that would be “removed when they are found to not have a legal basis to stay.”

Julia Gelatt, the associate director of the U.S. immigration policy program at the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan research center, said that research has not established a clear link between temporary protected status and increased migration.

The specifics of American immigration policy, she said, are a minor factor in inducing someone to flee their country.

She said of Venezuelans, “They know that in the U.S. there is safety and economic opportunity, and whether they are a parolee” — someone who has been granted humanitarian parole — “a T.P.S. recipient, or an asylum seeker may not be as important as the difference in opportunities overall available in the U.S., compared to where they’re living now.”

Ms. Gelatt noted that the route that most Venezuelans take to reach the United States — crossing the treacherous stretch of jungle known as the Darién Gap and up through Central America and Mexico — requires a journey of months and that any possible effect from the extension of the temporary work authorization would not be apparent for a while.

But several Venezuelans in New York said they thought that word of the work-authorization extension would bring more of their countrymen here.

“For sure, people will come to the U.S.,” said Ely Johanna Carrascal, 32, who owned a small business in San Cristobal, Venezuela, and who now works in a restaurant.

“There are already people waiting on the borders, and they will continue to come,” she added. “You can’t live in Venezuela.”

Yordano Negren, 28, a hair stylist from Valencia who arrived about three weeks ago and has been staying in a Midtown shelter, said that more migrants would mean more competition for jobs.

“I imagine that it will bring many more Venezuelans here to New York,” he said. “But there are already too many Venezuelans here looking for work, trying to start a new life. Too many Venezuelans, too many Haitians, too many Dominicans. Everyone is looking for work, and this change is just going to bring more people.”

Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a right-leaning think tank that favors restricting immigration, said that the administration’s pattern of granting extensions would prompt many to take their chances at the border.

“If you’re a Venezuelan,” he said, “there is every reason to believe that you will be included in the next extension of T.P.S. 18 months from now.”

Mayor Eric Adams of New York, who had been pressing the White House for months on expediting work authorization, called the decision an “important step that will bring hope to the thousands of Venezuelan asylum seekers currently in our care who will now be immediately eligible for temporary protected status.”

Murad Awawdeh, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, which also applauded the Biden administration’s decision, pointed out that the Venezuelans who have entered the United States in the past two years are only a small fraction of the seven million who have fled the economically devastated nation during that time.

“The reason so many people globally are fleeing their home countries is not because of T.P.S.,” he said. “It’s because conditions on the ground in their home countries are deteriorating so rapidly that they are fleeing for safety.”

Zeke Minaya and Eduardo Salazar Uribe contributed reporting.

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