Biden officials declined to grant legal status to hundreds of thousands of migrants over border concerns

Washington – President Biden’s top immigration advisers have refrained from giving nearly 400,000 migrants a chance to legally work and live in the United States under a program called Temporary Protected Status (TPS) over concerns about a potential surge in border crossings said three people familiar with the boarding debate told CBS News.

Earlier this year, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials developed a plan to expand the decades-old TPS program for migrants from Nicaragua, noting that an expansion was warranted given deteriorating conditions in the Central American country, the people said. Request anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. In recent years, Nicaragua has witnessed a record number of citizens migrating, mainly to the United States, to escape poverty and government repression.

The proposal to expand or rename Nicaragua’s TPS program would have given nearly 400,000 Nicaraguan migrants in the United States the opportunity to apply for state work permits and protection from deportation, according to an internal government estimate. The plan was reviewed internally at a high level and sent to the White House and other agencies for approval.

Ultimately, however, the administration decided not to expand TPS eligibility, at least for now, in part due to concerns from senior White House officials that the announcement of a generous immigration program could contribute to a sharp rise in migration along the United States. According to the sources, the number of illegal crossings at the Mexican border has dropped sharply since early May.

Instead, the administration announced on Tuesday It would extend TPS designations for Nicaragua and three other countries that the Trump administration wanted to end, allowing existing beneficiaries to renew their status but leaving the programs closed to new applicants.

TPS does not benefit migrants who have not yet reached the US, but over the years some government officials have raised concerns that expansions of the program still act as “pull factors” that drive illegal migration, even when the newcomers are unqualified are for it. Last year, Nicaraguans traveled to the US-Mexico border in record numbers, although arrivals there from Nicaragua have recently declined.

“That has translated into fears that any renaming could be a magnet,” one of the sources said.

Immigration advocates and some Democratic lawmakers have cast doubt on pull factor concerns, saying dire conditions in Nicaragua and other troubled countries clearly justify a renaming of TPS.

“Any claims that TPS is a pull factor are simply false,” Democratic New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez told CBS News. “Study after study has repeatedly shown that TPS designations are not related to irregular migration. On the contrary, TPS helps vulnerable people stay in their home countries because it allows TPS holders in the United States to send money home.”

Menendez said he was concerned that political concerns would influence government decision-making on immigration.

“The simple ‘let’s be tough’ policy reasoning that the administration seems to have picked up from where it was originally held and that follows the Republican mantra will never satisfy Republicans in Congress. But most importantly, it really is.” “That won’t solve the problem,” he added.

The White House declined to comment. DHS officials did not answer questions about the TPS decision-making process.

Although the government has not approved an extension of TPS eligibility for Nicaraguans, authorities may change course in the future. DHS said Tuesday it is “closely monitoring conditions around the world to assess whether new TPS designations are warranted.”

In addition to considering TPS eligibility for Nicaraguans, the government is also debating whether to expand a similar program for Venezuelan migrants.

While some officials fear that the TPS expansion for these countries could disrupt the slower rate of migration recorded at the southern border in recent weeks, the government is facing mounting pressure from Democratic allies and supporters to allow additional migrants to be eligible for TPS.

Democratic mayors, including New York City Mayor Eric Adams, have been urging the administration to drastically expand the TPS so migrants arriving in their jurisdictions can work legally and not rely on city services that are struggling to accommodate the newcomers.

Many of the migrants who have arrived in New York, Denver, Chicago, Washington and other major cities over the past year, including those brought there by officials in Texas, are from Nicaragua and Venezuela. Asylum-seekers can apply for a work permit, but are only eligible for one 180 days after they apply for asylum, and waiting times are often longer due to the massive backlog of immigration cases.

The current TPS designations for Nicaragua and Venezuela apply only to migrants from those countries who arrived in the United States before January 1999 and March 2021, respectively. In 2021, there were 4,250 Nicaraguans and 29,193 Venezuelans with TPS, according to government data. However, if those countries were renamed, hundreds of thousands of migrants who recently crossed the US southern border would be eligible for TPS.

Since the beginning of fiscal year 2022, around 259,000 Nicaraguans and 284,000 Venezuelans have been processed along the US-Mexico border, according to government figures, both record numbers. Steps to expand TPS to include these nationalities would also benefit Nicaraguans who have lived in the US without permanent residency for years.

Nicaragua and Venezuela, both ruled by repressive left-wing regimes, have faced mass exodus of their citizens in recent years. More than 7 million people have fled Venezuela’s economic catastrophe and authoritarian rule to settle in other Latin American countries and the US, while hundreds of thousands of Nicaraguans have traveled to neighboring Costa Rica or the US-Mexico border.

While last year a record number of Nicaraguans and Venezuelans crossed the US-Mexico border illegally, illegal entries by these migrants have dropped significantly this year following some policy changes.

In January, the Biden government started to evict Migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela who illegally crossed the southern border into Mexico agreed to the readmission of those nationalities, first under the now-defunct Title 42 health regulation and now under regular US immigration law. Management has paired this return policy with a program that allows up to 30,000 migrants from these four countries are allowed to legally fly to the US on a monthly basis if they have US-based financial sponsors.

Daily illegal border crossings along the southern border rose to 10,000, an all-time high, in the days before officials lifted pandemic-era restrictions from Title 42 on May 11. But she then crashedThis contradicts predictions that the end of Title 42 would trigger a spike in border arrivals. In the first week of June, border police arrested a little over 3,000 migrants a day on average.

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