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The Biden administration recently issued yet another outlandish immigration action, but most Americans likely did not realize it. I’m talking about the Department of Homeland Security’s decision to extend and "redesignate" Temporary Protected Status for more than 700,000 illegal aliens from Venezuela that the Biden administration has already allowed into the U.S. For many Americans, this may sound like a niche policy decision that only immigration policy experts care to discuss. That’s what the Biden Administration is counting on. Don’t be fooled, this is the epitome of an America Last policy.
To understand why I am sounding the alarm, it is important to understand the historical misuse of Temporary Protected Status by various administrations since Congress created it in 1990. Under the law, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security may designate a country for Temporary Protected Status if there is an ongoing armed conflict, an environmental disaster, or there are "extraordinary and temporary conditions." Importantly, such conditions must prevent nationals of that country from safely returning home. Despite the name and congressional intention, there is nothing temporary about Temporary Protected Status.
Here’s why. Once the secretary designates a country, nearly every illegal alien in the U.S. from that country receives a work permit, an exemption from deportation, a Social Security number, and the ability to obtain a driver’s license. Prior to President Trump, administrations of both political parties would continuously extend the designation, and the benefits that come with it, using increasingly absurd justifications such as the existence of "coffee rust" for one country. The "redesignation," meaning advancing the cutoff date for eligibility, is blatantly unlawful and functions to benefit the illegal aliens who made it into the U.S. after the initial designation.
The Biden administration’s abuse of Temporary Protected Status has reached another level. There are currently 16 countries with Temporary Protected Status. This includes restoring the designations for the six countries the Trump Administration properly terminated but activist courts interfered with until the change of administrations. The Biden Administration is also responsible for five new designations, by the far the most that any administration has done in under three years. In fact, the Department of Homeland Security has "redesignated" every country except one when it has come up for review.
This is nothing short of amnesty by executive fiat.
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In fact, it appears that Temporary Protected Status was always the end game of the Biden administration’s open border policy. Step one was literally throwing open the border by terminating the Remain in Mexico policy, mass releasing illegal aliens into American communities, and gaslighting the American people by denying that there is a crisis. Once the optics of millions of illegal aliens surging across the southern border became too damaging politically, the administration moved to phase two, which was rerouting illegal immigration under the guise of "lawful pathways." Specifically, this step involved the parole program the Department of Homeland Security created to fly 30,000 inadmissible aliens per month into the U.S. from Venezuela, as well as from Cuba, Haiti, and Nicaragua. This is a clear abuse of this authority. This policy is being challenged in court, and I believe the Biden administration knows it is going to lose.
MIGRANT NUMBERS SURGED IN AUGUST AS SOUTHERN BORDER CRISIS RAGES
And that’s where the devious third phase, Temporary Protected Status, comes into play. Everything about the Venezuela decision smacks of political impropriety. Based on my experience dealing with Temporary Protected Status decisions as acting secretary, the Venezuela decision should have been made in January 2024, roughly 60 days before the March 2024 expiration. So why is the administration so out in front of this one by several months? It seems to me the Biden administration expects the courts to strike down its parole programs as unlawful, which would make all of those illegal aliens subject to deportation.
And though this administration isn’t removing anyone, the next America First administration will. In an effort to launder the unlawful parole program and obstruct the next administration’s ability to easily remove illegal aliens, DHS "redesignated" Venezuela for Temporary Protected Status to cover the approximately 472,000 illegal aliens who the Biden Administration allowed into the U.S. since the initial designation in 2021.
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Expect this weaponization of Temporary Protected Status to continue. The day after the Venezuela decision, DHS "redesignated" Afghanistan’s Temporary Protected Status. Although the additional roughly 15,000 illegal aliens from Afghanistan that will now be covered are far lower than Venezuela’s, this is the beginning of a flailing, and failing, administration’s plan to designate new countries for Temporary Protected Status and to "redesignate" existing countries. Before the Trump Administration, less than 500,000 illegal aliens had Temporary Protected Status. Under President Biden, the count is at least 1.5 million.
The cartels and human traffickers are definitely applauding this new policy as they can easily market to vulnerable migrants the high likelihood of eventually being covered by Temporary Protected Status if they can make it into the U.S. before the Biden administration ends.
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Chad Wolf is the former acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and executive director and chair of the Center for Homeland Security & Immigration at the America First Policy Institute.