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On Tuesday, outgoing President Donald Trump announced he would offer Venezuelan migrants in the United States protection from deportation, a move he considered for years but refused to do until his last full day in office.
Trump is activating the little-known Deferred Enforced Departure program, or DED, to offer temporary status to Venezuelans migrating from an economic crisis brought on by U.S. unilateral coercive measures.
DED, similar to Temporary Protected Status or TPS, protects recipients from deportation and allows them to receive work permits; however, it is granted directly by the president instead of the Department of Homeland Security.
In a memorandum released Tuesday, Trump said: “The deteriorative condition within Venezuela, which presents an ongoing national security threat to the safety and well-being of the American people, warrants the deferral of the removal of Venezuelan nationals who are present in the United States."
Trump’s memo establishes that the U.S. will defer for 18 months removing certain Venezuelan nationals present in the United States territory as of January 20. It also allows those Venezuelans to work during that time.
Last year, the State Department considered using DED to protect Venezuelans, but talks stalled over resistance to including relief for migrants in Trump’s Venezuela strategy. The outgoing president’s strategy centered around strict sanctions to put maximum pressure on Nicolas Maduro's government.
The move to use DED instead of TPS stems from a long-standing concern from some Republicans that TPS will eventually become a path to permanent residency in the United States. On the other hand, Deferred Enforced Departure is designated by the president and gives him the ability to end it without as many procedural hurdles.
Offering DED to Venezuelans is expected to protect nearly 200,000 Venezuelan citizens in the U.S. from deportation — the same number it potentially would have under TPS, according to TPS estimates from the Congressional Budget Office.
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart and other Florida Republicans have long pushed for the Trump administration to offer temporary legal status to Venezuelans given the difficult situation in the South American country and be a way to build more goodwill with South Florida’s Venezuelan community.
The Deferred Enforced Departure for Venezuelans in #USA is a first important step to provide protection. We expect the @JoeBiden´s admin will implement a comprehensive policy on #Venezuela, incl ceasing the imposition of broad economic sanctions & support multilateral solutions https://t.co/psaD6CgCbr
Despite not granting TPS for Venezuelans, Trump won in Doral, home to the largest Venezuelan community in the United States, posting significant gains from 2016.
Advisers close to Trump’s last-minute decision said White House aides Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner were involved in moving it forward. Coming less than 16 hours before the end of Trump’s presidency, the decision will likely come as welcome news in South Florida, where he, his daughter, and son-in-law will now reside.
Sen. Marco Rubio, who was heavily involved in Trump’s Latin America policy, hinted on Sunday that an announcement could be coming soon.
Rubio (R-Fla.) wrote on Twitter: “Still hopeful that as I suggested over a year ago & again three months ago, the President will grant Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) to eligible Venezuelan nationals currently residing in the U.S."
While President-elect Joe Biden previously pledged to grant Venezuelans temporary protected status, and in 2019, the Democratic-led House passed a bipartisan bill to grant TPS to Venezuelans, the legislation was held up in the GOP-controlled Senate, despite support from Rubio.