In a move praised by organized labor and which construction contractor groups view as a modest step forward, the Biden administration has approved an 18-month extension and redesignation of Temporary Protection Status for Venezuela. 

The decision, which the US Dept. of Homeland Security announced on Sept. 20, is estimated to affect thousands of construction workers in the U.S.

The action temporarily protects individuals from Venezuela who were in the U.S. before July 31 from being removed to their home country and protects their U.S. employment authorizations for 18 months.

DHS Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas said in a statement, “Temporary protected status provides individuals already present in the United States with protection from removal when the conditions in their home country prevent their safe return.”

The action is warranted “based on Venezuela’s increased instability and lack of safety due to the enduring humanitarian, security, political and environmental conditions.” the agency said.

According to DHS, there are about 242,700 beneficiaries of Venezuela’s current Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation and an additional 472,000 Venezuelan nationals who may be eligible under the redesignation.

Unions, Contractor Groups Weigh In

The Laborers’ International Union of North America welcomed the announcement. Brent Booker, union general president, noted in a statement that one-third of those holding TPS protection are construction workers, “including many thousands of skilled union members.”

Construction contractor organizations also reacted favorably to the department move on Venezuela, which comes amid a persistent worker shortage in the industry.

Brian Turmail, Associated General Contractors of America vice president-public affairs and strategic initiatives, said via email, “It is a small step in the right direction of allowing more people to lawfully work in this country.” He added, “The only people who benefit from having a large pool of people who are not authorized to work in this country are those who are willing to exploit them, after all.”

Peter Comstock, Associated Builders and Contractors senior director of legislative affairs, said via email that "the president’s action to expand temporary protected status with work authorization for nearly half a million individuals may provide welcome, short-term relief for some employers in construction and other industries facing significant workforce shortages."

Comstock added, “However, this use of TPS is not a sufficient strategy to address the workforce needs of the construction industry and the country’s immigration challenges.”

He said there are about 52,000 recipients of temporary protected status working in the construction industry.

AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler said in a Sept. 21 statement, “TPS is a pro-worker tool that brings much-needed relief to working families and communities at home and abroad.”

She urged the Biden administration to designate or redesignate TPS for other countries that are “destabilized by conflict and disasters.”

DHS on Sept. 20 also extended TPS for 18 months for Afghanistan.

List of TPS Countries Lengthens

The actions are the latest in a series of TPS extensions by the Biden administration.

DHS rescinded the Trump administration’s termination of TPS designations for El Salvador, Honduras, Nepal and Nicaragua on June 13. Other countries with TPS as of Sept. 25 are Cameroon, Ethiopia, Haiti, Myanmar, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen.

Mayorkas underscored that Venezuelans who arrived in the U.S. after July 31 are not eligible for TPS "and instead will be removed when they are found to not have a legal basis to stay."