On his way to the southern border, Jose Ramos spent six days wading through the treacherous stretch of jungle that connects South and Central America, known as the Darien Gap.
Ramos left his hometown in Venezuela to escape poverty — he was earning the equivalent of $10 a month there. He was taken in at the U.S. border and allowed to enter the country to await a hearing. When he arrived in metro Atlanta in August 2022, Ramos was “willing to take on any job, because when you come to this country, you can’t be picky.”
Because he crossed the border illegally, Ramos lacks work authorization and has been relying on under-the-table restaurant jobs to support himself.
Soon, migrants like Ramos will be able to establish a stronger financial foothold in Georgia and across the country.
Last week, the Biden administration announced it is extending temporary legal status to all Venezuelans who arrived in the U.S. on or before July 31, making them eligible for work permits and protection from deportation.
Nearly 500,000 Venezuelan nationals are expected to be covered by the humanitarian relief known as Temporary Protected Status (TPS) – historically granted to immigrants who hail from crisis-riddled countries. The status will last for at least 18 months.
Over 7 million migrants and refugees have fled Venezuela in recent years to escape political repression and poverty.
“I thank God that this country is opening doors for us. It’s a true blessing,” Ramos said. “I came to this country to contribute.”
The new TPS designation for Venezuelans came on the heels of calls from prominent Democrats in New York to make it easier for newly arrived migrants to work. Roughly 60,000 Venezuelans settled in New York and are straining local and state resources. Last year, Hispanic-serving organizations in Atlanta also reported a surge in Venezuelan arrivals to the metro area, but on a smaller scale.
Before last week’s TPS announcement, most Venezuelans who had managed to settle in the U.S. after unlawfully crossing the border sought to get on the path to achieving legal status by filing claims for asylum. Asylum seekers can apply for work permits, but there are long, mandatory waiting periods that draw the process out, keeping self-sufficiency out of reach for many.
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