On January 19, 2021, just before the end of his term, President Donald Trump issued a memorandum granting Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) for certain Venezuelans for a period of eighteen months. DED is a humanitarian grant of protection for individuals who cannot return to their home country. DED beneficiaries are not subject to removal during the designated time period and, in this case, will be eligible to request employment authorization. DED is discretionary and granted on the basis of the President’s constitutional power to conduct foreign relations.
The memo granting Venezuelan DED references the violations of sovereign freedoms in Venezuela and the “catastrophic economic crisis and shortages of basic goods and medicine” that has forced thousands of Venezuelans to flee their home country. It is estimated that there are approximately 200,000 Venezuelans (many of whom have U.S. citizen children and half of whom are living in Florida) who will benefit from this grant of DED. The benefit will only apply to otherwise eligible individuals who were physically present in the United States on January 20, 2021 (the day after the memorandum was issued). While DED is conferred automatically, USCIS has not yet issued instructions on how to apply for employment authorization corresponding with this benefit.
In the meantime, a bipartisan group of representatives and senators have introduced a bill to provide Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for eligible Venezuelans. TPS is similar to DED but is granted either by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or the Congress through legislation. A grant through legislation would provide a more secure benefit for the eligible Venezuelans. In addition, at this time, the Biden-Harris Administration has introduced the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 which, if passed, could provide a path to citizenship for TPS beneficiaries.