The move followed intense lobbying by New York Democrats before and during President Biden’s visit to New York City this week.
The New York Times /Nicholas Fandos
The Biden administration said late Wednesday that it would allow hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans already in the United States to live and work legally in the country for 18 months.
The decision followed intense advocacy by top New York Democrats, including Gov. Kathy Hochul, Mayor Eric Adams and party leaders in Congress. It will affect about 472,000 Venezuelans who arrived in the country before July 31, temporarily protecting them from removal and waiving a monthslong waiting period for them to seek employment authorization.
In an unusual break with a president of their party, the New York Democrats had argued that the city’s social safety net would tear under the weight of more than 110,000 recently arrived migrants unless they were allowed to work and support themselves more quickly.
Alejandro Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, said that he made the decision because conditions in Venezuela “prevent their safe return” but stressed that immigrants who had entered the country since August were not protected and would be “removed when they are found to not have a legal basis to stay.”
In a joint statement, Senator Chuck Schumer and Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the top Democrats in the Senate and House, said that the Homeland Security Department had estimated that roughly half the migrants currently living in New York are Venezuelans who would be affected by the decision. They called it a “welcome step forward.”