In response to mounting numbers of people seeking refuge out of Venezuela due to disastrous economic conditions and instability, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) calls for the US Administration to uphold its humanitarian commitments by using Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to protect an estimated 72,000 Venezuelans currently in the United States from being forcibly returned to harm.

Venezuela had the highest number of people seeking asylum in the United States last year. The conditions on the ground in Venezuela clearly support the need for a TPS designation, as demonstrated by a recent IRC assessment of needs of Venezuelans across Colombia. The assessment found that Venezuelans are undertaking desperate measures to earn money to survive, such as sex work, child labor, and life-threatening, dangerous work. The survey revealed that;

“Over 3.4 million Venezuelans and counting have left their country since 2015 in the face of the unprecedented collapse of the country’s economy and health systems,” said Bob Kitchen, Vice President of Emergency Programming at the International Rescue Committee. “As Venezuela’s crisis deepens, the UN has estimated that over five million refugees will be displaced by this time next year, with two million expected in Colombia alone - eclipsing the Syrian refugee crisis. The Colombian government has welcomed more than one million refugees by keeping their borders open and providing access to services.

“The bipartisan TPS bills introduced in both the U.S. House and Senate to protect Venezuelans already in the United States are a promising recognition of the United States’ moral and humanitarian obligations. Colombia has set an enduring example of how a neighboring country can help ease a humanitarian crisis, and the US must now also show humanitarian leadership through a TPS designation for Venezuela.”

The State Department recognizes the conditions that Venezuelans face each day, advising against travel to Venezuela due to “violent crime that is pervasive throughout”, poor health infrastructure, and high risk of kidnapping. They cite criminal gangs operating openly and with little repercussion. According to a CFR report, homicides in Caracas top 140 per 100,000 people, far outpacing rates in Baghdad and Kabul.

Temporary Protected Status would enable Venezuelans in the U.S. to stay there until such time as they are able to return home safely. In addition to legal status, TPS also provides the right to work. IRC field offices across the United States have helped Central Americans receive TPS and know how integral their contributions are to communities and the economy. The Immigrant Legal Resource Center had estimated that Salvadoran, Haitian, and Honduran TPS holders contribute $4.5 billion in income to the gross domestic product annually, and their absence would result in a $6.9 billion reduction to Social Security and Medicare contributions over a decade.

The U.S. has a longstanding tradition of providing safety to those fleeing persecution and violence and it must not abandon this strong humanitarian record now. If the administration does not act, then Congress must step in to protect the estimated 72,000 Venezuelans currently in the United States who could benefit from TPS.