“I want to go back to my country, but I can’t, so I’m here.” These are the words of Howard, a chef who years ago was forced to leave Venezuela and who now lives and works in Florida. “If I come back, they will take me to prison”, he assured RTVE.es. He is one of the thousands of Venezuelans who have applied for Temporary Protected Statusknown as TPS, an immigration permit where they can avoid deportation and access a work permit in the United States.
RTVE.es spoke to him and other Venezuelans who fled to the US and also some who crossed the Atlantic and settled in Spain. Two of the many faces of an exile that began more than 20 years ago and continues to this day, driving millions of people away from the life they built in their country of origin.
“I haven’t seen my family since 2016,” Nerio Fuenmayor, a journalist in exile in the United States who fled Venezuela seven years ago, told RTVE.es. His profession put him in the eyes of the Government Venezuelans and fled to Chile, which he left a year ago, persecuted, he said, because of his sexual orientation.
Nerio came to the United States in 2020, thanks to a tourist visa, and opted for a work permit when his asylum request began. Until then, he survived thanks to his savings. Now, with TPS granted, he says he finally feels “protected and supported” in a country where he can also practice his profession.
As Biden announced at the end of September, from now on, those Venezuelans who have been on US soil since then will benefit from the TPS program. before July 31, 2023which will greatly increase the number of beneficiaries.
A relief amid the immigration chaos
The extension of the measure, which represents a relief for many migrants who clearly cannot return to their country of origin, came in the middle of migratory chaos experienced in the American continent, with an increase in arrests in recent months. The United States This week resumed deportation flights of Venezuelan migrants to discourage those who come from that country.
Washington did not provide details about how it got the Venezuelan Executive to accept these trips again, which They froze for years, despite the sanctions Caracas faced from the US and after the two countries broke relations in 2019.
The migratory pressure in Mexico, a transit country to the United States, is great and It was only in August that they were arrested in the US. 180.00 migrants more than 22,000 of them, Venezuelans.
America’s migration crisis: an unprecedented number of people are traveling across the continent
Howard, who currently lives in Miami with his wife and two children, is one of many who entered the United States from Mexico. He did it in 2019, so irregularly, crossing the California border to seek asylum. Under Trump’s mandate, and with the program ‘Stay in Mexico’, he was arrested and transferred back to the neighboring country, where migrants and refugees are forced to stay while their petition is resolved.
He left Venezuela years ago, in 2016, for Chile, where he lived and worked for just two years. “I joined the protest against the Government of Venezuela and he was persecuted,” he explained to this medium. In 2021, Howard filed for TPS, which was initially established for 18 months and has been renewed since then.
Like him, many appreciate expanding this immigration relief, compatible with the asylum request most of them are still running. The program, created in the 90s, grants unique permits to immigrants from areas affected by conflicts, natural disasters, and more.
The “growing instability in Venezuela and lack of security” are the reasons why the US Department of Security justifies its application to Venezuelan migrants.
The UN mission for Venezuela warned this week of an increasing “selective repression against social and political leaders” in the country of Latin America and assured that “serious violations of human rights” continue to be made “not isolated events.”
They have not seen their families since they left their country
Nerio’s entire family, he said, is from Venezuela. “I’m only in the US, everyone is there because there is no possibility that they will arrive,” explained Nerio. “The job allowed me to help them financially and here I feel safe.”
With the announcement of the expansion of TPS, the number of Venezuelans who can obtain permits to work and live in the United States. from 242,700 to 472,000according to the Department of Homeland Security.
Laura (not her real name) is one of the Venezuelans who met the new requirements. “After the announcements by the Immigration Office, I am eligible for the new TPS and I am waiting for the application to be authorized”, she told RTVE.es. She arrived in the United States, where she currently lives with her husband and daughter, in January 2022. She currently works as a journalist and is waiting for the resolution of an asylum request which, as warned by all. , interviewed, usually it takes years.
“I left Venezuela not knowing if I would ever see my mother and father again, and, thanks to fate, we were able to again,” he explained. His closest relatives also immigrated to the United States, some after he, who had to leave Venezuela “immediately”, was persecuted for practicing his trade. “When you emigrate, you leave what you took, if you can take something, Everything is left behind and you don’t know if you can get it back.” he cried.
Families thousands of miles apart
Part of Howard’s family remains in Venezuela. There is his mother, whom he has not seen since he left the country. His purpose, he says this medium, is to take him with him to the United States, or with his sister in Chile, where he lives. “We’re talking about it, figuring out what’s best for him,” he explained.
The Venezuelan exodus led to many Venezuelans like him whose Families and friends are distributed in different countries. According to the demographic portal Statista, the United States is the third destination with the highest number of emigrants from Venezuela, after Colombia and Peru. Spain is in sixth place.
“The time has come that I was the only one left there. My family and friends went to the United States, to Chile, to Colombia, to Guatemala … “Hermelinda, a 54-year-old Venezuelan resident of Spain, arrived in 2018 fleeing her country after -suffering mistreatment of people. The National Guard, according to the complaint, “We went to marches, we participated in protests … we were booked,” he said.
After spending some time working irregularly, Hermelinda was granted a work permit and, now, with asylum denied and residency for humanitarian reasons granted, He worked for the same courier company for many years..
“I don’t regret coming one day, though what I have there I know I can’t have it here, but I know what I’m coming to, “said this Venezuelan who left everything to come to Spain accompanied by the youngest of his children, where he lives in rent. His other daughter is thousands of kilometers away, in Guatemala.
His car, his house, and many of his personal belongings were left on the other side of the ocean and, at the age of 54, he said, he could no longer dream of having what he had achieved in his country. Gonzalo, one of the Venezuelans who moved to Spain, fleeing the country where he was born, says he is in the same situation.
“We sold everything we had for very little,” he told RTVE.es. this former university professor who, at the age of 73, is still looking for work in Spain. He now lives in Moratalaz with his wife, but he still has many family and friends in Venezuela. “It’s hard to leave your country, where you will leave family, friends, love. My family knows that if something happens to them, I won’t be able to see them, no. I can afford the ticket” he cried.
Live knowing they will never come home
Hermelinda, like the other interviewees, was clear would not return to the country where he was born. Everything he remembers from his life there, he says, is gone.
“Right now I dread to think about going back to Venezuela.”, he assured RTVE.es. He will feel “alien”, he said, although he believes that it is something that after emigration, he will feel everywhere, “even if this country received me and I am very grateful.”
On the other side of the sea, Niero does not believe that he will be able to set foot on Venezuelan soil again: “I don’t think he will return, I don’t see that he will be able to return in the near or far future,” he confessed. “But Yes, I want to be reunited with my family. and, if possible, take them with me to the United States, I feel they will be better here,” he said.