“The circumstances under which Venezuelans have been arriving has been very difficult. They are arriving without money, without clothes, not having food to eat.” says Patricia Andrade, Founder of Raices Venezolanas, a non-profit based in Doral that helps recent arrivals get settled.
Over five million Venezuelans have left their country since 2015, a mass exodus representing one of the largest refugee crises in the world. Venezuela has been a country in crisis for decades, a country plagued by food shortages, hyperinflation, and violence.
Those who cross the border face an unknown immigration status at the border of the countries that receive them but now that they have been granted temporary protected status, or TPS, the future for many of the displaced in the U.S. is looking brighter.
For Pedro Fernandez and his family, life in Venezuela was no longer sustainable, so they decided to cross the US-Mexico border by foot.
“The intimidations by the Bolivarian circles, the armed groups and the National Police did not really let us live our lives there. Whenever they saw us, they attacked us.” says Fernandez.
He recalled having to cross a river with his wife and their son. "I was carrying our son and my wife was ahead of me with a small suitcase. We spent 10 minutes or so walking and then we saw the river. The river was imposing ...more than 150 meters wide. I thought well, we have to take the risk, we are already here, we can’t turn back now.”
Germania Pirela, Fernandez’s wife, knew she had to take care of herself to make it through. “I thought, well Matías has Pedro to save him. He won't be able to save me.”
They were lucky, they crossed safely that day.
Watch Pedro Fernandez and his wife tell their story on the latest edition of Real America with Jorge Ramos: Adiós Venezuela
On March 8th, 2021 the Biden administration granted over 300,000 undocumented Venezuelans in the United States temporary protected status or TPS. TPS currently covers more than 600,000 immigrants from countries like Nicaragua, El Salvador, Nepal and Haiti according to the Federal Register.
TPS designation is temporary and limited but it allows undocumented Venezuelans to live and work legally in the United States.
The news came at the right time for the Fernandez family, they crossed the US-Mexico border on March 3rd, 5 days before the deadline to qualify.
“I saw the news in the detention center when President Biden offered TPS to Venezuelans. And I said well, thank God, what a coincidence, we arrived just in time and they are granting TPS. That is something we didn't expect.”
“This is a golden opportunity that all these families have.” says Andrade.
Beto Montenegro is the lead singer of a Venezuelan musical collective called Rawayana. With their country in crisis, they were inspired to write a song called “Welcome to El Sur”, a tribute to Venezuela.
“It’s a tribute to those dreamers, to those positive people who are not only inside Venezuela, but outside and trying to gain a better future based on all the crazy things that have happened to them.”
The future looks brighter for the Fernandez, thanks to the help of people like Andrade.
“I feel calm and safe. I can go out now, I can speak without fear.” says Pirela.
Fernandez is eager to start fresh, and apply for TPS. “We are not coming here to depend on anyone, we want to fend for ourselves.”
“And despite all this, the scars of everything that we’ve lived through are still strong, they are quite deep.”