Thousands of Venezuelan migrants who arrived in the US in 2022 seeking asylum have risked their lives, often embarking on arduous months of foot travel and spending their life savings just for a chance at US sanctuary.
Many are turned away at the border, but those who make it are given temporary status to remain in the country and have begun to build a new life for themselves. In a corner of Dallas, Texas, many migrants have banded together and formed their own community, which they call Villa Dallas.
The name comes from the Venezuelans who came to Dallas around 2019 from a village called Villa Del Rosario near the city of Maracaibo and settled in and around the Oaks of North Dallas apartment complex.
“They were the first to arrive,” Senea Gonzalez, who runs a Venezuelan restaurant in the area, told The Post. “From then on, the news just kept spreading. One person brought a friend and that friend brought another and it kept growing.”
An estimated 18,000 Venezuelans now call the Dallas-Fort Worth area home — the vast majority arrived in the last two years, according to the Dallas Morning News. Unlike the well-known and established Venezuelan communities of Miami and Houston, Villa Dallas is made up almost entirely of refugees who have fled the country in the last two years.
According to the UN, seven million people have fled Venezuela since 2015 to flee Nicholas Maduro’s socialist regime. Initially, many fanned out across South American countries, waiting to return home soon. However, as conditions continued to deteriorate, Venezuelans began traveling to the United States. The UN speaks of the “second largest external displacement crisis in the world”.
Villa Dallas now extends to the neighboring cities of Carrollton and Addison – suburbs of Dallas and has begun to integrate peacefully. The Dallas Police Department told The Post that crime there is lower than normal and many shops have sprung up in the area selling arepas and pastelitos — Venezuelan staples. Gonzalez opened her arepa restaurant there and has seen an 80% increase in sales since it opened three years ago.
Most of the newly arrived Venezuelans in the US have pending asylum applications – meaning they fled their country in fear for their lives and are staying in the country legally while the government vets them. They can travel but must report regularly to immigration and customs officials and attend court hearings while federal courts decide whether they can stay — a process that typically takes years.
During this time, some are allowed to work legally by obtaining work permits, a process that takes months, but many others find other ways to make money.
“We have groups on WhatsApp and Facebook where we support each other,” explains Gonzalez. “This Venezuelan sews, this one makes birthday cakes, this person can lay floors. We tune in to each other. This is how we survive until we get a work permit.”
Prior to this latest wave, there was no Venezuelan community in Texas’ largest metropolitan area, where Mexican culture is dominant. But as millions of Americans moving to the Lone Star State have discovered, Dallas’ strong economy and low cost of living drew them to it.
“Dallas is relatively close to the border and there are so many jobs and opportunities here,” Gonzalez said. “Some people went to Miami first, but it’s too expensive to live there, so they moved to Dallas and they can really thrive here.”
One of the biggest success stories is Genesys Anez, who quit her job at the Cheesecake Factory restaurant chain within two years and decided to start her own business selling Venezuelan groceries from her Villa Dallas apartment.
“When I got to Dallas, there were no Venezuelan restaurants — no places to eat an empanada or a pastelito,” said Anez — whose restaurant has become a meeting place.
She was able to make enough money to buy a food truck. A year later she opened a restaurant called Big Yummy which is very successful – catering for her arrival catering for her arrival “Paisanos” – a friendly term for compatriots.
Now she’s expanding her restaurant to accommodate people who queue to get in on the weekends and is opening a nearby bakery and market, as Dallas grocery stores don’t carry Venezuelan produce.
“I hope that more Venezuelans will come because that means more customers for me,” she said.
And they keep coming. In October, President Joe Biden announced a humanitarian parole program for Venezuelans. To qualify for a temporary visa to enter the country, Venezuelans must have a sponsor in the United States, have no criminal record, and not cross the border illegally. If they are approved, they will come in by plane and get a work permit.
The Post witnessed six of Gonzales’ family members – all admitted under the new scheme – reunited with her at DFW Airport after years of being apart.
Along with the announcement of the parole program, President Biden expanded Title 42 — a pandemic public health policy — to expel and send to Mexico Venezuelans who enter the country illegally. This temporarily stopped many Venezuelans from coming to the country.
“I think it’s a good thing because so many lives have been lost risking everything to get to the US because of the desperation that exists among Venezuelans. So many have fallen into the hands of cartels to get into the US, or if they did, it has cost them all‘ said Gonzalez.
Title 42 ends December 21 after a federal judge ruled it was no longer legal. The federal government has yet to announce what, if anything, will take its place, as the US Border Patrol uses Title 42 to kick out about 40% of all immigrants who cross the border into Mexico.
Meanwhile, in Dallas, Venezuelans say they are making enough money to support themselves and their families in their home country, where the US dollar, not the bolivar, is used for everything.
“We see this state and this city as a great opportunity that has opened the doors for us,” Gonzalez said. “We were accepted here because Dallas is such a diverse place. We fly the Texas flag at our home.”
https://nypost.com/2022/12/04/villa-dallas-venezuelan-migrants-form-community-in-texas/ Venezuelan migrants build community in Texas