President Donald Trump on Tuesday has approved the deferral of deportation of eligible Venezuelan nationals who fled to the United States when an economic crisis swept the socialist country.
Trump issued a memo directing the secretary of state and the secretary of Homeland Security to take appropriate measures to defer for 18 months the deportation of any national of Venezuela, or alien without nationality, who last resided in Venezuela, subject to a list of exceptions.
The grant of a Deferred Enforced Departure only applies to individuals who are currently present in the United States and allows recipients of the deferral to live and work in the United States.
“The autocratic government of Nicolas Maduro has consistently violated the sovereign freedoms possessed by the Venezuelan people,” Trump wrote in his memo. “Through force and fraud, the Maduro regime is responsible for the worst humanitarian crisis in the Western Hemisphere in recent memory.”
The South American country became an international focal point in early 2019 after socialist leader Nicolas Maduro refused to step down over mounting international pressure.
In mid-January of that year, Venezuela’s duly elected National Assembly declared Maduro’s presidency illegitimate. The United States refused to recognize Maduro as the Venezuelan leader because of a fraudulent election, and had instead officially recognized his opponent, Juan Guaidó, as the interim president. But Maduro has refused to give up control.
The standoff between the two became a global referendum on socialism, with free-world nations including the United States, the UK, Germany, and Australia siding with Guaidó, and socialist and communist regimes, such as China, North Korea, and Cuba, backing Maduro.
Venezuela had since spiraled into deeper political chaos, exacerbated by its ruined economy, and food and medicine shortages.
“The deteriorative condition within Venezuela, which presents an ongoing national security threat to the safety and well-being of the American people, warrants the deferral of the removal of Venezuelan nationals who are present in the United States,” Trump said.
The Trump administration had imposed sanctions against Maduro and his regime, he added.
Venezuela nations who are not eligible for the measures include individuals who have voluntarily returned to Venezuela, individuals who have not continuously resided in the United States since Jan. 20, 2021; inadmissible under federal immigration law, individuals who have been convicted of any felony, individuals who were already deported, individuals who are subjected to extradition, and people who present danger to public safety.
Trump has repeatedly condemned the brutality of Maduro’s regime, saying that his socialist policies drove what was once the wealthiest country in South America into “a state of abject poverty and despair.”
He also invited Guaidó to attend his 2020 state of the union address in Congress.
“Socialism destroys nations. But always remember: Freedom unifies the soul,” Trump said at the time.
President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for secretary of state, Anthony Blinken, said on Tuesday that the incoming administration will continue to recognize Guaidó as Venezuela’s president.
Blinken also told the Senate that Biden would seek to “more effectively target” sanctions on the socialist country while looking to provide more humanitarian assistance to the nation.