Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, led a group of 25 Democrats to call on President Donald Trump to grant protective immigration status to Venezuelans fleeing the humanitarian crisis in their home country caused by years of socialist policies.
“As the people of Venezuela continue to suffer political oppression and economic deprivation at the hands of Nicolas Maduro’s regime, they now also face the alarming spread of the COVID-19 pandemic with a public health system in ruins,” wrote the lawmakers.
“To that end, we again urge your Administration to immediately provide Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for eligible Venezuelans who are not able to return safely to their country,” they added.
In July 2019, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 549, the Venezuela TPS Act, a bill that designates Venezuela TPS and provides close to 200,000 Venezuelan nationals with protection in the United States. The bill would prevent their removal from the United States and allows them to obtain employment and travel authorization.
Menendez tried to fast-track the bill in the Senate but a Republican senator objected, saying it didn't allow Republicans to consider the bill and make changes. In their letter to Trump, the Democrats criticized Republican senators for not allowing the bill to go forward.
After more than two decades of socialist policies, Venezuela is in a socio-economic crisis marked by food shortages and hyperinflation. The crisis led to Juan Guaidó, leader of Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly, to declare himself acting president on Jan. 23, 2019, to challenge Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro, who has been in power since 2013.
The senators argue the TPS benefit is aimed to help immigrants residing in the United States who face grave harm in their home country and do pose a public or national safety risk because they are fully vetted.
The senators said that in 2018 alone, 30,000 Venezuelan nationals applied for asylum with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and close to 5 million have fled the country.
“They have fled Nicolás Maduro’s corrupt regime, attempting to escape a country ravaged by violence, destitution, and the widespread absence of basic food and medicine,” they wrote. “Given the extraordinary humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, compounded by the COVID-19 epidemic, we again urge your Administration to grant TPS to eligible Venezuelans currently present in the United States.”