Rubio, Dems: Don't Deport Venezuelans, Give Temporary Protected Status

Venezuelans cross illegally into Colombia in La Parada on Feb. 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)

WASHINGTON — Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) joined with a quartet of Democrats on legislation to give Venezuelans fleeing the crisis in their homeland refuge in the United States.

The Trump administration has been reversing temporary protected status designations, which grant foreign nationals from certain countries time to live and work in the United States if natural disasters or conflicts have created unlivable conditions. TPS for Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Nepal and Haiti ends this year; a lawsuit to keep about 50,000 Haitians from being deported is moving forward this week.

Rubio, along with Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), introduced before Christmas legislation to grant temporary protected status to Venezuelans. Today they reintroduced the bill with Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.).

The legislation notes that “Venezuela is enduring an unprecedented economic, humanitarian, security, and refugee crisis, consisting of extreme food and medicine shortages, severe infant and child malnutrition, rampant crime, and government-sponsored repression… According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, more than 3,400,000 Venezuelans have left their country for reasons such as violence, political oppression, economic hardship, and the ongoing humanitarian crisis.”

The bill stresses that “Venezuela’s economic, humanitarian, security, and refugee crisis has resulted in extraordinary and temporary conditions that currently prevent Venezuelan nationals from safely returning to Venezuela” and states there should be an initial 18-month TPS designation for Venezuelans.

“While Maduro’s narcoterrorist regime continues to commit senseless acts of violence against the Venezuelan people, it is clear that the conditions on the ground warrants granting temporary protected status to Venezuelan nationals residing in the U.S.,” Rubio said in a statement. “This temporary solution will ensure the continued safety of Venezuelans currently in the U.S. as we work with the international community to support the legitimate government in their effort to restore democracy.”

“The scale of human suffering facing Venezuelans defies imagination, and the United States must show real leadership in efforts to ensure their protection,” Menendez said. “We are using this critical moment, as there is universal support for a constitutional transition to democracy in Venezuela, to introduce legislation that immediately protects eligible families in the U.S. from having to be forcibly handed over to Maduro.”

“To deport Venezuelans back to this tragedy would be to tell them they are a burden on our communities, a menace to our national security and an unwelcome guest in our country,” he added. “Reality and our national interest are precisely the opposite.”

Reps. Darren Soto (D-Fla.) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) introduced a companion bill in the House.