WASHINGTON — The number of Venezuelans coming to the U.S. to escape the volatile situation in their home country is increasing, sparking calls from Florida lawmakers to put in place immigration programs to provide them protection in the U.S.
- Lawmakers want President Trump to grant TPS to Venezuelans
- The White House has yet to take an official stance on the proposal
- Sen. Rubio: Not possible to deport Venezuelans because of unrest
- RELATED STORIES:
Federal legislation granting temporary protected status, or TPS, to Venezuelan refugees passed in a key House panel last week and now heads to the floor, but the bill’s future in the Senate is not as certain.
“When we have a big situation like this, where clearly a tyrannical civil war is going on, we generally have extended this temporary protected status,” said Rep. Darren Soto (D) Florida 9th District, a key sponsor of the legislation.
Soto wants to cover Venezuelans with temporary protected status, so they can live and work legally in the U.S.
“At least they wouldn’t be deported back to a country that is murdering its own citizens,” he said in an interview with Spectrum News.
In March, 23 Democrats and one Republican sent a letter to President Donald Trump, asking he grant TPS to an estimated 72,000 Venezuelan asylum seekers. The White House has not responded.
“The transportation department has cut off direct flights, American airlines are not even flying into Venezuela right now,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida), the one Republican who signed the letter to the President.
Rubio said logistically it’s not possible to deport Venezuelans because of the unrest.
“What happens is people are out of status, they get pulled in, they go into detention for a few weeks, and then they are released because they have nowhere to send them or deport them to. I’m arguing let’s stop this two-week detention. It’s costing us money and hurting people’s lives,” he said in an interview with Spectrum News.
Rubio has introduced a bipartisan bill in the Senate, and while Florida’s junior Senator is not a sponsor, he says he supports it.
“Absolutely, I’ve been down to Colombia twice in the last month, and the first time I was able to go to the border with Venezuela, your heart goes out.” Sen. Rick Scott (R-Florida) said in an interview with Spectrum News.
It’s unclear if the bill will advance, since the Trump Administration has moved to end this specific protection for other countries. However, lawmakers like Soto say something needs to happen.
“To those over 170,000 Venezuelans in Florida, we are fighting for you, to give you an opportunity to not have to go back to a country that will oppress and potentially kill you and your family,” Soto said.
The legislation is poised to become the first ever standalone bill granting TPS. The White House has yet to take an official stance on the proposal.