President Trump is scheduled to give a speech on the crisis in Venezuela in Miami this afternoon, but Miami-Dade Democratic Congresswoman Donna Shalala says he shouldn’t speak today unless he’s prepared to give Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to the approximately 150,000 Venezuelan nationals in the U.S.
The Department of Homeland Security grants Temproary Protected Status to citizens of certain countries that are suffering from ongoing armed conflict, environmental disasters, or “other extraordinary and temporary conditions.”
Venezuela is facing a major political, economic and social crisis, with hyperinflation, an acute scarcity of food, medicine and other basic goods – and it also has one of the world’s highest murder rates, according to the International Crisis Group.
Orlando Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto and Miami-Dade Republican Mario Diaz-Balart filed legislation in Congress that would make Venezuelan nationals eligible for temporary protected status.
“While we supported many of the moves of this administration for political and economic sanctions, it’s very important that we protect the Venezuelans that are here and are living in our community and the challenge is to pass this legislation if the President refuses to extend TPS,” Shalala said this morning on a conference call organized by the Florida Democratic Party.
Boca Raton Democratic U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch says that while the Trump administration has been talking tough about getting rid of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, “it doesn’t seem to want to give Venezuelans a chance of safety and freedom in our country.”
Deutch said that the Trump administration has denied almost half of the Venezuelans who have applied for asylum protections in the U.S.
“That’s not right. That’s not who we are as Americans,” he said.
Immigration judges in the U.S. have denied roughly 50 percent of all asylum applications made by Venezuelans over the past five fiscal years, according to statistics compiled by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.
Both of Florida’s GOP U.S. Senators – Marco Rubio and Rick Scott – have been pushing for the Trump administration to join several other western countries in persuading Maduro to step down and to recognize opposition leader Juan Gaido. Democrats say the concern is bipartisan.
“I’m concerned about the Trump administration politicizing this issue, using Venezuelans’ suffering to score political points here in Florida,” said South Florida Democratic Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who last week announced she’s sponsoring a bill to provide up to $150 million in humanitarian aid to the people of Venezuela. The bill has not received any GOP support.
“We shouldn’t be using this as a political weapon – neither by Maduro, or by the Republicans holding their support for legislation that to increase humanitarian efforts,” Mucarsel-Powell added.
Since September of 2017, the Trump administration has ended Temporary Protected Status for more than 300,000 people from six countries – Haiti, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Nepal, Sudan and Honduras.
The U.S. sent its first military aircraft with aid for Venezuelan citizens to Columbia on Saturday, but President Maduro would not allow the aircraft’s contents into Venezuela.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is scheduled to join Trump when he speaks at Florida International University this afternoon.