September 26, 2019

Menendez Calls Out Republican Hypocrisy for Using Venezuelans as a Political Pawns

“This debate is not about watering down our immigration laws, it’s about using the laws that we have to provide protection to Venezuelans so that we can ensure that the Trump Administration doesn’t deport them back to the nightmare that they fled.”

WASHINGTON – Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, stopped a Republican poison pill that would gut the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program for all beneficiaries. Senator Menendez countered by requesting Unanimous Consent for the full Senate to immediately approve House-passed legislation (H.R. 549) that provides TPS for eligible Venezuelans in the United States. This effort was blocked by Republican Senator Rick Scott (R-Fla.).

In July, days after the Trump Administration officially informed the Senate that President Trump would refuse to designate Venezuela for TPS, Senators Menendez and Durbin (D-Ill.) went to the Senate Floor to request Unanimous Consent to approve H.R. 549. The measure, would grant TPS status for approximately 200,000 eligible Venezuelans that currently reside in the United States without reforming the existing TPS system.

Earlier this year, Sen. Menendez, traveled to the Colombia-Venezuela border to review the Venezuelan refugee and migrant crisis. In February, Menendez and Durbin reintroduced the bipartisan Venezuela Temporary Protected Status Act of 2019, originally authored by Sen. Menendez in December 2018.

Below are the Senator’s remarks as delivered:

“Every member of the Senate knows that Venezuela’s illegitimate dictator, Nicolás Maduro, has created an unprecedented and harrowing humanitarian crisis in that country.

Extreme food and medicine shortages, widespread criminal violence, brutal state-sponsored repression have forced more than 4.3 million Venezuelans to flee their homeland. This number could reach 8 million by the end of next year.

As Venezuelans flee their country, it is time for the United States to place itself fully on the side of the Venezuelan people.

Unfortunately, just this week, we have seen new stories about the Trump Administration deporting Venezuelans from Florida.

It is unconscionable that anyone would be send back to the catastrophic humanitarian conditions that exist in Venezuela.

And that’s why, in February of this year, Senator Durbin and I, along with Senators Rubio, Leahy, and Booker, introduced bipartisan legislation to provide TPS to Venezuelans living here in the United States.

The House of Representatives has already passed a version of this bill back in July with support from dozens, dozens, of Republicans members.

However, rather than providing TPS for vulnerable Venezuelans in the United States, the junior Senator from Florida has brought up an amendment that seeks to overhaul existing TPS statute and make it easier for the Trump Administration to strip status from vulnerable migrants that are legally in the United States.

Respectfully, the suggestions that the courts have made it impossible to end any TPS is just not based in facts.  

This debate is not about watering down our immigration laws, it’s about using the laws that we have right now to provide protection to Venezuelans so that we can ensure that the Trump Administration doesn’t deport them back to the nightmare they fled.

So it’s unfortunate that while I join the Senator in the same goal, that the Senator from Florida would prefer to pass legislation that advances the Administration’s immigration agenda rather than help the Venezuelan people, something we all agree about. As a matter of fact we don’t even really need Congressional action, because the President has the right to give Temporary Protected Status to the Venezuelans living in the United States and he doesn’t need an action from Congress to do that. He’s failed to do that. It is in that failure that the House of Representatives acted to try to create a legislative response.

For all these reasons, I object to the UC request from the Senator from Florida.

Since the Senator from Florida and I do agree on the need to provide TPS for Venezuelans, with that, as if in legislative session, I ask unanimous consent for the Judiciary Committee to be discharged from further consideration of H.R. 549, the bill that has already passed the House, and the Senate proceeds to its immediate consideration.”

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