June 26, 2019

Menendez, Democrats Call on Trump to Help Venezuelans by Granting them Temporary Protected Status

WASHINGTON – Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today led a group of 20 senators in writing a letter to President Trump, urging his administration to grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Venezuelans fleeing the political, economic, and humanitarian crisis in their home country. Established by the U.S. Congress through the Immigration Act of 1990, TPS is a renewable program that provides relief from deportation and access to a work permit for foreign nationals from certain countries who are unable to safely return to their home country due to natural disasters, armed conflicts, or other extraordinary conditions. In 2018 alone, over 30,000 people from Venezuela applied for asylum status in the United States—by far the most from any country last year.

“Designating Venezuela for TPS would alleviate the suffering of innocent Venezuelan civilians and demonstrate our nation’s commitment to supporting a safe democratic transition in Venezuela so that individuals can return home soon,” wrote the Senators. “It would also reaffirm the United States’ historical role as a beacon of light to those fleeing oppression.”

Today’s letter follows growing bipartisan calls for President Trump to use his executive authorities to designate Venezuela for TPS. Those appeals have also been matched by bipartisan proposals for Congress to legislatively grant temporary protections to Venezuelans.

“Given the ongoing humanitarian disaster in Venezuela, we again urge your Administration to grant TPS to eligible Venezuelans currently present in the United States. Without TPS, Venezuelans in the United States are at risk of deportation back to a country that is suffering a widespread humanitarian tragedy, and data from your Administration shows there was a 35 percent increase in deportations of Venezuelan citizens in FY2018,” added the Senators.

The TPS designation is a temporary benefit aimed at providing relief to immigrants residing in the United States who are unable to safely return to their home country. TPS recipients are fully vetted and are required to undergo background checks to ensure that they are not risks to public safety or national security. Once granted TPS, individuals may not be deported, can obtain an employment authorization document and may be granted travel authorization. In addition, individuals cannot be detained by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on the basis of their immigration status.

Joining Menendez on the letter were senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

A copy of the letter can be found here and below:

Dear Mr. President:

We write to express our deep concern about the number of individuals who have fled Venezuela’s political, economic, and humanitarian crisis and again urge your Administration to provide Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for eligible Venezuelans.

As you know, Venezuela has now become the number one country of origin for individuals claiming asylum in the U.S. and nearly 30,000 Venezuelans applied for asylum with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in 2018 alone.[1] This constitutes nearly one-third of claims filed with the agency in 2018 and the most of any country, according to statistics in recent years.

In addition, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) recently announced that the number of refugees and migrants from Venezuela has skyrocketed to over four million since 2015.[2] Globally, UNHCR reports that Venezuelans made more asylum requests than any other nationality and now represent more than one in five asylum claims made anywhere in the world. Venezuelans are fleeing Nicolás Maduro’s corrupt regime, attempting to escape a country ravaged by violence, destitution, and the widespread absence of basic food and medicine.

Venezuelans are fleeing their country at a staggering pace and it appears that the current crisis will only accelerate. The Organization of American States estimates that by 2020 the number of Venezuelans fleeing could reach 7.5 million. While the majority of these individuals have sought refuge in the region—with Colombia, Peru, Chile, Ecuador, and Brazil hosting approximately three million Venezuelans—it is likely that this number will increase in the United States as well.

Given the ongoing humanitarian disaster in Venezuela, we again urge your Administration to grant TPS to eligible Venezuelans currently present in the United States. Without TPS, Venezuelans in the United States are at risk of deportation back to a country that is suffering a widespread humanitarian tragedy, and data from your Administration shows there was a 35 percent increase in deportations of Venezuelan citizens in FY2018.[3]

As 24 Senators emphasized in a March 7th letter that you have yet to respond to, an individual is ineligible for TPS if he or she has a criminal background or poses a threat to national security.  The decision to deny, withdraw or terminate TPS is in the sole discretion of the U.S. Government.  Moreover, TPS does not make a beneficiary eligible for legal permanent resident status or U.S. citizenship.  When the TPS designation of a country is terminated, beneficiaries revert to the same immigration status they maintained before the designation.

Designating Venezuela for TPS would alleviate the suffering of innocent Venezuelan civilians and demonstrate our nation’s commitment to supporting a safe democratic transition in Venezuela so that individuals can return home soon. It would also reaffirm the United States’ historical role as a beacon of light to those fleeing oppression.
Thank you in advance for your attention to this issue. We look forward to your response

Sincerely,

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[1] See, e.g., Annual Flow Report, Refugees and Asylees: 2017, Office of Immigration Statistics, Department of Homeland Security, available at https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/Refugees_Asylees_2017.pdf (In 2017, there were 27,579 affirmative asylum cases from Venezuela, out of which 548 were approved).

[2] See, e.g., United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Refugees and migrants from Venezuela top 4 million: UNHCR and IOM, available at https://www.unhcr.org/news/press/2019/6/5cfa2a4a4/refugees-migrants-venezuela-top-4-million-unhcr-iom.html.

[3] See, e.g., Fiscal Year 2018 ICE Enforcement and Removals Operations Report, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Department of Homeland Security, available at https://www.ice.gov/doclib/about/offices/ero/pdf/eroFY2018Report.pdf

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