Editorial: Denying Temporary Protected Status to Venezuelans doesn't make any sense

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Published in Op Eds

Nicolas Maduro, the authoritarian shoved aside by an interim leader in Venezuela, nevertheless maintains his grip on power. Humanitarian aid still is stuck at the Colombian border, while Venezuelans starve and are desperate for medication. U.S. sanctions have severely cut into Venezuela's oil revenues, as intended, but they also have left more poverty in their wake.

And Juan Guaido, interim president since January -- and its most credible agent of hope and change -- still has not been able to solidify his standing, so far failing to flip miltary and security forces loyal to Maduro over to his side.

It is into this political and humanitarian cesspool that President Trump is content to throw Venezuelans living in the United States. According to U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Bob Menendez, the administration will not grant Venezuelans Temporary Protected Status, or TPS.

This only makes sense in a world in which the administration has ended TPS for citizens of El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, Sudan, Liberia and Nepal -- though extended by the courts, in some cases -- insisting that they, too, return to countries unable or unprepared to receive them.

This only makes sense to someone who recently told four Americans critical of the administration to leave, as he did in targeting four freshman women in Congress recently, while insisting that others leave a relatively stable existence in the United States and go back to countries roiled by political turmoil, recovering from natural disasters, or both.

In other words, it doesn't make sense.

Though the Trump administration has come out solidly behind Guaido, it must acknowledge that neither economic sanctions nor the interim president has managed to oust strongman Maduro. Millions of people continue to flee into Colombia, a glaring sign that all is not well.

In January, Miami U.S. Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Donna Shalala proposed TPS for Venezuelans. That same month, Rep. Darren Soto, an Orlando Democrat, filed the Venezuela TPS Act of 2019. It would allow Venezuelans who came to the United States after early 2013 and who don't have legal status to temporarily -- and legally -- stay in this country, shielded from deportation. They would be able to secure work permits.

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In March, Florida's Sen. Marco Rubio, along with Sens. Patrick Leahy and Cory Booker -- plus Menendez and Durbin -- introduced the Venezuela Temporary Protected Status Act of 2019.

In addition, Rubio was one of 24 senators, and the only Republican, to sign a letter dated March 7 that was sent to the president on this issue. It said, in part: "In light of the ongoing violence, deteriorating security situation, and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela caused by the illegitimate regime of Nicolas Maduro, we respectfully request that your administration promptly designate Venezuela for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to ensure that Venezuelan nationals currently present in the United States are not forced to return to Venezuela at this time. Returning non-violent individuals back to Venezuela during this critical time of transition is not in the best long-term interests of the United States or our partners in the region."

In a letter dated July 11, Kenneth Cuccinelli II, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services responded, in part: "The U.S. government continues to monitor the situation in Venezuela. In addition, there may be other relief measures available to Venezuelan nationals affected by current condition in Venezuela."

It makes no sense.

(c)2019 Miami Herald

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