Bill to guard Venezuelans from deportation stalls in Senate
WASHINGTON (AP) — A bill aimed at protecting thousands of Venezuelans currently living in the United States from deportation stalled in the Senate on Tuesday after the Democratic minority urged its approval by unanimous consent.
Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah raised a procedural objection to the request by Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin, arguing that more time is needed to review and offer amendments on the bill, which was introduced in February.
The measure to grant “temporary protected status” passed the House of Representatives last week in a bipartisan vote, despite 158 Republicans opposing it.
TPS is usually granted by the Department of Homeland Security to people from countries ravaged by natural disasters or war and lets them remain in the U.S. until the situation improves back home. Venezuela is enveloped in an economic and political crisis, with the U.S. recognizing opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the legitimate president even though Nicolás Maduro controls the government.
“How can we in good conscience say to these Venezuelans who are in the United States, ‘You have to return?’” Durbin asked after describing the humanitarian crisis that has pushed an estimated 4 million Venezuelans to leave the South American country.
New Jersey Democrat Bob Menendez expressed hope that the Senate could take up the bill in September following the summer recess that starts at the end of this week.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, the only Republican among 10 sponsors of the bill, was not present on the Senate floor.
Rubio tweeted during the debate that he met Tuesday with Trump administration officials “hoping to achieve administrative resolution of this.”
Rubio said last week he has been working with the administration on providing Venezuelans with “deferred enforced departure” status instead of TPS. Deferred enforcement can be authorized by presidential decree. Liberians are the only nationality currently granted that status.
The Trump administration was one of the first to recognize Venezuelan congressional leader Guaidó as the legitimate president of the South American nation, a step that has been taken by more than 50 other governments. Those countries contend President Nicolás Maduro’s re-election in 2018 was fraudulent.
But Acting U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Ken Cuccinelli said earlier this month that a decision to grant TPS for Venezuelans is “more complicated” because of recent court rulings preventing the administration from terminating the designation for other countries.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates 200,000 Venezuelans currently living in the United States could receive TPS. Under the measure, Venezuelan nationals would be eligible to stay temporarily and receive work permits valid for 18 months if they have been continuously present in the U.S. since the bill’s enactment.
Luis Alonso Lugo on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/luisalonsolugo