Andres Oppenheimer

President Trump, if you feel so strongly about Venezuela, why don’t you give Venezuelan exiles temporary immigration papers?

There is a big hypocrisy about President Trump’s stand on Venezuela: he talks tough against that country’s brutal dictatorship, but at the same time refuses to give immigration papers to its victims.

The United States is one of the least generous countries with the more than 3.4 million Venezuelans who according to United Nations estimates have left the country in recent years.

While Colombia, a much less wealthy country than the United States, has given residency permits to about 750,000 Venezuelan exiles, the Trump Administration and most Republicans in Congress refuse to give Temporary Protection Status, or TPS, to an estimated 72,000 Venezuelan asylum seekers.

Democrats in Congress presented a bill in January to grant TPS for Venezuelans, but it was supported by only a small number of Republicans. The bill, introduced by U.S. Rep. Darren Soto (D-Fl) and co-sponsored by Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fl), is expected to go to a vote in the full House shortly.

A companion bill in the Senate was introduced by Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and co-sponsored by seven other Democrats and one Republican, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl). Some Trump aides are said to support TPS for Venezuelans, but hard-liners within the White House have so far rejected the idea.

Most likely, White House hard-liners want to make the most of the fake “immigration crisis” they fabricated in order to give Trump a unifying cause to rally his anti-immigrant base in the 2020 elections. For the record, illegal immigration today is much lower than it was a decade ago.

According to the 34-country Organization of American States’ Working Group for Venezuelan Migrants and Refugees, 1.4 million Venezuelans who have fled to Colombia since 2014, about 776,00 to Peru, 300,000 to Ecuador, 266,000 to Chile, and 170,000 to Argentina. There are an estimated 500,000 Venezuelans in the United States, but many of them arrived before 2014, it says.

But while Colombia has given residency permits to 750,000 Venezuelans, Peru to 495,000 and Ecuador to 110,000, the Trump administration has so far failed to give legal immigration status to an estimated 72,000 Venezuelan asylum seekers, the OAS office says.

Trump’s refusal to grant TPS for Venezuelans is most likely a result of the general anti-immigration stand of his 2020 re-election campaign.

Like most populist demagogues, Trump needs an enemy in order to energize his followers and divert public attention from his problems. Trump’s favorite enemy is Mexico, but anti-immigration zealots among his closest aides feel that granting TPS to Venezuelans would somehow diminish Trump’s crusade against asylum seekers in general.

Right now, Trump wants to have it both ways: to win Venezuelan and Cuban-American votes in Florida in the 2020 elections with strong rhetoric against Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro, and at the same time pleasing his anti-immigration base elsewhere in the country by refusing to grant TPS status to Venezuelan exiles.

He should not be allowed to get away with that. Neither should he be allowed to get away with the fact that his administration has failed to grant visas to an estimated 22,000 Cuban beneficiaries of a family-reunification parole program known as CFRP, who remain stranded in Cuba.

These Cubans’ immigration procedures have not yet been completed because of a major down-sizing of the U.S. Embassy in Havana last year, U.S. officials say.

Venezuela is going through the worst humanitarian crisis in the Western hemisphere’s recent memory. The U.S. failure to grant TPS status to Venezuelan exiles is cruel, immoral and unfair, especially when poorer countries like Colombia, Ecuador and Peru are giving residency permits to Venezuelan exiles, and when Trump himself is bragging that the U.S. economy is “booming.”

The next time Trump comes to Florida and makes fiery speeches against Maduro in front of Venezuelan and Cuban-American audiences, he should be scolded for his administration’s lack of support for Venezuelan refugees. It’s a big-time political hypocrisy, and it should be denounced as such.


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