Fabiola Santiago

Trump is deporting Venezuelans to dictator Nicolás Maduro’s hell. This is why.

Venezuelan woman faces deportation after being in the United States for 20 years

Milagros Yanes has been in the United States for 20 years. That may change soon as the woman faces deportation to her native Venezuela.
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Milagros Yanes has been in the United States for 20 years. That may change soon as the woman faces deportation to her native Venezuela.

President Donald Trump’s deportation machine isn’t moved by dictatorship, chavismo, castrismo, or communism’s hold on our hemisphere.

In Trump’s anti-Hispanic political playbook, no one’s safe from Draconian “zero tolerance” enforcement of immigration law — and that means the Venezuelan exiles among us, even those with U.S.-born children, are facing deportation, too.

Did Trump forget the Latin American dictatorship — cemented on his watch with a fraudulent election — and all the sanctions his administration has imposed on Venezuela’s leadership?

It sure looks that way.

The petitions for temporary protection status for Venezuelans have gone ignored, and now, Venezuelans like Milagros Yanes — a businesswoman and mother of two whose stay had been extended by previous administrations — is facing deportation after living in South Florida for the past 20 years.

“The new administration doesn’t want people like you in this country,” Yanes says she was told when she went to a check-in appointment at the Miramar Border Patrol office shortly after Trump took office.

She’s now wearing an ankle bracelet like a criminal. She had to sell her Brickell home, store its contents, and the family is living at a friend’s house while they wait for deportation.

It makes no sense to punish the victims of a regime in crisis who have sought refuge in South Florida when Trump hosts at the White House the wife of a jailed Maduro opposition leader — taking a hard line on Venezuela and considering more sanctions as the country goes hungry to the point of children dying.

Or was Trump’s meeting and photo (his idea, according to The Washington Post) with Lilian Tintori, Mike Pence, and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio just public relations decor? Or, was his interest in Tintori at that 2017 meeting as trivial as the fact she was a reality television star in Venezuela’s version of "Survivor"?

Or was the photo, taken several times until Trump was happy with his thumbs-up pose under an Andrew Jackson portrait, simply amusement for the president?

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Milagro Yanes, facing deportation after 20 years, with her husband, Luis Mejía, and their U.S.-born children, Andrés, 10, and Isabela, 7 .

The deportation of Venezuelans chips away at Trump’s foreign policy credibility. Whatever there is left of it, of course, for a U.S. president who lavishes high praise on Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Un, and a laundry list of cruel strongmen around the world. Whatever is left of it for a president who likes autocracy so much he rails against U.S. institutions and checks on executive power, forgetting that he presides over a democracy.

Still, one would think that with Cuban-American Rubio and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, whispering in Trump's ear what he should do about Venezuela and Cuba — and catering to the president’s politics — Venezuelans would have at least some clout and built-in protections in the Trump administration.

Not at all.

Venezuelan deportations have surged 36 percent in the last year, from 182 deportees in 2016 to 248 in 2017, El Nuevo Herald reported, citing government statistics. Between January and April, 150 have been deported. These figures don’t include people who, faced with Trump’s harsh policies, have left the country voluntarily so as not to lose a shot at a future U.S. tourist visa for travel back and forth.

Thousands face uncertainty —and, if this course of action continues, deportation to a dictatorship in a deep socioeconomic crisis.

In the bygone days of political sanity, Miami’s bipartisan congressional delegation had the power to right immigration wrongs.

A letter or a call to the district director of immigration about a particularly jarring case of humanitarian concern — or injustice — most of the time turned a family’s luck around and won a reprieve from deportation.

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Milagros Yanes was made to wear a surveillance ankle bracelet beginning a week before Christmas last year. Jose A. Iglesias

But what we have today is unilateral Trumpian dictates that leave no room for discretion, case analysis or humanitarian relief.

We have no one to blame but ourselves.

All of the Cubans, Venezuelans, and Latin Americans who voted for Trump are the enablers of these deportations — and for whatever misfortune falls on Milagros Yanes and her vulnerable school-age children, Andrés and Isabela, Americans to be uprooted from the only home they know.

Follow Santiago on Twitter, @fabiolasantiago
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