Fabiola Santiago

Senate Republicans send clear message to Venezuelans in U.S.: We don’t want you here | Opinion

Don’t let Sen. Marco Rubio’s political contortions confuse you, Venezuelans.

You don’t have protection from deportation, or a work permit, or simply a paper that says you have status in this country when the Border Patrol or ICE tries to get rid of you.

There’s one reason for that: Once again, the Republicans in Congress blocked Temporary Protective Status for you.

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They come to Miami and whisper sweet nothings in your ear about toppling Nicolás Maduro. They host your opposition leaders in the White House. They tell you the president and his staff are “studying” the TPS issue for a front-page headline.

But three years into Donald Trump’s presidency and Republican rule in Congress, what do Florida’s 170,000 Venezuelans have to show for it?


Maduro is still in power in Venezuela, and when it comes to your living here in peace, on Tuesday Republicans sent a very clear message: We don’t want you here.

“For years now, Republicans have been wrapping themselves in the Venezuelan flag and claiming to be champions for the restoration of Venezuelan democracy, yet at virtually every opportunity to help the Venezuelan people, the Republican leadership in the Senate, House, and Administration consistently let them down,” U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala, D-Miami, said in a statement.

She’s 100 percent on point — and rightfully angry and disappointed.

Shalala led the efforts to pass the House’s bipartisan TPS bill last week. All the Senate had to do was approve the measure for it to land on the president’s desk for his signature.

If you believe Rubio — who signed on to this effort along with senators like Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) and Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey) — it’s all going to be okay because Trump is once again “studying” giving Venezuelans some kind of protective status.

“It’s an unconscionable moral failing for the Senate not to approve this legislation,” Menendez said on the Senate floor.

First, Trump and his Cuban-American enablers promised TPS any day now.

But now that Senate Republicans have shown their true colors with a procedural block, Rubio is trying to sell you on something called Deferred Enforcement Departure, DED.

Another acronym. Another lie.

Trump must be really dumb and slow, because he’s been “studying” for three years now how to protect you from being sent back to Maduro’s hell by his immigration enforcement minions.

Or, more likely, he’s a conniving strategist busy ranting his way to re-election with racist rhetoric — and he’ll be damned if he gives status to anyone south of the border.

Yes, Venezuelans in Florida: Despite the political jive and the stoking of your hopes by the likes of Vice President Mike Pence, Trump and his white nationalist advisers on immigration policy see you as the wrong kind of immigrants, too.

Why do you think that despite the unprecedented humanitarian crisis in Venezuela — four million people fleeing, others dying from hunger and Maduro’s bullets, political chaos aided and abetted by the Cubans and Russians at every turn — the U.S. government is denying your asylum applications to begin with?

A Venezuelan man who lives in Doral and who lost his bid for asylum in the U.S. waited anxiously Sunday, fearing he would be detained in immigration raids that had been threatened by the Trump administration. The raids never materialized. Jennifer King jking@miamiherald.com

It is transparent for the rest of us.

They’re using you as a political pawn.

Republicans have been doing nothing but playing Florida politics with the Venezuelan issue.

The point is to recruit politically reliable Venezuelan American and Cuban American voters so that Republicans like former Governor Rick Scott, now a senator, and current Governor Ron DeSantis can overcome slim margins in statewide elections to win. In Florida, it’s all about managing margins.

And so today, Rubio is falling all over himself to explain what happened with your TPS in Congress. He throws at you the bone of Trump possibly postponing by executive action your deportation, until the day Maduro leaves power and democracy is restored.

Wait for it if it keeps you warm at night, but you better come up with a Plan B. Without the quick foreign policy victory in Venezuela, Trump has moved on to other things.

How much louder do the Republican Party’s actions have to speak?

On Tuesday, with their blocking of TPS, they hit rock bottom.

Despite the constant show of anti-socialism and anti-communism speeches in Miami to confuse Hispanic voters and keep them from voting Democratic, their actions always reveal how the GOP really feels about us.

Ultimately, here’s how you can test a charlatan — or two or three Republicans from Florida.

Rubio now says the president can give you status administratively with no need to pass legislation. It’s true. He could have done this from Day One. (I told you so).


Let’s see it.

Not the same promise, the real thing – now.

Award-winning columnist Fabiola Santiago has been writing about all things Miami since 1980, when the Mariel boatlift became her first front-page story. A Cuban refugee child of the Freedom Flights, she’s also the author of essays, short fiction, and the novel “Reclaiming Paris.”