Venezuelan exiles in Miami ask Trump to stop potential deportations

Protestors gather in front of the Venezuelan flag for a photo in this Aug. 26, 2016, file photo.
Protestors gather in front of the Venezuelan flag for a photo in this Aug. 26, 2016, file photo.

An association of Venezuelan exiles in Miami on Monday asked the Trump administration for “migratory relief,” saying that sending their members back to Venezuela could be “condemning them to death.”

In a letter sent to Trump and to the U.S. departments of State and Homeland Security, the organization, called Politically Persecuted Venezuelans Abroad, or Veppex, said Venezuela’s political situation needs to be taken into account when considering deportations.

“The chaotic situation in Venezuela, where human rights are not respected and criminals control the institutions, has turned Venezuela into a failed state whose authorities are the main threat against its citizens,” Veppex Vice President Henry Clement wrote.

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Clement also asked the Trump administration “to study the possibility of a migratory relief for the thousands of Venezuelans who are in the United States seeking refuge and asylum fleeing from the ferocious dictatorship that rules the country.”

As of 2013, some 248,000 people of Venezuelan origin (both foreign and U.S.-born) lived in the United States, according to the PEW Research Center, amid a migratory wave driven by that nation’s economic, political and social chaos. Since then, the economic crisis in Venezuela has worsened, with continuing food and medicine shortages. And earlier this month, the Trump administration slapped sanctions on Venezuela’s vice president accusing him of being a major drug trafficker.

A member of Veppex, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of attracting the attention of immigration authorities, said many in South Florida’s Venezuelan community have become fearful of the Trump administration’s renewed deportations.

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He said Venezuelans deported from South Florida would be seen as members of the political opposition by the socialist administration in Caracas, and would likely face reprisals.

In his letter, Clement went even further.

“Mr. President, deporting Venezuelans to their homeland is simply condemning them to death,” he wrote. “Therefore, I am asking for immigration relief for those who are already in the United States and have no previous criminal record.”

Correction: A previous version of this article misrepresented the figures provided by Pew. The number refers to Venezuelans born in the United States and abroad.