A bipartisan group of U.S. and Argentine legislators are asking the region’s leaders to “open their countries to Venezuelan refugees” and develop a unified plan to address the growing humanitarian crisis in the South American nation.
In a letter sent Monday to Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra, four politicians urged him to use this week’s Summit of the Americas — which will draw heads of state from across the region to Lima — to address the Venezuelan exodus.
“Specifically, we respectfully ask you to seek a commitment from your counterparts at the Summit to both open their countries to Venezuelan refugees and to assist efforts by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to provide protection to these individuals,” the congressmen said.
The letter is signed by the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Rep. Eliot Engel, D-New York, and Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.
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Argentine legislators Cornelia Schmidt-Liermann, the chairwoman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Silvia Lospennato, the chairwoman of the U.S. Parliamentary Friendship Group, also signed the document.
The letter comes during an economic collapse in Venezuela. More than 1 million people have fled in recent years as hyperinflation and food and medicine shortages. have plagued the nation.
While many Latin American countries have opened their doors to Venezuelans, there's also a creeping backlash, as governments tighten border controls and their immigration requirements.
The U.N. Refugee Agency recently put out an appeal for $46 million to respond to the crisis and the United States has pledged $2.5 million dollars to help Colombia deal with the Venezuelan influx.
But Washington may be pressed to practice what it preaches. As it asks the region to absorb more Venezuelan migrants, the Trump administration has continued to push for a wall along the border with Mexico and has called out the National Guard to keep Central American migrants and asylum seekers from entering the United States.
While the theme of this year’s Summit of the Americas is anti-corruption, the Venezuelan crisis is likely to take center stage.
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has been disinvited from the event, which will be held in Peru's capital Friday and Saturday, but he has threatened to crash the meeting. Trump will also be at the event — his first trip to Latin America as president.
"The Summit of the Americas presents a unique opportunity for heads of state from the Western Hemisphere to gather together and attempt to tackle the top challenges facing our nations," the legislators wrote. "We stand ready both to support these efforts in the United States and Argentine congresses and to encourage our partners from legislatures throughout the western hemisphere to do the same."