Trump refuses to grant TPS to Venezuelans in U.S., senators say

The government of President Donald Trump is refusing to grant Venezuelans Temporary Protected Status, despite claiming that the South American country is ruled by a dangerous dictatorial regime, Sens. Dick Durbin and Bob Menendez said Tuesday.

The Senate Democrats criticized a letter issued by the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Ken Cuccinelli, in which he implies that at the moment there are no plans to designate Venezuela as a nation whose citizens will be protected by TPS.

”President Trump cannot do both. He can not warn Americans that Venezuela is such a dangerous place that they should not travel there, and then tell the Venezuelans in the United States that they are forced to return. The time has come for Congress to be uniform and humane [in its positions] and to dismiss this outrageous Trump policy,” the senators said in a written statement.

Cuccinelli spoke after a bipartisan group of 24 senators, led by Durbin and Menendez, wrote a letter to Trump urging him to grant immigration protection to the thousands of Venezuelans living in the United States who have fled the humanitarian crisis caused by the regime of Nicolás Maduro.

The White House delegated the response to the immigration agency. In response, the acting head of USCIS explained the increasing difficulties for the executive branch in granting TPS, highlighting the emergence of concerns about the separation of powers and the obstacles imposed by the courts on the government’s efforts to eliminate TPS from populations that already benefited from protection.

Court rulings “continue to displace the authority of the executive branch to end the status of TPS,” Cuccinelli said in his response.

“The U.S. government continues to monitor the situation in Venezuela. Additionally, there could be other immigration relief measures available for Venezuelans affected by the current conditions in their country,” he added.

However, as far as Venezuela is concerned, Trump had hinted that he could be more flexible, particularly because his administration leads international efforts to end the Maduro regime.

”We are reviewing it very seriously,” the president said in June when he was asked about the possibility of approving TPS for Venezuelans, saying that the situation in that country is “horrible.”

Venezuela is currently experiencing the worst economic crisis in its history, marked by a contraction of more than 50 percent of its gross domestic product and an inflation rate that exceeds one million percent.

That economic collapse, coupled with the violence and persecution of the regime, has led more than four million Venezuelans to flee, often to neighboring countries.

Although there are no official figures, leaders of the Venezuelan community in South Florida estimate that in the United States there could be tens of thousands of Venezuelans with no official migration status.

In the last four years, more than 74,000 Venezuelans have requested political asylum in the United States, where about 300,000 Venezuelan nationals live, according to the United Nations and Census data.

According to figures from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a total of 182 Venezuelans were deported in 2016, a figure that rose to 248 in 2017 and to more than 330 in 2018.

Follow Antonio María Delgado on Twitter: @DelgadoAntonioM