By Carmen Sesin
MIAMI— Bipartisan legislation to allow Venezuelans fleeing their country and settling in the U.S. to become eligible for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) was introduced Thursday by Rep Darren Soto, D-Fla. and Mario Diaz-Balart R-Fla.
The Venezuelan TPS Act of 2019 would protect from deportation Venezuelans who are fleeing their country by allowing them to remain in the U.S. legally. It would also allow them to legally work by granting them an employment authorization document (EAD). They would also be able to travel without restrictions to reenter the United States. Their protected status would last 18 months and could be subsequently renewed.
“Trump has been very aggressive on sanctions against Venezuela, so this would give them the option of being consistent on that,” Soto told NBC News. “It would strengthen the sanctions.”
The U.S. has recently tightened sanctions on Venezuela, including a ban on travel by blacklisted individuals and trade restrictions on gold.
Soto emphasized there is bipartisan support in the House and Senate. “Diaz-Balart co-introduced it with me. Senator Menendez is working with Senator Rubio.
If there is going to be a TPS approved in this Congress it would be likely Venezuela,” he said.
Venezuela is going through a crisis of historic proportions after two decades of socialist rule. Over 3 million Venezuelan refugees have fled economic and political turmoil and settled in nearby countries. Colombia has taken in most of the refugees, followed by Peru. Other Venezuelan refugees have gone to Ecuador, Argentina, Chile, and Brazil.
“I am grateful to be able to provide a solution to so many who are escaping Maduro’s totalitarian regime,” Balart stated in a press release.
“We must not force Venezuelans who have sought safety in the United States to return to such dangerous conditions.”
The U.N. has warned that the reception capacity of the countries taking in refugees “is severely strained and a more robust response from the international community is needed.”
In fiscal year 2017 to 2018, the U.S. spent over $96 million in support of Venezuelan refugees in the region.
“We know it will be a long road but we feel we have a good chance,” Soto said.