House passes temporary immigration protections for Venezuelans

House passes temporary immigration protections for Venezuelans
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A bipartisan bill to grant temporary relief from immigration enforcement to Venezuelans in the United States passed the House in a 272-158 vote on Tuesday.

The Venezuela TPS Act of 2019 passed by simple majority, with 232 Democrats, 39 Republicans and one independent voting in favor.

The measure, co-sponsored by Florida Reps. Darren SotoDarren Michael SotoActivists, analysts demand Congress consider immigrants in coronavirus package Hispanic Democrats demand funding for multilingual coronavirus messaging Hispanic Democrats see Sanders's Latino strategy as road map for Biden MORE (D) and Mario Díaz-Balart (R), passed after failing to reach a two-thirds majority in a separate vote Tuesday.

Soto said the addition of two new Republican votes from Tuesday to Thursday could help the bill's chances in the Senate.

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"As you've seen, quoting everyone, from our speaker to Secretary [of State Mike] Pompeo and Vice President Pence, we want this to be as bipartisan as possible -- it gives us a better chance in the Senate," said Soto.

In Tuesday's vote, the Venezuela TPS bill received 268 votes in favor, including 230 from Democrats, 37 from Republicans and one independent vote – 13 votes short of the two-thirds majority.

The earlier attempt to pass the bill was done through suspension of the rules, a fast-track method that requires a two-thirds vote in the House, but does not preclude a bill from being later considered under regular order.

House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerHouse pays tribute to late Congressman Sam Johnson on the floor Barbara Lee: Congress should focus on eliminating poverty House cancels planned Thursday vote on FISA MORE (D-Md.) said Wednesday he "expected" to include the bill in this week's calendar before lawmakers leave for the monthlong August recess.

"The Republicans were divided. As I understand it, two of their committee ranking members were divided, Judiciary and Foreign Affairs, Foreign Affairs being for it, Judiciary being against it, and, therefore, their votes were divided. As a result, we didn't get two-thirds, so we're going to put it on a rule, if we can get there," he said.

In a statement, Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerVA hospitals mostly drop hydroxychloroquine as coronavirus treatment Democrats call on FTC to investigate allegations of TikTok child privacy violations Lawmakers introduce bill to invest 0 billion in science, tech research MORE (D-N.Y.) lauded the House passage of the vote. 

“The House of Representatives just spoke in a bipartisan voice that the situation is Venezuela is so dire and dangerous that nationals of Venezuela should be eligible for temporary protected status. I commend this legislative effort, as President TrumpDonald John TrumpMinneapolis erupts for third night, as protests spread, Trump vows retaliation Stocks open mixed ahead of Trump briefing on China The island that can save America MORE recently denied bipartisan congressional requests to extend TPS relief for Venezuelans," Schumer wrote.

"Senator McConnell must bring this legislation for a vote without delay. Any attempt to block this legislation turns a blind eye to the many Venezuelans yearning for a peaceful, prosperous, and democratic Venezuela,” he added.

Democratic leadership attached the Venezuela bill to a rule to vote on the 2-year budget agreement reached by congressional leaders this week, allowing both bills to go up for a floor vote Thursday.

Rep. Donna ShalalaDonna Edna ShalalaThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Former NIC Director Greg Treverton rips US response; WHO warns of 'immediate second peak' if countries reopen too quickly Treasury has not disbursed B in airline support: oversight panel We can't afford to let local news die MORE (D-Fla.), a member of the Rules Committee, said the extra two days served the bill's supporters well.

"We walked over across the aisle and educated more people. And I have to give credit to Mario Diaz-BalartMario Rafael Diaz-BalartHillicon Valley: Uber lays off 3,000 | FBI unlocks Pensacola shooter's phones | Lawmakers introduce bill restricting purchase of airline equipment from Chinese companies Bipartisan bill would restrict purchases of airport equipment from Chinese companies Red-state cities get cool reception from GOP on relief aid MORE, because he talked to his colleagues," said Shalala.

Díaz-Balart touted the fact that the bill if ratified by the Senate and passed by President Trump would add Venezuelan nationals to the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program legislatively, rather than through an administrative process.

"I think whether it happens legislatively, which is the preferred way to do it in my view, or not, we have to continue to work to make sure that Venezuelans are not sent back to a situation where you have a murderous dictatorship," said Díaz-Balart.

Under TPS, foreign nationals from a country that's undergone man-made or natural disasters can apply for a work permit and are allowed to stay in the country as long as their country is designated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Trump ordered the termination of TPS for El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, Sudan, Honduras and Nepal, but those orders have been tied up in court proceedings.

Opponents of the Venezuela TPS Act argue that the program's temporary nature has been lost, and if it were applied to the more-than 200,000 Venezuelans in the country today, they would ultimately remain in the U.S.

The measure was sponsored by four Republicans: Díaz-Balart, Reps. John Curtis (Utah) and Christopher Smith (N.J.) and Del. Jenniffer Gonzalez-ColonJenniffer Aydin Gonzalez ColonThe myth about Puerto Rican statehood that won't go away Chef José Andrés activates charity to serve meals in Puerto Rico after earthquake House passes temporary immigration protections for Venezuelans MORE (P.R.), and 30 Democrats, including Soto.

A Senate companion bill was introduced by Sen. Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezGovernment watchdog: 'No evidence' Pompeo violated Hatch Act with Kansas trips No time to be selling arms to the Philippines Senate panel approves Trump nominee under investigation MORE (D-N.J.) in February, and currently has the support of eight other Senate Democrats, as well as that of Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioTrump administration designates B of PPP funds for community lenders The Memo: Trump's Scarborough tweets unsettle his allies House passes bill that would sanction Chinese officials over Xinjiang camps MORE (R-Fla.).

A majority of the Venezuelan expat community lives in Florida – of the 13 Democratic Florida representatives, nine including Soto signed on as co-sponsors of the bill.

Passage of the bill puts pressure on Senate Republicans, who'll have to weigh potential political fallout in Florida by sending the bill to Trump.

Venezuela's inclusion in TPS has proven a tricky proposition for the Trump administration.

In considering Venezuelans for the program, Trump's general opposition to TPS has come in conflict with the administration's push for regime change in the South American country, a top Hemispheric policy priority.

And the issue could have electoral repercussions as well, as Venezuelan-Americans in Florida represent a growing voting bloc, and share affinities with the state's large Cuban-American community.

Earlier this month, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli declined a Senate-led request to grant TPS to Venezuelans in the United States.

Cuccinelli did not rule out a future change of heart, but he did criticize the courts' involvement in blocking termination of other TPS designations.

Mike Lillis and Jordain Carney contributed to this story.