SPONSORED:

House passes temporary immigration protections for Venezuelans

House passes temporary immigration protections for Venezuelans
© Getty

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 SotoER doctor chosen to lead Hispanic Caucus House Democrats introduce bill to invest 0 billion in STEM research and education Radiation elevated at fracking sites, researchers find 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

"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 HoyerBoebert communications director resigns amid Capitol riot: report GOP divided over Liz Cheney's future Pelosi mum on when House will send impeachment article to Senate 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 SchumerChuck SchumerCowboys for Trump founder arrested following Capitol riot Graham pushes Schumer for vote to dismiss impeachment article Biden and the new Congress must protect Americans from utility shutoffs 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 TrumpGiuliani used provisional ballot to vote in 2020 election, same method he disparaged in fighting to overturn results Trump gets lowest job approval rating in final days as president Fox News' DC managing editor Bill Sammon to retire 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 ShalalaBiden's new challenge: Holding Trump accountable Trump, Florida complicate Biden approach to Cuba Florida Rep.-elect Elvira Salazar tests positive for COVID-19 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-BalartEPA sued over plans to give Florida authority over managing wetlands, waterways Bottom line READ: The Republicans who voted to challenge election results 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 ColonStatehood for Puerto Rico and the obstruction of justice The myth about Puerto Rican statehood that won't go away Chef José Andrés activates charity to serve meals in Puerto Rico after earthquake MORE (P.R.), and 30 Democrats, including Soto.

A Senate companion bill was introduced by Sen. Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezYear-end deal creates American Latino, women's history museums Lawmakers call for including creation of Latino, women's history museums in year-end spending deal Trump offered 0 million to terrorism victims to save Sudan-Israel deal  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 RubioFlorida Republicans close ranks with Trump after Capitol siege Confirmation hearing for Biden's DNI pick postponed McConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time 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.