Bipartisan group of senators petitions Trump for Venezuelan immigration benefits

Bipartisan group of senators petitions Trump for Venezuelan immigration benefits
© Stefani Reynolds

A bipartisan group of senators asked President TrumpDonald John TrumpPompeo changes staff for Russia meeting after concerns raised about top negotiator's ties: report House unravels with rise of 'Les Enfants Terrible' Ben Carson: Trump is not a racist and his comments were not racist MORE on Thursday to grant temporary protected status (TPS) to Venezuelan citizens in the United States, amid an ongoing political and humanitarian crisis in the South American country.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerLawmakers pay tribute to late Justice Stevens Trump administration denies temporary immigrant status to Venezuelans in US Colombian official urges more help for Venezuelan migrants MORE (D-N.Y.), fellow Democratic Sens. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinRepublicans scramble to contain Trump fallout Trump administration denies temporary immigrant status to Venezuelans in US McConnell says Trump is not a racist, but calls for better rhetoric MORE (Ill.) and Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezPompeo changes staff for Russia meeting after concerns raised about top negotiator's ties: report Dem senators demand GOP judicial group discloses donors Senate passes .5B border bill, setting up fight with House MORE (N.J.), and Republican Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioTrump administration denies temporary immigrant status to Venezuelans in US Colombian official urges more help for Venezuelan migrants Lawmakers introduce bill to block U.S. companies from doing business with Huawei MORE (Fla.) wrote to the White House, asking for the administration to designate Venezuela within TPS.

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In a letter reviewed by The Hill, the senators asked Trump for the designation "in light of the ongoing violence, deteriorating security situation, and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela caused by the illegitimate regime of Nicolás Maduro."

Under TPS, foreign nationals of a country undergoing man-made or natural disasters are allowed to live and work in the United States as their home country recovers.

Designations are made on a country-by-country basis and apply to foreign nationals already in the United States, and can be renewed indefinitely for periods of up to 18 months.

Trump has systematically targeted for termination long-standing TPS designations — including some that have been consistently renewed for decades, such as El Salvador.

But the Trump administration has kept at least one newer designation active — for Syrian nationals fleeing the country's civil war — suggesting a potential openness to maintain the program in effect.

And the Venezuelan crisis has become a central foreign policy issue and a rare point of accord for Trump and Congress.

“The situation in Venezuela is volatile and violent, so it makes all the sense in the world to extend Temporary Protected Status to Venezuelan immigrants who should not be forced to return there while circumstances are so dangerous," said Schumer in a statement.

"It is imperative Venezuela, working in concert with our allies throughout Latin America, move past the disastrous and despotic Maduro regime and reestablish order, democracy and human rights. The United States must stand as a beacon of freedom and extend this protection to eligible Venezuelans yearning for a peaceful, prosperous and democratic Venezuela,” he added.

Durbin, Menendez and Rubio, along with Sens. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyLawmakers pay tribute to late Justice Stevens Trump administration denies temporary immigrant status to Venezuelans in US Epstein charges show Congress must act to protect children from abuse MORE (D-Vt.) and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerThe Hill's Morning Report - A raucous debate on race ends with Trump admonishment Lawmakers pay tribute to late Justice Stevens Schumer throws support behind bill to study reparations MORE (D-N.J). introduced last week a bill to designate Venezuela for TPS.

But the program generally operates by executive action, with the secretary of Homeland Security announcing new designations and terminations.

In their letter, the senators ask Trump to mandate a designation for Venezuela, based on the country's political and economic conditions.

"Venezuela clearly meets the standard for TPS as it is obviously too dangerous for Venezuelan nationals to return to their country. It is facing simultaneous humanitarian, economic, and political crises of monumental proportions due to Maduro’s criminal regime," wrote the senators.

The senators added a reminder that TPS designations don't carry any permanent immigration benefits for their beneficiaries, and any recipient must pass a background check.

"As the United States and our partners in the international community have condemned the illegitimate Maduro regime’s brutal campaign of repression, granting TPS to Venezuela is a concrete measure your Administration can immediately take to alleviate the suffering of innocent Venezuelan civilians and to demonstrate our nation’s commitment to supporting a safe democratic transition in Venezuela so that individuals can safely return home soon," they wrote.

Schumer, Durbin, Menendez and Rubio were joined by 20 other Democratic senators.