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 TrumpTrump rips Dems' demands, impeachment talk: 'Witch Hunt continues!' Nevada Senate passes bill that would give Electoral College votes to winner of national popular vote The Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi remains firm despite new impeachment push 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 SchumerSchumer wants investigation into Chinese-designed New York subway cars Getting serious about infrastructure Schumer calls on McConnell to hold vote on Equality Act MORE (D-N.Y.), fellow Democratic Sens. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinIraq War looms over Trump battle with Iran Muslim lawmakers host Ramadan iftar to break fast at Capitol Let's stop treating student borrowers like second-class citizens MORE (Ill.) and Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezEnding the Cyprus arms embargo will increase tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean We can accelerate a cure for Alzheimer's The Hill's 12:30 Report: Manafort sentenced to total of 7.5 years in prison MORE (N.J.), and Republican Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioAnother VPOTUS tries for POTUS: What does history tell us? Tensions swirl around Iran as administration to brief Congress Tensions swirl around Iran as administration to brief Congress 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 LeahyGraham says Bolton briefed him on Iran, tells Trump to 'stand firm' Overnight Defense: Congressional leaders receive classified briefing on Iran | Trump on war: 'I hope not' | Key Republican calls threats credible | Warren plan targets corporate influence at Pentagon Key Republican 'convinced' Iran threats are credible MORE (D-Vt.) and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerBooker vows to form White House office on abortion rights 2020 Dems break political taboos by endorsing litmus tests Iowa Democrats brace for caucus turnout surge 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.