House fails to pass temporary immigration protections for Venezuelans

House fails to pass temporary immigration protections for Venezuelans
© Getty
The House on Tuesday failed to pass a bipartisan bill to grant temporary relief from immigration enforcement to Venezuelans in the United States. 
 
The bill, which needed a two-thirds majority to pass, as it was being considered under suspension of the rules, was shot down on the House floor, with 268 lawmakers voting for it and 154 voting against it. Thirty-seven Republicans voted for the bill.
 
 
ADVERTISEMENT
 
"I am disappointed that the House failed to muster the supermajority needed to pass the Venezuela TPS Act under suspension of the rules," Diaz-Balart said in a statement shortly after the vote, adding, "I will continue working with my dear friend Congressman Darren Soto and my other colleagues to pass this important legislation under regular order."
 
"I think that this sends a clear message of who's on the side of the Venezuelan people," Assistant Speaker Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) told The Hill.
 
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 for the program by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
 
President TrumpDonald John TrumpLawmakers prep ahead of impeachment hearing Democrats gear up for high-stakes Judiciary hearing Warren says she made almost M from legal work over past three decades MORE 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 country.
 
"Despite the fact that Congress intended TPS to be a temporary protection, over time it has become a permanent, automatically renewed status with some countries being designated for TPS for decades," Rep. Ben ClineBenjamin (Ben) Lee ClineGOP lawmaker claims Democrats putting impeachment 'ahead of rule of law' GOP lawmaker weighs in on Democrats moving forward with articles of impeachment The Hill's Morning Report — Pelosi makes it official: Trump will be impeached MORE (R-Va.) said on the House floor, adding that the court cases blocking Trump's wind-down of TPS were the actions of "activist federal courts."
 
Beside Diaz-Balart, only three Republicans, Reps. John Curtis (Utah) and Christopher Smith (N.J.) and Del. Jenniffer González-Colón (Puerto Rico) sponsored the measure.
 
Soto found 29 Democrats to co-sponsor the bill.
 
The bill was considered under suspension of the rules to speed up its adoption, a risky proposition since a bill under suspension requires a two-thirds majority to pass the House.
 
The move to add Venezuela to the TPS designated list is especially popular in Florida, where a majority of the Venezuelan expat community lives.
 
Of the 13 Democratic Florida representatives, nine including Soto signed on as co-sponsors of the bill.
 
Passage of the bill would force Senate Republicans to weigh potential political fallout in Florida against sending Trump a bill that forces him into a corner.
 
Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) Chairman Rep. Joaquín Castro (D-Texas) said he expects the bill to easily pass the House once it's introduced through regular order -- a process that only requires a simple majority for a bill to be adopted.
 
 
"Don't ask me to defend sending people back to Venezuela, which is in complete meltdown. It's ridiculous," said Lofgren.
 
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, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services 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.
 
Still, Soto was critical of Republicans and the administration for criticizing the Maduro regime without offering relief to its victims. 

"It's inconsistent with some of the positive rhetoric that's happened around Venezuela, but Díaz-Balart and I aren't giving up," said Soto.

"Many Hispanic communities fled socialist regimes or other dictatorships, so this is a common experience. Florida is home to whole communities of asylum seekers, folks who came to Florida for a better life, so it's personal for all of us," he added.