Colombian official urges more help for Venezuelan migrants

Colombian official urges more help for Venezuelan migrants
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The Colombian foreign minister, during a visit to Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, urged the United States and the international community to send more aid to help with the surge of migrants fleeing Venezuela. 

At an Atlantic Council meeting, Colombian Minister of Foreign Affairs Carlos Holmes Trujillo highlighted the need for aid to help deal with the roughly 1.5 million Venezuelan migrants that have arrived in the neighboring country over the past two years. He said the international community can help by funding education services for migrants and providing more humanitarian aid.   

“This is attending a city larger than Cartegena from one day to the other. That is a huge challenge that we are facing,” he said.

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He added that it is “difficult to say” how many Venezuelan migrants Colombia will be able to take but that his country will continue the open door policy that has allowed millions to flee the crisis across the border.    

Since 2016, Colombia has kept the border open for migrants and worked to integrate them. Last year, authorities issued 400,000 temporary residence permits to Venezuelan migrants and a 2017 decree allowed all foreign children to study in Colombian primary schools.

Democratic lawmakers have voiced support for Colombia's approach to migration, as the U.S. also deals with a rise in migrants from Central America via its southern border with Mexico.

Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezPelosi warns Mnuchin to stop 'illegal' .3B cut to foreign aid House passes temporary immigration protections for Venezuelans Senate panel advances bipartisan bill to lower drug prices amid GOP blowback MORE (D-N.J.), the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, traveled to the Colombian border city of Cúcuta last week to see the crisis firsthand and commend Colombia for taking in migrants. He also called for more support from the international community. 

“Colombia is doing its best to wrestle with a refugee crisis of an unprecedented magnitude in the Western hemisphere, but the world must urgently expand its assistance,” Menendez said.

In the U.S., Venezuelan asylum seekers make up the largest group of asylum applicants, numbering nearly 30,000 applications from Venezuelans in 2018 according to data from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The Trump administration has simultaneously taken steps to put more restrictions on the asylum system and voiced interest in providing Venezuelan migrants with temporary protected status (TPS), which is granted to individuals fleeing natural disaster or war in their home country and allows them to legally live and work in the United States while the crisis at home resolves.

In March, a bipartisan group of 24 senators, including Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioGOP group calls on Republican senators to stand up to McConnell on election security in new ads What the gun safety debate says about Washington Trump moves forward with F-16 sale to Taiwan opposed by China MORE (R-Fla.) and Menendez sent a letter to President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch To ward off recession, Trump should keep his mouth and smartphone shut Trump: 'Who is our bigger enemy,' Fed chief or Chinese leader? MORE requesting that Venezuelan migrants be granted TPS. 

Four million Venezuelans have fled the country, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency. Migrants are leaving due to hyperinflation, food and medicine shortages and violence from the government of President Nicolás Maduro.

The U.S. and other countries have recognized opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the country's interim president.