The government of President Donald Trump, which has refused to give the temporary residency status known as TPS to some 200,000 Venezuelans who have fled the Nicolas Maduro dictatorship, has just made the ridiculous claim that the United States has been more generous with Venezuelan exiles than Latin American countries.
In fact, it is the other way around: Few governments on the continent have behaved as selfishly and cruelly towards Venezuelan exiles as Trump’s.
Incredibly, Trump’s national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, said in an interview with Nora Gamez Torres of the El Nuevo Herald on August 15 that other countries in the hemisphere should be as generous to Venezuelan refugees as the United States.
“If we could return democracy to Venezuela, you would not have these asylum seeker flows,” O’Brien said in the interview. “It cannot be that if there is a problem in a nation, the answer is simply to go to the United States. Other large countries in the hemisphere must also be a destination for them ”.
Are you kidding O’Brien? According to a new report by the Organization of American States (OAS), 85% of the 5.2 million Venezuelan migrants and refugees who have left the country in recent years have been received by countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The OAS report, titled “Venezuelan Migration and Refugee Crisis,” shows that Colombia has granted temporary residency to most of its 1.8 million Venezuelan emigrants, Peru has accepted 900,000 and Chile to 455,000. By comparison, the United States, the world’s richest economy, has received just 422,000, and has refused to grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to a large portion of them.
Last year, the Democratic-majority US House of Representatives passed a bill to grant TPS status to approximately 200,000 Venezuelans. But the Republican Senate majority did not pass a similar bill, and the Trump administration has so far refused to grant TPS status to Venezuelans.
Immigration experts tell me that because of Trump’s anti-immigrant policies, the United States has detained many Venezuelan exiles, and deported some to Venezuela.
Julio Hernández, a Boston-based immigration attorney and coordinator of the Venezuelan non-governmental organization Foro Penal, tells me that “more than 1,100 Venezuelans have been detained for long periods of time, in some cases for a year or more, without having committed a crime ”.
Henríquez added that “more than 300 of them remain behind bars, at risk of COVID-19 infection and facing an uncertain future in the labyrinthine immigration system.”
Likewise, at least 663 Venezuelan exiles have been deported from the United States to Venezuela between June 2017 and May 2019. Another 800 more are still in the United States with pending deportation orders, according to data from Foro Penal.
And things may get worse for Venezuelan migrants, because Trump has proposed new measures that would further restrict the number of Venezuelan asylees, denying asylum admissions to those entering the United States from third countries.
I’m not saying that all of Trump’s policy toward Venezuela has been bad. On the contrary, Trump deserves credit for intensifying US sanctions against the Maduro dictatorship that the Obama administration had started.
Although it is also true that, as Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton has said, Trump’s policy towards Venezuela is purely electoral, and with a view to winning Cuban and Venezuelan votes from Florida in the November elections. And perhaps, as Bolton told me, Trump will meet with Maduro after the US elections, as he has with the dictators of Russia, China and North Korea.
But Trump’s denial of TPS status to Venezuelan exiles is an act of cruelty, as well as being a monumental display of political hypocrisy. If Trump loves Venezuelans so much, he should treat Venezuelan exiles as generously as several Latin American countries much poorer than the United States have.
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