Human rights worker questioning a Venezuelan woman at a refugee camp in Colombia. IAHRC photo.
US government should support and join a regional response to fleeing Venezuelans
by the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)
In a letter to US Senators made public on July 16, Director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Ken Cuccinelli signalled an unwillingness on the part of the Trump administration to extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Venezuelans. His statement was in response to a bipartisan request by 24 Senators urging the administration to designate Venezuela for TPS so that Venezuelans currently in the United States are not deported back to a dire humanitarian and political crisis.
The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), a leading research and advocacy organization that advocates a regional response to broaden access to formal protection status and essential services for Venezuelan migrants and refugees, is alarmed by the Trump administration’s inaction.
“Inaction on TPS sends the absolute wrong message: the United States is only concerned about Venezuelans right up until they are forced to flee their country. This, combined with White House efforts to end TPS for those fleeing violence and instability in other countries such as El Salvador and Honduras, is the latest signal that this administration is unconcerned about deporting vulnerable people back to danger,” said WOLA Assistant Director for Venezuela Geoff Ramsey.
While the US government has delayed designating Venezuela for TPS, the crisis inside the country has driven the number of displaced to over 4 million. As documented in a recent report by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, those living in Venezuela face widespread shortages of food, medicine, and basic goods. The report also found that, since 2016, Maduro’s government has carried out a strategy “aimed at neutralizing, repressing and criminalizing political opponents and people critical of the government.”
“Just as countries across Latin America should be doing more to provide access to employment, healthcare, education, and other essential services, the US government should join in these efforts. Venezuelans, like other displaced populations fleeing instability, should not be forcibly returned to face dire consequences,” said Gimena Sánchez, WOLA Director for the Andes.
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