Activists issue public plea for U.S. to issue TPS for Venezuelans

A group of Miami activists made a public plea Thursday for the United States to provide temporary protected status for Venezuelans living in South Florida.

The group, comprised of Venezuelans and Central Americans, made the appeal to President Donald Trump during a press conference in Doral, where they also asked the federal government to extend TPS to Haitian, Honduran and Central America nationals who now have the benefit.

Activists discussed traveling by bus to the nation’s capital to demonstrate in front of the White House.

“Granting TPS is a decision of the president, but the members of Congress influence that, so you have to go to Washington, D.C. We must push,” said Francisco Portillo, of the Honduran immigrant-rights organization Francisco Morazán.

The call to offer TPS to Venezuelans has resurfaced in recent weeks because of the worsening political and economic crisis in Venezuela. In July, the Miami-based Venezuelan Association of Lawyers (VENAMBAR) filed a petition with the White House, while Miami-Dade County commissioners sent a letter to Trump to encourage him to approve the measure.

But the request faces uncertain prospects. The petition comes at a time when the Trump administration has said that it may not extend TPS for groups that are currently covered — including Haitian, Honduran, Nicaraguan and Salvadoran immigrants. In May, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly announced his intention to end the program for Haitians, but later extended it for a half year. According to government officials, about 1 million immigrants could lose TPS and face deportation.

TPS is a temporary benefit that does not provide a way to obtain legal permanent resident status or any other immigration status, according to the Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Among other requirements, the applicant must be continuously present in the United States from the effective date of the TPS designation and cannot have been convicted of a criminal offense.

The number of Venezuelans seeking asylum in the United States has spiked in recent years. In 2013, immigration authorities received 786 petitions. By 2016, that number increased to more than 18,150.

Carmen J. Giménez, of USA Refugees & Immigrants, said that providing Venezuelans with TPS would save them from having to return to the violence and economic devastation that is ravaging their country.

Venezuelans should be protected from “social, moral, economic and physical devastation,” Giménez said.”