With Venezuela continuing to face instability, four members of the Florida congressional delegation have teamed up in the U.S. House to propose providing exiles some help. Florida Republican U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Democratic U.S. Reps. Alan Grayson and Debbie Wasserman Schultz unveiled the “Venezuelan Refugee Assistance Act.” Curbelo and Grayson are the chief sponsors of the bill.
Curbelo explained what the bill does for Venezuleans who fled the regimes led by Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro.
“This legislation would address the issue by adjusting the status of Venezuelans that arrived in the U.S. prior to Jan 1, 2013 as long as they do not have a criminal record and were never involved in the persecution of others,” Curbelo said. “They have until January 1, 2019 to register for adjustment.”
The South Florida Republican also weighed in on the chaos in Venezuela.
“For the past decade, thousands of Venezuelans were forced to flee the brutal Chavez dictatorship,” Curbelo said. “The situation has not improved under his hand-picked successor, Nicolas Maduro. In the last few months alone we have seen countless examples of the regime’s thuggish tactics, unethical behavior, and lethal force. They’ve arrested top opposition leaders like Leopoldo Lopez and the Mayor or Caracas, and banned others from running for public office, like Maria Machado. They’ve also arrested over 3,000 opposition protestors in a riot that left dozens dead. This bill will help those Venezuelan nationals who have made a new home in the United States to remain here if they choose to since it is dangerous to return home.
“I applaud the Venezuelan-American community in the United States for their continued efforts on behalf of the people of Venezuela and I stand in unity for their noble cause of justice and freedom and thank Rep. Grayson for his leadership throughout the years to help the Venezuelan people,” Curbelo added. “I would also like to thank Reps. Ros-Lehtinen and Wasserman Schultz for being original co-sponsors.”
“I’m proud to join my Florida colleague Rep. Carlos Curbelo in introducing this important piece of bipartisan legislation,” Grayson said. “The political turmoil in Venezuela demands that the United States do everything in its power to protect those who have been able to escape to freedom in America. We cannot in good conscience force Venezuelans to return to a country where they face arrest, torture, and execution only because they oppose the government. Granting them permanent residence status is the best, most logical way to ensure their safety. I thank Rep. Curbelo for all he has done for the Venezuelan American community, and look forward to working with him to see this legislation out of committee and onto the floor for a vote.”
Curbelo introduced the bill on Friday and it has been sent to the Judiciary Committee. There is no counterpart in the U.S. Senate yet.
The Venezuelan population has increased dramatically in recent years, going up from 91,500 legal residents in 2000 to 259,000 in 2012 with estimates of tens of thousands in the U.S. seeking asylum.
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