- The Washington Times
Tuesday, June 25, 2019

The Trump administration is still weighing a move to grant temporary protected status (TPS) for Venezuelan refugees, according to Elliott Abrams, the U.S. special envoy to the crisis in the oil-rich South American nation.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Mr. Abrams said the decision to grant TPS is “under consideration” for migrants from Venezuela who are in the U.S. fleeing the regime of socialist President Nicolas Maduro, allowing them to live and work temporarily here.

TPS is a special humanitarian status the U.S. grants to people from countries suffering natural disasters, epidemics or political upheavals. The intent is to give the home country a chance to stabilize before making people return.

But the program has become controversial in recent years, with critics saying the word “temporary” has been forgotten. Hundreds of thousands of Central Americans have been here under TPS for two decades, and Democrats are pushing to grant them full citizenship rights.

The Trump administration, though, is tilting the other direction, trying to cancel TPS for some of those countries. Those moves have been halted by courts, who say the administration acted rashly.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Capitol Hill has written legislation that would grant Venezuelans TPS, taking the decision out of the administration’s hands.

Estimates earlier this year said the number could be anywhere from about 72,000 people up to several hundred thousand refugees. Millions more have fled to Colombia and other Venezuelan neighbors, seeking relief from the political turmoil in Caracas and an economic collapse that has fueled the Western Hemisphere’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Mr. Abrams said that while the deportation of Venezuelans in the U.S. has not stopped, “the numbers are extremely low if there are any.”

Through the first four months of the fiscal year — before the latest flare-up in Venezuela — the U.S. had deported 112 Venezuelans. That was about on pace compared to previous years.

Mr. Abrams‘ comments come less than a month after President Trump announced he was thinking about extending the provision to Venezuelans who are fleeing the country amid economic and political unrest.

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