Former President Donald Trump’s move to extend protected status to Venezuelans hours before leaving office has generated praise and speculation over the timing of the move.
Venezuelan exiles have been among Trump’s most loyal supporters and are elated over the last-minute move. For years, Republican and Democratic members of Congress lobbied for the protected status. Moving to the Deferred Enforced Departure program for Venezuelans stands in sharp contrast to Trump’s hard-line immigration policies.
The executive order defers for 18 months the removal of Venezuelans who were at risk of being sent back to their home country. Trump cited the “deteriorative condition” in Venezuela that constitutes a national security threat as the reason for his decision.
There is "euphoria" among Venezuelans and "some confusion" over whom it benefits and for how long, José Oropeza, of the Venezuelan-American Republican Alliance, said. He called the move "an important first step" for the hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans who have applied for asylum, some of whom are in detention centers.
Trump also issued sweeping financial sanctions Tuesday targeting three individuals, 14 business entities and six ships accused of assisting the Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA, of evading earlier sanctions that attempted to keep Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro from profiting from crude sales.
Courting Venezuelan voters in Florida, Joe Biden had said during his 2020 campaign he would offer Temporary Protected Status, which is nearly identical to the Deferred Enforced Departure program, if he became president.
Speculation over timing
There has been speculation over the timing of the executive order and the possibility of Trump’s daughter Ivanka running for a U.S. Senate seat in Florida. The former senior White House adviser is set to relocate to Florida where she and her husband, Jared Kushner — also a former senior adviser — have leased a condominium in a luxury building in South Florida. They also spent $32 million on a waterfront lot on the exclusive Indian Creek Island a few miles away from the condominium.
There were over 400,000 Venezuelans in the United States in 2017, a number that is higher now because of the steady influx of exiles. The largest concentration of Venezuelans is in Florida, where many Trump supporters remain steadfast.
Biden’s choice to be secretary of state, Antony Blinken, showed continued support for Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó during his Senate confirmation hearing.
Blinken said he would continue recognizing Guaidó as Venezuela’s interim president and suggested he has no illusions of an eventual dialogue with Maduro, whom he called a “brutal dictator.”
Blinken also expressed frustration with the results of previous policy toward Venezuela. “We need an effective policy that can restore Venezuela to democracy starting with free and fair elections,” he said.