Senate Republican blocks vote on protected status for Venezuelans

“It is an unconscionable moral failing for the Senate not to approve this legislation," said Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J.

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By Carmen Sesin

Senate Republicans, before leaving for a six-week break, blocked a vote Tuesday on whether to grant Temporary Protected Status, known as TPS, to Venezuelans in the U.S. who fled political and economic turmoil at home.

The designation gives Venezuelans the ability to live and work legally in the U.S. Venezuela is the No. 1 country for those claiming asylum with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services upon arrival here.

Last week the House passed a similar bill sponsored by Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., and Darren Soto, D-Fla. Both have large numbers of Venezuelans in their districts.

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Sens. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., tried on Tuesday to pass the House’s bill by unanimous consent in order to get it passed quickly, but Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, opposed the request. A unanimous vote is typically used to expedite proceedings if no senator objects. Once a senator objects, the request is rejected. Lee said fast-tracking the bill does not give Republicans enough time to consider it and make changes.

Some conservative Republicans in Congress have been reluctant to support TPS for Venezuelans while President Donald Trump and hard-liners in his administration have tried to end the program for hundreds of thousands of Haitians, Hondurans, Salvadorans and Nicaraguans currently in the U.S. with protected status.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who has been pushing for legal status for Venezuelans, tweeted “we will continue working on this. Also just wrapped up another meeting with administration hoping to achieve administrative resolution of this.”

Late Tuesday, he took to Twitter again stating he had finished "yet another talk" with the White House about TPS. "They are actively looking for a way to administratively provide temporary status & work permit for Venezuelans in the U.S.," he wrote.

Trump has presented himself as a staunch opponent of leftist Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and a supporter of his opponent, Juan Guaidó. Yet the administration has deported hundreds of Venezuelans.

On the Senate floor, Menéndez said, “It is an unconscionable moral failing for the Senate not to approve this legislation.”

For the past few years, Venezuelans have been escaping political chaos, hyperinflation and shortages in food and medicine. More than 4 million Venezuelans have fled their country, according to the United Nations. It’s the largest exodus in the recent history of Latin America and the Caribbean.

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