Florida Pols Largely Silent on No TPS for Venezuelans

Over the past several months, Florida politicians have made great efforts to capitalize politically on the situation in Venezuela.

Since Juan Guaido tried to claim power in the South American country by leading the effort to depose Nicolas Maduro, Florida’s two Republican U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott have sent out a constant stream of support for change in Venezuela.  Scott even spent time traveling to Colombia, visiting towns on the Venezuelan border, gleefully sending out press releases each step along the way, calling for freedom for the people oppressed under Maduro.

What is not being addressed is that more than 200,000 Venezuelans already enjoy a large modicum of freedom right here in the great state of Florida. The drumbeat to support these people has been constant, mostly from Florida Democrats who have been asking for  Temporary Protective Status (TPS) that would allow these Venezuelans to stay in the United States for a determined (or possibly undetermined) amount of time while the political turmoil in Venezuela continues. TPS has been granted to nations like Haiti in the aftermath of the devastating 2010 earthquake. It has also been offered to residents of El Salvador and Honduras who are coping with ongoing strife in those countries.

President Donald Trump decided on Tuesday that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was not going to grant TPS to Venezuelans, meaning once visas expire, exiles from the Maduro regime would have to return to a nation in upheaval.

What’s been the reaction from Florida politicians? The silence has been largely deafening.

One exception was U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, D-Fla., who weighed in on Tuesday night.

“This is disgraceful,” Soto said. “After months of empty promises and using Venezuelans as political pawns, the Trump administration fails to act to grant TPS. Venezuelans are now the largest group of asylum-seekers applying for refuge in the United States. True leadership would act immediately to resolve this crisis. The USCIS decision only reinforces the need for Congress to pass our bipartisan, bicameral Venezuela TPS Act.”

Florida Daily also heard from Phil Tobar with the DC advocacy group America’s Voice, who called the decision devastating.

“This cruel and nonsensical decision is in line with the administration’s moves to end protections for families from Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Nepal, and other countries, which are still suffering from natural disasters and political unrest. In the end, the Republican Party’s hostility to Latino migrants won out over foreign policy priorities, human rights, or any concern for desperate refugees seeking safety and shelter,” Tobar insisted.

Former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who narrowly lost last year’s gubernatorial race, also weighed in.

“It comes as no surprise that Trump and Republicans’ big talk on standing with Venezuelans is a lie,” said Gillum. “While Democrats in Congress continue the fight to grant protections to Venezuelan families, this administration once again betrays our Latinx communities by not deciding that the atrocities of the Maduro regime don’t warrant protecting the families fleeing for their lives.  Trump and Republicans have abandoned Venezuelans today. By not granting TPS to Venezuelans, they are condemning these families. It’s inhuman and it’s cruel, but it is not surprising.  Latinx and ally communities everywhere will hold him accountable for this, and vote him out. “

There has been nothing from Scott on the issue. Rubio is still talking about Venezuela, but not TPS, instead focusing on meeting with dissident Lillian Tintori in Washington this week.

“Lilian personifies the courage of all Venezuelan women. As a tireless human rights activist, Tintori has helped many of her fellow Venezuelans get much-needed humanitarian aid,” Rubio said on Tuesday. “Both outspoken critics of the Maduro crime family, Lilian and her husband Leopoldo López have faced political and judicial persecution. I am thankful for her commitment to restoring democratic order in Venezuela.”

Central Florida’s other representatives in Congress–U.S. Reps. Val Demings, D-Fla., and Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., issued no releases and posted nothing on Twitter about Trump’s decision.

U.S. Rep. Michael Waltz, R-Fla., has Venezuela on his mind but did not weigh in on Trump’s decision. Instead, he focused on meeting with advocates for a free nation.

Of course, political junkies at the national level and across Florida are focused on whether or not Trump’s recent tweets and comments are racist–but the lack of attention to the plight of Venezuelan refugees is telling as both sides look to gain political advantages going into the 2020 election cycle.


Reach Mike Synan@mike.synan@floridadaily.com.

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