Temporary Protection to Venezuelans in the U.S.: One Step Forward

The U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill for TPS for Venezuelans—but it’s still uncertain how close the bill is to becoming a law.

Photo: Alejandra Márquez

On July 25th, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Venezuela TPS Act of 2019, which would protect from deportation Venezuelans in that territory, giving them the opportunity to apply for a work permit.

The bill passed with a simple majority of 272-158 votes, with 232 Democrats and 39 Republicans voting in favor. It now awaits its counterpart in the Senate to be passed before it reaches President Trump, who will then decide whether to sign it into law or not.

It’s typically the U.S. Executive Branch that designates the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to countries affected by war or natural disasters. But the Trump administration has opposed TPS for Venezuelanspartly because it contradicts its push to eliminate TPS designation to other countries, and while this bill is unique for its bipartisan support (its co-sponsors in the Senate include Democrat Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Republican Marco Rubio of Florida), it certainly contradicts the stricter immigration reform that other Republicans support, and the efforts to get Maduro out of power quickly, The Hill explains.

The logic: If Trump reassures us that Maduro’s regime will end soon, why would Venezuelans need temporary protection in the U.S.?

In response to Trump’s inaction, Florida representatives Darren Soto (Democrat, of Florida’s 9th district, which includes Kissimmee) and Mario Diaz-Balart (Republican, of Florida’s 25th district, which includes parts of Miami) introduced the bill in February 2019, considering how Venezuelans are struggling to receive asylum or other immigration documents while they’re already in America. If Trump recognizes the economic and humanitarian crises in the country, why not protect those already in American soil from being sent back?

It’s unclear how likely Trump is to sign the bill once it reaches him, and the probability that the Senate will pass it is also undetermined.

In fact, two days earlier, the House failed to gather enough Republican votes to pass the bill quickly. The House fast-tracked the bill so it could vote before its six-week August recess, but the process required a two-thirds majority instead of the usual simple majority. 

The bill fell short by 17 votes to pass, it needed 55 Republican votes and only got 37. 

But fast-tracking a bill doesn’t prevent it from being voted in a regular fashion. The House reintroduced the bill on July 25th in a regular vote, and won the simple majority.

The Senate has until August 5th before it leaves for recess, and it’s up to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to put the bill to a vote before then and advance on Congress’ efforts to protect Venezuelans as soon as possible.