UPDATE: On Thursday night, the House brought the bill back to a floor vote and passed TPS designation for Venezuela. Although this vote only required a simply majority, bipartisan support for the effort picked up between Tuesday and Thursday as the bill gained 4 votes in favor, including 2 from Republicans. The ball is now in the Senate’s court to bring their companion bill to a vote before they leave for summer recess on August 2.
The U.S. House of Representatives voted Tuesday night on legislation that would designate Venezuela as an eligible country for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). The Venezuela TPS Act of 2019 would permit nationals of Venezuela to register for TPS and maintain the designation for 18 months. The bill was introduced by two congressmen from Florida, Democrat Darren Soto and Republican Mario Díaz-Balart.
The House suspended the rules to vote on the bill before the August recess. Because of this procedure, the bill would have needed votes from two-thirds of House members to pass, rather than a simple majority. Though it failed, 268 members still voted in favor, which is 50 more than necessary to pass the bill under regular order.
TPS is a program run by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in consultation with the State Department. The program provides temporary lawful status to foreign nationals in the United States if DHS determines that returning them would put them at risk of violence, disease, or death due to a natural disaster or civil unrest in their home country. After DHS designates TPS for a country, nationals of that country already living in the United States are eligible to apply for the status.
Due to the recent political unrest and violence in Venezuela, members of Congress have urged President Trump to designate TPS for Venezuela.
As the State Department reports, the Venezuelan people have “suffered immensely” under Nicolás Maduro’s regime, which has led to a “massive humanitarian disaster.” In the last year, Venezuelans have experienced widespread inflation, shortages in food and medical care, and governmental collapse. The situation has become so dire that in April 2019, the State Department issued a travel advisory for Venezuela due to its violent crime, such as homicide and demonstrations that devolve into looting and vandalism.
Despite this, the president has not pushed for a TPS designation, even though it would be the most immediate form of relief for Venezuelan nationals living in the United States. Rather, the Trump administration has repeatedly attempted to dismantle the TPS program, though it has been unsuccessful so far.
In response to Maduro’s continued rule, President Trump has taken numerous actions against Venezuela. This includes imposing harsh economic sanctions and publicly recognizing opposition leader Juan Guaidó as interim president of Venezuela. Political appointees, however, such as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli, have declined the requests by Congress members and State Department career employees to grant TPS for Venezuelans.
Florida Congress members on both sides of the aisle seized the opportunity to provide protection for Venezuelans. Although Tuesday’s vote was unsuccessful, the enormous support from members in the House puts pressure on the Republican-controlled Senate to consider their nearly identical TPS bill, co-sponsored by Republican Senator Marco Rubio.
The House bill can also come back to life under regular order but would have to pass through the committee process again before coming to a floor vote.
FILED UNDER: Department of Homeland Security, Department of State, Donald Trump, featured, House of Representatives, Marco Rubio