A bipartisan bill introduced in the House of Representatives on Wednesday would give Venezuelan refugees and illegal immigrants a path to legal residency and eventual citizenship in the United States.
The bill, called the Venezuelan Refugee Assistance Act, was introduced by Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) and Darren Soto (D-FL). The bill was cosponsored by Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL).
“For over a decade, thousands of Venezuelans were forced to flee the brutal Chavez dictatorship, and now, the situation has not improved under his hand-picked successor, Nicolas Maduro,” Curbelo said, citing the socialist government’s political violence. “This bill will allow Venezuelan nationals who have made a new home in the United States to remain here if they choose to, since it is too dangerous to return home.”
“The whole world has seen all the heartbreaking images of children suffering from malnutrition, seniors facing life threatening illnesses who have no access to medicines or appropriate healthcare, desperate mothers trying to find food in the streets to feed their families,” said Soto. “Basic human rights and democracy must be restored in Venezuela. That’s why I am proposing this bill with Rep. Curbelo, so our brothers and sisters from Venezuela who are already in the United States receive protected immigration status as a result of this humanitarian crisis.”
The bill was introduced amid soaring asylum requests from Venezuela, according to VOA News. An astounding 18,155 Venezuelans submitted asylum requests last year, a 150 percent increase over 2015 and six times the level seen in 2014.
Not everyone, however, is thrilled with the new bill. Jason Kessler, leader of Unity and Security for America, sounded off against the bill.
“Despite the rhetoric coming from Representatives Curbelo and Soto, Venezuela is a democratic country where the majority voted for its socialist government,” Kessler said. “Do we really want to give tens of thousands of these refugees, many of whom still harbor socialist tendencies, an eventual path to citizenship? How will giving them the right to vote effect our own elections?”