Immigration bill would bring relief to Venezuelans

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Washington, DC, October 13, 2015 | comments

Immigration bill would bring relief to Venezuelans

By William E. Gibson

Thousands of Venezuelans who fled to South Florida and other states before 2013 could become permanent legal residents under legislation proposed by several Florida members of Congress.

Many Venezuelans cannot return to their homeland because of fear of persecution by a dictatorial government, the bill's sponsors say.

The bipartisan bill would bring long-sought relief to large numbers of Venezuelans who have settled in South Florida, many in Weston and Doral.

"In the last few months alone we have seen countless examples of the [Venezuelan] regime's thuggish tactics, unethical behavior and lethal force," said Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Kendall, citing the arrests of top opposition leaders. "They've also arrested over 3,000 opposition protesters in a riot that left dozens dead."

Fellow sponsors are Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, of Miami, and Democratic Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, of Weston, and Alan Grayson, of Orlando, a candidate for the U.S. Senate.

"We cannot in good conscience force Venezuelans to return to a country where they face arrest, torture and execution only because they oppose the government," Grayson said. "Granting them permanent residence status is the best, most logical way to ensure their safety."

Sponsorship by members of both major parties will improve the bill's chances of passage.

If enacted, eligible Venezuelans would have until 2019 to register to have their immigration status adjusted. The bill would exclude those who have a criminal record or who took part in the persecution of others.

Census records show that more than 80,000 people with Venezuelan ancestry live in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties, up 250 percent from 2000 to 2013, a time of political turmoil in Venezuela. Some are U.S. citizens, some are legal immigrants and some are living in the country illegally and subject to deportation.

Curbelo will hold a news conference in his Miami district office on Tuesday to discuss the bill.

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/politics/fl-venezuelans-immigration-relief-20151012-story.html

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