- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 25, 2014

MIAMI (AP) - A South Florida congressman is asking President Barack Obama to review political asylum applications from Venezuela and to stop deporting people there.

U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia on Tuesday said he is confident those who are part of the current demonstrations in Venezuela will receive asylum if they seek it. He said he is concerned about those already in the United States living in migratory limbo.

The Miami Democrat wrote Obama a letter Monday urging him to give direct guidance to the State Department and other federal agencies to review and expedite the cases of Venezuelans.

“What we have with this migratory limbo has not been fair,” Garcia said, “The events of the last few days show it’s time to fix that.”

Garcia said many Venezuelans are awaiting resolution of their asylum cases, meaning they may not be eligible to work. Others have temporary stays of deportation but fear their reprieves could be reversed at any minute. Still others were in the U.S. while their businesses were confiscated by the Venezuelan government, further complicating their situation.

Garcia stopped short of calling for a blanket temporary protected status for Venezuelans.

The State Department did not immediately respond Tuesday to a message left by The Associated Press regarding Garcia’s request.

Since Feb. 12, Venezuelan opponents of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro have been staging countrywide protests. The government says at least 16 people have died, with 150 injured or wounded.

The unrest in Venezuela hits close to home in Miami. More than 250,000 people of Venezuelan origin call the U.S. home, with some 40 percent in Florida. During a news conference with Garcia, videographer Vicente Pugliese who was covering the event, expressed frustration that his own requests for asylum have been routinely denied, despite support from leaders in South Florida’s expatriate community. Pugliese, who works for the cable channel Venezuelan TV, said his deportation order has been on hold since 2012 as part of the Obama administration’s expansion of prosecutorial discretion in immigration cases, but he constantly fears that the stay will be lifted at any moment.

Garcia and fellow South Floridian, Republican U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, have co-sponsored a resolution condemning recent violence in Venezuela and urging the United States to work with neighboring countries to resolve the issue. Other Florida lawmakers have called for action including sanctions.

Follow Laura Wides-Munoz on Twitter: https://twitter.com/lwmunoz

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