- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Republicans scuttled Democrats’ attempt Tuesday to grant special protections to tens of thousands of Venezuelan migrants living in the U.S., rallying enough votes to block the measure from clearing on the House’s fast-track calendar.

GOP lawmakers said they supported the opposition to Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro, but weren’t ready to offer Temporary Protected Status — complete with work permits — to illegal immigrants and legal visitors who’ve managed to make it to the U.S.

Rep. Ben Cline, the Virginian who led Republicans’ opposition, said the solution to Venezuela’s problems lies in South America, not in a bill to protect its people here.

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“It is throwing a raft of help to people that is full of holes,” he said.

The bill earned 268 votes, including 37 Republicans and one independent. But another 154 Republicans voted against it, denying it the two-thirds tally needed to clear under the fast-track procedures Democratic leaders had used.

They can still bring the bill back later under the normal rules, which would mean a more full debate and perhaps the chance to offer amendments, which were blocked in Tuesday’s debate.

But that will have to wait until September, since the House is scheduled to begin its lengthy summer vacation at the end of this week.

TPS is part of U.S. law, and is usually granted by executive branch action. But the Trump administration has been reluctant to use the tool, pointing to abuses by past administrations who issued protections then continued them for decades on end.

Some Central American nations, accounting for hundreds of thousands of migrants, have been under TPS for two decades.

Efforts to end some of those grants have been blocked by federal courts, making the administration gun shy about creating new TPS grants, said Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services.

Congressional Democrats, joined by some Republicans, attempted to step in and force the move through legislation.

“We are talking about people that are suffering. We cannot send them back to a humanitarian emergency,” said Rep. Debbie Murcarsel-Powell, Florida Democrat.

She and other Democrats had hoped for a broader bipartisan coalition, given the anti-Maduro sentiments Republicans have expressed. But concerns over using the immigration system to grant relief were too strong within the GOP.

“While I am disappointed we were unable to pass this critical legislation with broad bipartisan support, it was not unexpected, given the nativist, anti-immigrant ideology and rhetoric that has swept through the Trump administration,” said Rep. Donna Shalala, Florida Democrat.

TPS critics countered that there’s no need to grant it to Venezuela. Only a few hundred people are deported back to the country every year, meaning there’s little chance most of the people who’d be protected by TPS face a real danger of being sent back.

“Instead of expanding use of an immigration program that causes more problems than it solves, Congress should let this sleeping dog lie,” said Jessica Vaughan, policy studies director at the Center for Immigration Studies.

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