- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 19, 2021

President Trump issued a directive Tuesday creating a temporary deportation amnesty for Venezuelans in the country illegally, saying it was a way to protect them from the chaos the South American country has been facing.

Human rights and immigration activists had long pleaded with Mr. Trump to take the step, and he pulled the trigger with less than 24 hours to go in his term of office.

The president flexed a power known as deferred enforced departure, which is essentially using prosecutorial discretion to determine that it doesn’t make sense to carry out a deportation at this point. Tuesday’s order is a categorical determination, applying to illegal immigrants who arrive before Wednesday, have generally kept a clean criminal record and haven’t been deported before.

“The deteriorative condition within Venezuela, which presents an ongoing national security threat to the safety and well-being of the American people, warrants the deferral of the removal of Venezuelan nationals who are present in the United States,” Mr. Trump said in the memo announcing the policy.

The deferral lasts for 18 months.

It’s not clear how many the people it would affect, but one congressman said the number is in the “thousands.”

“As one of his last decisions in office, President Trump has guaranteed that those Venezuelans who sought safety in the United States will not be returned to the dictatorship, where they could be subject to persecution, human rights abuses, or even death,” said Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, Florida Republican.

He had introduced legislation in the previous Congress to grant Temporary Protected Status to Venezuelans.

Mr. Trump’s Homeland Security Department could also have announced TPS status on its own, but it didn’t.

Deferred Enforced Departure, or DED, is similar to TPS.

It allows those approved to apply for work permits, allowing them to compete legally for jobs.

Mr. Trump had previously opposed programs that granted illegal immigrants a chance at tentative legal status, arguing American workers shouldn’t face the competition.

The president didn’t reveal a reason for the timing of his new decision.

The Trump administration has been at odds with Venezuela’s leader, Nicolas Maduro, for years, and has instead recognized Juan Guaido, president of the National Assembly, as the legal interim president of Venezuela.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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