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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

United States deported dozens of Venezuelans this year

Por Damian

Despite promising millions of dollars to help Venezuelans flee their country and exhort allies in the region to "do more" on the hunger and oppression suffered by the Venezuelan people, the government of President Donald Trump has been deporting Venezuelans who came to the United States illegally or stayed after expiring their visa for fear of returning to their country.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement Police (ICE) has deported 150 Venezuelans in the 2018 fiscal year, including 9 this month, when Vice President Mike Pence was in Lima, Peru, for the Summit of the Americas, where he promised to do "everything that is within our reach to support those who flee from tyranny.”

"Unfortunately, many Venezuelans here do not have permanent residency, they are not US citizens, they do not have a visa, but they are afraid to return to Venezuela", said Adriana Kostencki, a lawyer with the Venezuelan-American Bar Association in Miami, which lobbies the government in Washington to protect Venezuelans from deportation. "But it's fighting against a government that has not been very friendly with immigration."

Vice President Pence delivered a passionate speech in Lima to more than 30 heads of state at the Summit of the Americas a few days ago, where he promised to deliver an additional 16 million dollars to other countries to help Venezuelans who have fled the economic crisis, and he pressed allies to follow the example of the United States in isolating the government of President Nicolás Maduro.

During a meeting with leaders of the Venezuelan opposition, Pence spoke of the lack of food and basic supplies in the main hospitals. He said that many Americans do not understand the problems that have led millions of Venezuelans to flee from "the oppression of the dictatorship" that has created the largest displacement of people in the history of Latin America.

"We are with the people of Venezuela and we will continue to do everything in our power to offer support to those who have fled the tyranny", Pence told the group. The federal government reported that of the 150 deported Venezuelans, approximately a third are convicted criminals who committed a wide range of crimes, from traffic cases to kidnapping and sexual assault.

The government did not answer questions about the deportations, but said it is internally discussing ways to help Venezuelans arriving at the border, including the possibility of offering them asylum.

More Venezuelans are seeking asylum in the United States than citizens of any other country. The Citizenship and Immigration Service reports that more than 27,600 Venezuelans applied for asylum in the fiscal year 2017, an increase of almost 400 percent compared to the previous two years.

Asylum is usually granted to people who can´t return to their countries due to persecution for political reasons, race, religion, national origin or a particular social group. Those who receive it can live and work legally in the United States and later apply for permanent residency and citizenship.

But in the case of Venezuelans, asylum has been difficult to achieve. A senior federal government official said that asylum cases have no limitations by country, and each request is evaluated by its own methods, which takes into account the specific circumstances of the person and the applicable laws and policies.