Durbin, Menendez Meet With Venezuela Special Envoy Elliot Abrams

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) today met with Venezuela Special Envoy Elliot Abrams to discuss the ongoing violence, deteriorating security situation, and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela caused by the discredited regime of Nicolás Maduro.  They also discussed legislation to designate Venezuela for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and protect approximately 200,000 Venezuelan nationals in the United States from deportation.

“In today’s meeting, I reiterated my support for Interim President Guaidó and his efforts to help the Venezuelan people rebuild their country into a more democratic and prosperous home,” Durbin said.  “I also pressed Special Envoy Abrams on the need to designate Venezuela for Temporary Protected Status.  President Trump cannot have it both ways – he cannot warn Americans that Venezuela is so dangerous they should avoid traveling there and then turn around and tell Venezuelans in the U.S. they are forced to return.  It’s time for Congress to be consistent and humane and overrule this outrageous Trump policy.” 

“The international community must maintain its support for Interim President Guaidó and increase pressure on the Maduro regime in order to create the conditions for a peaceful, democratic solution to the current crisis,” Menendez said.  “Additionally, as countries in the region grapple with the impact of Venezuela’s growing refugee crisis, the United States must do its part.  President Trump and Senate Republicans must drop their obstruction and join Democrats to provide TPS for Venezuelans in the United States.”

Yesterday, Senate Republicans blocked bipartisan, House-passed legislation that would designate Venezuela for TPS.  Durbin and Menendez made the unanimous consent (UC) request to immediately pass the Venezuela TPS Act of 2019.  U.S. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) objected on behalf of Senate Republicans.

Earlier this month, in a letter from controversial Acting U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Ken Cuccinelli, responding to a bipartisan request led by Durbin and Menendez, the Trump Administration stated that it will not designate Venezuela for Temporary Protected Status (TPS).  

In March, Durbin and Menendez led 24 Senators in a bipartisan letter to President Trump requesting that his Administration promptly designate Venezuela for TPS to ensure that Venezuelan nationals currently present in the United States are not forced to return to Venezuela at this time.

In February, Durbin and Menendez, along with Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced the Venezuela Temporary Protected Status Act of 2019, a bill to immediately grant TPS for eligible Venezuelans fleeing the dire conditions in their home country and to strengthen migration systems in the countries surrounding Venezuela. 

Last year, Durbin traveled to Venezuela where he met with then-President Nicolas Maduro, members of the opposition included Juan Guaidó, the President of the National Assembly, the Ministers of Health and Nutrition, business leaders, civil society groups, doctors, and humanitarian organizations.  Menendez traveled to the Colombia-Venezuela border earlier this month to review the Venezuelan refugee and migrant crisis, and assess opportunities to advance the U.S.-Colombia partnership.