WASHINGTON — A bill that would grant special protections to tens of thousands of Venezuelans in the U.S. has officially passed in the House of Representatives by a vote of 272-158.
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Members of the Florida delegation, who represent the largest community of Venezuelans in the country, have been working on the bill for months.
Rep. Darren Soto (D-Florida) and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Florida) sponsored the legislation, which has been the most significant action to date in response to Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis.
“We all know that the situation in Venezuela is dire. This is exactly the type of situation that necessitates the Temporary Protected Status program,” Soto said during a press conference ahead of the vote on Thursday.
"Venezuelans are the largest asylum seekers of any nation as of the last couple of weeks, and we see food and water in short supply, people being murdered by their own government,” he added.
The Venezuela TPS Act would give Venezuelan nationals Temporary Protected Status, which would allow them to live and work legally in the U.S. as a result of the unrest occurring under the Maduro regime.
House Republicans blocked Democrats’ earlier attempt to fast track the bill. The bill passed overwhelmingly in a full House vote, with 39 Republicans and one independent joining 232 Democrats in support.
“I’m glad that we passed the TPS bill, because it’s critically important to Venezuelans that are already here in the U.S. that they not be returned home to a failed state at this time. I think sending them home to a failed state would be immoral. It’s actually against our values,” Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Florida) said in an interview with Spectrum News.
There are an estimated 170,000 Venezuelans in Florida, the most of any other state in the U.S.
Not all members of the Florida delegation supported the legislation. Rep. Greg Steube (R-Florida) voted against it.
“I don’t think that we should be granting TPS to other Venezuelans,” Rep. Steube said.
"The Maduro regime there, you’re not going to know who these people are who are coming over here. If they want to go through the proper immigration process, then they have the full opportunity to do that through their embassy,” he added.
The bill now heads to the U.S. Senate for consideration, one day before the House of Representatives leaves Washington for a six-week recess.