By Devin Watkins
With Venezuela roiled in political instability and its people suffering hyperinflation and frequent blackouts, the United States Catholic Bishops’ Conference is requesting a special status for Venezuelans living in the US.
Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin, Chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Migration, and Sean Callahan, CEO of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), sent a letter on Thursday to Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, and Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary of Homeland Security.
Temporary Protected Status
In it, they ask the US government for an 18-month designation of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Venezuela.
The TPS designation would allow some-150,000 qualifying Venezuelan immigrants to live and work in the US while their home country is deemed unsafe.
“Given the unprecedented humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, its nationals cannot safely be returned home at this time,” they write, adding that the US has the “moral responsibility” to offer temporary protection.
“At this time, it is vital that Venezuelans in the United States have an opportunity to live with dignity, work lawfully, and provide for their families’ well-being until they can safely return home,” Bishop Vásquez and Mr. Callahan say.
The humanitarian situation in Venezuela is increasingly dire.
A Catholic aid agency reports that 76 percent of the 15,000 children under 5-years-old they monitor show signs of nutritional deficit, while another 13 percent live with acute malnutrition.
International NGOs say Venezuela’s healthcare system is collapsing, allowing measles, diphtheria, malaria, and tuberculosis to spread unchecked.
US humanitarian assistance
A bipartisan group of 14 US Senators introduced a bill on Wednesday to help ease the crisis in Venezuela.
If passed, the bill would authorize $400 million in humanitarian aid and speed up planning at financial institutions for reconstruction in Venezuela.
The House of Representatives passed three bills last week that would restrict the export of crowd-control equipment to Venezuela, push for $150 million in aid, and require an assessment of the threat of Russian influence in the country.