National Catholic leaders are urging Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to provide an 18-month designation for Venezuelan residents in the U.S. under the Temporary Protected Status program.
That initiative, first approved nearly two decades ago by Congress as part of the larger Immigration Act of 1990, provides temporary immigration status to residents of other countries in the U.S. who have left their native lands due to an ongoing armed conflict or environmental disaster, among other reasons.
“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 Joe Vasquez and Sean Callahan said in their letter to Pompeo.
Bishop Vasquez is the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Migration Committee, and Callahan is the chief executive officer of the Catholic Relief Services.
In the last year the Trump Administration has moved to downsize the program, removing more than 300,000 people from its rolls.
Residents from El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti, among ten countries, have been the primary beneficiaries of the Temporary Protected Status program.
Although exact numbers are not known, it is thought that tens of thousands of people who are currently in the Temporary Protected Status program work in the nation’s construction industry.
For that reason, officials with the Associated General Contractors, National Association of Home Builders, and the Laborers’ International Union of North America, among other groups, have urged Congress to keep the program in place.
According to a recent United Nations study more than 72,000 Venezuelans and their U.S.-born children could benefit from the Temporary Protected Status program.
At least two dozen members of the U.S. Senate have now asked the Trump Administration to extend the Temporary Protected Status program to eligible Venezuelans, while legislation has also been introduced in both the House and Senate that would grant immediate coverage to Venezuelans under the program.
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