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As Trump tightens asylum rules, thousands of Venezuelans find a warm welcome in Miami PDF Print E-mail
Justice News
Posted by Joan Russow
Sunday, 24 June 2018 12:08
 
 
Venezuelan citizens living in Miami line up last year to vote in a nonbinding referendum against the Venezuelan government. The vote was organized by groups seeking to undermine Venezuela’s unpopular president, Nicolás Maduro. (Rhona Wise/AFP/Getty Images)
By Anthony Faiola and Nick Miroff
 
https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/even-as-trump-tightens-asylum-rules-thousands-of-venezuelans-find-a-warm-welcome-in-miami/2018/05/15/5e747fec-52cf-11e8-a551-5b648abe29ef_story.html?utm_term=.357892d28b78May 18
 
 
 
Venezuelan citizens living in Miami line up last year to vote in a nonbinding referendum against the Venezuelan government. The vote was organized by groups seeking to undermine Venezuela’s unpopular president, Nicolás Maduro. (Rhona Wise/AFP/Getty Images)

 Venezuelans seeking asylum in the United States are arriving to this city in soaring numbers — and receiving a far warmer welcome than the Central American migrants President Trump wants to block at the Mexican border.

Last year, 27,629 Venezuelans petitioned U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for asylum, an 88 percent increase from 2016 and up from 2,181 in 2014. So far this year, the number of Venezuelans who have applied — nearly all of them in Miami — is almost three times as great as any other nationality, according to the latest USCIS asylum data.

Unlike the Central Americans who wade illegally across the Rio Grande and turn themselves in to U.S. border guards, the Venezuelans typically land at the Miami airport with tourist and business visas.

They are, in general, wealthier and more likely to have legal representation, an advantage that significantly boosts their chances of being allowed to stay, statistics show. And they have the backing of South Florida politicians, especially Cuban American lawmakers who view them as natural allies in uggle against Latin American leftism.

The Venezuelans are fleeing a near-total societal collapse after two decades of socialist policies as well as years of governmental mismanagement, corruption and waste. The crisis has left nearly 87 percent of Venezuelans in poverty, generated the world’s highest inflation rate, and made food and medicine scarce.

Those who reach Miami are a small and privileged part of a much bigger refu­gee crisis. According to U.N. data, 180,000 Venezuelans fled their country during the first three months of 2018, compared with 217,000 during all of 2017. Most cross by land into Brazil and Colombia, and the exodus is likely to accelerate if, as expected, leftist Nicolás Maduro wins another six-year term in the May 20 presidential election.

The country’s main opposition parties are boycotting the vote, citing a looming fraud.

Venezuelans with the means to reach the United States can be confident that they’ll be allowed to stay. The U.S. immigration system considers them “affirmative asylum” cases because applicants who file such claims typically enter the country legally and then request permission to stay.

That differs from asylum seekers who file a “defensive” claim to avoid deportation, a category that would include the larger pool of Central American migrants arrested along the Mexico border. Affirmative applications can be approved by a USCIS asylum officer, rather than an immigration judge.

Central American migrants who traveled in a caravan to file legal asylum requests at the U.S.-Mexico border drew the ire of Trump this spring, and many of those travelers said they, too, were seeking shelter from gang violence and chaos back home. The majority of caravan members were from Honduras, where U.S.-backed right-wing president Juan Orlando Hernández was reelected last year in a contest whose results were rejectedby international observers.

The percentage of asylum seekers who were denied reached its highest level in a decade last year, and Central American applicants were among the most likely to be turned down, according to immigration data compiled by the TRAC project at Syracuse University.


A woman holds a white rose and a sign reading Freedom for Venezuela at a rally in Miami last year. (Lynne Sladky/AP)

Michael Bars, a spokesman for USCIS, said the agency can grant asylum to “those who have been persecuted or have a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion if returned to their native country.”

“Each asylum claim is evaluated on a case-by-case basis and determinations are fact-specific,” Bars said in a statement.

 

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