The Venezuelans left in limbo by new US immigration plan
By James McAuley, Reuters
December 28, 2017
Venezuelans on both sides of the U.S. argument over the administration’s policy at the U.S. southern border were left baffled and angry on Thursday when U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration said it would no longer take in some of the nearly two million people living in the South American country illegally – a move that could threaten its own immigration rules and a program of welfare for Central American children who cross into the United States.
The announcement threatened to deepen a bitter standoff between Washington and Caracas that has seen a long-held goal of an arrangement between the two allies under which immigrants in the vast majority of cases would enter the United States illegally under temporary visas, but on a case-by-case basis, become citizens with a limited residency right. U.S. immigration authorities are struggling to absorb the estimated 2.2 million people living in the United States illegally, a surge in Venezuelan migration over the past few years that many analysts believe has put pressure on the U.S. border.
A U.S. official said the change was part of a review for “all of the policies that we have for people who violate immigration law and enter the United States illegally.” The official added that the review will also include a review of the application of the “zero tolerance” policy, which has resulted in the separation of young children from their parents, in the Central American country.
“It was a surprise to some that [Trump’s] Department of Homeland Security is reviewing existing programs and not creating new ones,” said Carlos Hernandez, the director of the immigrant advocacy group America’s Voice and one of the people to have been deported after crossing the border last month.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said the U.S. had “made a very big mistake” when it put limits on the number of immigrants it could receive because the country would lose out significantly. The announcement caused alarm among Venezuelans living in the United States and elsewhere, and even in Caracas itself.
Facing a political crisis of its own in his country, Maduro issued a blistering response, calling the U.S. move a “disaster.” He said it was “a cruel act” because Venezuela’s citizens would be “left without government services and without food.”
Washington had previously considered limiting its entry of refugees with U.S. visas, citing