House bill to give Venezuelans path to legal US residency has bipartisan support

A bipartisan group of U.S. representatives has re-introduced a bill to let Venezuelans either fleeing their country’s violence and poverty or already here illegally gain legal permanent residency status.

The bill, sponsored by Florida Republican Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Illeana Ros-Lehtinen and Florida Democrats Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Darren Soto, aims to provide a sanctuary for Venezuelans seeking to escape or avoid the chaos that has engulfed the South American nation.

“This bill will allow Venezuelan nationals who have made a new home in the United States to remain here if they choose to, since it is too dangerous to return home,” Curbelo said.

“We have seen young students dying at the hands of President Nicolas Maduro’s brutal, thuggish, corrupt regime,” Soto said, calling the situation in Venezuela a ‘humanitarian crisis’. “Basic human rights and democracy must be restored in Venezuela.”

The bill would allow Venezuelans, without criminal records, who arrived in the U.S. prior to Jan. 1, 2013, to apply for legal permanent resident status. Venezuelans would have until Jan. 1, 2021, to apply.

The bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.