CARACAS, Venezuela – The number of Venezuelans seeking asylum in the United States has soared as the oil-dependent economy crashes.
The most recent data from Citizenship and Immigration Services show that in March 2016 Venezuelans climbed to second place among countries submitting asylum requests, with 1,345 applications during that month. Only citizens of China submitted more requests.
The South American country first cracked the top 10 asylum-seeking nations in February 2014. That's when a bloody, months-long street protest movement seeking to oust the socialist administration kicked off. But back then, around 100 Venezuelans per month were seeking asylum.
Boston-based nonprofit Refugee Freedom Program said Thursday that the vast majority of asylum-seekers are middle class Venezuelans fleeing rampant crime and an economic crisis. It says they're unlikely to qualify for refugee status.