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Florida Immigrant Coalition: Biden decision to deport Venezuelans 'blatant betrayal'

Migrants who entered the United States illegally and turned themselves sit on a bus after they were processed by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, Monday, June 14, 2021, in Del Rio, Texas
Eric Gay/AP
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AP
Migrants who entered the United States illegally and turned themselves sit on a bus after they were processed by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, Monday, June 14, 2021, in Del Rio, Texas

“This decision is a blatant betrayal of the very principles that United States claims to uphold — justice, compassion, and human rights,” said Krizia López Arce, a spokesperson for the Miami−based group, in a statement Friday. The coalition represents more than 50 statewide groups supporting immigrants.

The Florida Immigrant Coalition condemned this week's decision by President Biden to resume deporting Venezuelan migrants back to their economically troubled country after being caught at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“This decision is a blatant betrayal of the very principles that United States claims to uphold — justice, compassion, and human rights,” said Krizia López Arce, a spokesperson for the Miami−based group, in a statement Friday. The coalition represents more than 50 statewide groups supporting immigrants.

“These individuals, driven by the desperate circumstances in their homeland, have embarked on perilous journeys to the United States in search of safety and security,” she said. “To forcibly return them to Venezuela under these dire conditions is not only morally reprehensible but a blatant disregard for the principles of asylum and human dignity.”

Florida Immigrant Coalition organizer Yareliz Mendez-Zamora told WLRN that the Biden administration is delivering "a really incoherent response when it comes to immigration."

"There were so many immigrant communities that put their hope and their trust in the Biden administration," added Mendez-Zamora. "And it feels like we're not even being taken into consideration anymore."

The Florida Immigrant Coalition is calling on the Biden administration to immediately reconsider its decision and protecting immigrants fleeing oppressive regimes.

“We urge the administration to seek diplomatic solutions and provide humanitarian relief to Venezuelans rather than subjecting them to further harm and persecution,” said coalition spokesperson López Arce. “We implore our elected officials and advocates across the nation to join us in standing against this egregious violation of human rights.”

“This is a betrayal of trust and an affront to the values we thought the United States stood for,” said Andrés Zambrano, a Venezuelan immigrant the coalition helped to qualify to remain in the U.S. under the federal Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, program.

The U.S. designated TPS status to Venezuelans March 9, 2021, and expanded it last month to those who were in the country before July 31.

The 1990 TPS law allows empowers the U.S. Homeland Security secretary to grant eligibility for work permits in renewable increments of up to 18 months to people whose home countries are deemed unsafe due to natural disasters or civil strife.

READ MORE: Extending, expanding TPS for Venezuelans a positive step, says Doral councilwoman

A political, social and economic crisis over the last decade has pushed millions of Venezuelans into poverty, with teachers, professors and public employees relying on side jobs or money from relatives abroad to make ends meet. At least 7.3 million have left the country, with many risking an often-harrowing route to the United States.

On a background call this week with reporters, an administration official said the resumption of deportations to Venezuela will "show how we are committed to imposing consequences on those who cross the border unlawfully."

More Venezuelans were encountered at the U.S.-Mexico border this month than nationals of any other country except Mexico, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection figures released by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

READ MORE: U.S. will resume deportation flights to Venezuela even as thousands flee that country

Venezuelans were stopped 25,777 times the first 17 days of September, up 63% from the same period a month earlier. Those included some people admitted for scheduled asylum appointments, but the vast majority were illegal entries.

The latest Biden administration announcement on deporting Venezuelans comes just weeks after the Biden administration said it would grant work permits and temporary relief from deportation to an estimated 472,000 Venezuelans who were already in the U.S., following calls from Democrats in New York to help newly arrived migrants work legally.

The Venezuelan migrant issue is of keen interest in South Florida, home to the largest Venezuelan community in the country. Miami−Dade County alone has nearly 118,000 Venezuelans, representing about 19% of all U.S. Venezuelans.

The Associated Press and NPR contributed to this story.

Copyright 2023 WLRN 91.3 FM. To see more, visit WLRN 91.3 FM.

During her time at Florida International University, where she recently graduated from with a Bachelors in Journalism, Sherrilyn Cabrera interned for the South Florida News Service - a digital journalism platform where stories are written, shot and edited by FIU students. As part of her senior project, she reported on the influx of Puerto Ricans who migrated to Florida after Hurricane Maria, and the impact it could have had on the November 2018 midterm elections.