Curbelo reintroduces bill extending immigration relief to Venezuelan refugees

U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) reintroduced a bill on Wednesday that would provide immigration relief to Venezuelans who are long-time residents of the United States and can’t return home because of dangerous political turmoil.

The Venezuelan Refugee Assistance Act would enable Venezuelans who arrived in the United States prior to 2013 to apply for permanent legal status if they don’t have a criminal record and have not taken part in the persecution of others. Nationals of Venezuela would have until 2021 to register for adjustment under the bill.

The issue is an important one to communities in south Florida because many Venezuelans reside there.

“For over a decade, thousands of Venezuelans were forced to flee the brutal Chavez dictatorship, and now, the situation has not improved under his hand-picked successor, Nicolas Maduro,” Curbelo said.

“In the last few weeks alone we have seen countless examples of the regime’s thuggish tactics, unethical behavior and lethal force against innocent civilians. Top opposition leaders, like Leopoldo Lopez, remain locked up in Maduro’s prisons while the dictator continues to stop at nothing to try and control all branches of government,” he added.

Curbelo introduced the bill with U.S. Rep. Darren Soto (D-FL), and Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) were original cosponsors. Curbelo first introduced the bill in the 114th Congress.

In recent years thousands of protesters have been arrested and dozens have been killed, Curbelo said.

“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,” he added.