WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, moved on the Senate Floor to immediately pass legislation designating Venezuela for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). For the fifth time in the last 18 months, Senate Republicans blocked the Venezuela TPS Act of 2019, refusing to affirm the U.S. government’s support for Venezuelans and allowing the Trump administration to continue forcefully deporting them back to the Maduro regime.
The legislation, which was overwhelmingly approved by the House of Representatives last year, would extend temporary protections to approximately 200,000 eligible Venezuelans who currently reside in the United States and are living in fear of being detained and sent back to Venezuela.
“Nicolás Maduro is a dictator—plain and simple. His regime is a cruel criminal cabal that has destroyed Venezuela. Some 200,000 Venezuelans currently live in the United States without legal status. They are unable to safely return to their homeland and would benefit from Temporary Protected Status. I believe we have to do the right thing, we must uphold American values and offer them protection.” Senator Menendez said.
Earlier this month, the United Nations published a report that determined Maduro’s use of extrajudicial killings and torture amount to crimes against humanity. This only underscores further the need to provide protections to the victims of the Maduro regime by granting Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Venezuelans fleeing the political, economic, and humanitarian crisis in their home country. After being blocked, Menendez vowed to keep returning to the Senate Floor until Senate Republicans were shamed into protecting Venezuelans from the Trump Administration’s deportation forces.
Below are the Senator’s full remarks as delivered:
“Mr. President, I want to be clear that my opposition to moving this resolution by UC today is not, by any means, because I disagree with the assessment of China’s abhorrent human rights record — or the importance of the Olympics living up to the highest standards in upholding human dignity. The Olympic charter states that the goal of Olympism is to promote ‘a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.’ Beijing has not – by a long shot - earned the honor of hosting the 2022 Games.
My record is crystal clear when it comes to calling out and condemning China’s horrific record on human rights and the threats it poses to the United States and the rest of the international community.
As my colleagues know, during my years in Congress I have introduced, advocated for, and helped pass legislation on behalf of the people of Xinjiang, Tibet, Chinese civil society dissidents, a democratic and autonomous Hong Kong, supporting democracy across the Indo Pacific region. Just recently I introduced a comprehensive bill to strengthen the United States across various sectors to best confront and counter China’s efforts. I also recently released a report about the necessity of standing up against China’s dangerous new digital authoritarianism.
There is no question that under Xi Jinping, China has taken a ‘great leap backwards’ on human rights, establishing concentration camps in Xinjiang, instituting a surveillance state that not even George Orwell could have imagined, and crushing any thought and ideas that deviate from the dictates of the Party. China’s rise bringing hundreds of millions out of poverty during the last century is something that the Chinese people can be justly proud of; but Xi Jinping’s dystopian totalitarian vision currently crushing the Chinese people is one of this centuries great tragedies.
So I am very sympathetic to the goals of this resolution and the sponsors of this legislation.
However, I believe these issues merit serious discussion and drafting of the appropriate language before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. I have been urging Chairman Risch to hold a legislative mark-up for months to discuss the many pressing pieces of legislation members on both sides of the aisle have had pending for many months.
So I would in response to the Gentleman’s request, say there is a human rights crisis much closer to home that we have discussed before the committee. We have an opportunity to address people suffering from a dictatorship who are right here in the United States, many of whom live in Senator Scott’s state of Florida.
For the second time in two weeks, I would like to call upon this body to take up legislation that the House has passed that would designate Venezuela for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). I am asking Republicans to remember that there was a time before President Trump when our nation stood in solidarity with the victims of dictatorship.
Nicolás Maduro is a dictator—plain and simple. His regime is a cruel criminal cabal that has destroyed Venezuela.
Some 200,000 Venezuelans currently live in the United States without legal status. They are unable to safely return to their homeland and would benefit from Temporary Protected Status. I believe we have to do the right thing, we must uphold American values and offer them protection.
So Mr. President as if in legislative session I ask unanimous consent that the Judiciary Committee be discharged from further consideration of HR 549 and the Senate proceed to its immediate consideration. Further, that the bill be considered read a third time and passed and the motion to consider be considered made and laid upon the table with no intervening action or debate.”