US President Donald Trump said on Tuesday he was looking into the possibility of granting temporary asylum to thousands of Venezuelans who have fled to the United States amid political turmoil in their country.
Trump said the situation in Venezuela was a horrible thing that’s “been brewing for a long time” and his administration was looking at granting Venezuelans temporary protected status “very seriously”.
The move would conflict with Trump’s tough-on-immigration stance. His administration has moved to discontinue the Temporary Protection Status (TPS) for many countries. He has also implemented a “zero-tolerance” policy at the US southern border.
TPS is granted to people from countries ravaged by natural disasters or war and lets them remain in the US until the situation improves back home.
Two congressional panels have already advanced bills granting protections to Venezuelans.
Venezuela, the once-wealthy oil nation, is facing severe shortages of basic goods and hyperinflation.
According to the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), about four million Venezuelans – almost 15 percent of the population – have left the country to escape its economic and political crisis.
Venezuela has plunged into the turmoil amid a fight over President Nicolas Maduro‘s future as the country’s leader.
Maduro started a second term on January 10, following a widely boycotted election last year that many foreign governments refused to recognise.
On January 23, Juan Guaido, leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, invoked the constitution to declare himself interim president.
Shortly after Guaido took an oath swearing himself in, Trump publicly recognised him as the country’s leader. Dozens of other Western countries followed.
Maduro, who maintains the support of China, Russia and Cuba, as well as most of Venezuela’s state institutions including the military, accused Guaido of staging a coup and ordered his arrest.
Maduro’s government says Venezuela’s economic problems are caused by US sanctions that have crippled the OPEC member’s export earnings and blocked it from borrowing from abroad.