Trump grants protection to Venezuelan illegal aliens

Here’s another apparent reversal of policy from Donald Trump as he prepares to leave office, at least on the surface. Despite four years of cracking down on illegal immigration and fortifying our border security, President Trump issued an eleventh-hour order of protection for illegal aliens from Venezuela currently residing in the United States. The Deferred Enforced Departure order grants an 18 month reprieve from deportation proceedings and even allows the specified illegal aliens to be granted work permits. This effectively puts them in the same protected class as DACA recipients. The justification for this move is cited as the current, dangerously unstable situation in Venezuela under dictator Nicolas Maduro. (Wall Street Journal, subscription required)

As one of his final acts in office, President Trump has authorized a program to give work permits and deportation protections to Venezuelan immigrants in the U.S. without legal permission, an action President-elect Joe Biden had promised to take during the 2020 campaign.

The designation formally known as Deferred Enforced Departure offers legal protections to any Venezuelan national present in the U.S. as of Jan. 20, 2021, for 18 months. That is likely to benefit at least 94,000 Venezuelans in the country without authorization as of 2018, according to the Migration Policy Institute, though analysts believe the current number is likely higher.

Mr. Trump’s move is seen as a form of pressure the U.S. government can use against Nicolás Maduro, the Venezuelan authoritarian leader whom the Trump administration has targeted with sanctions, a limited travel ban and other measures. In Jan. 2019, the U.S. officially recognized the country’s opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, as Venezuela’s interim president.

While annoying in terms of sending mixed messages about illegal immigration and border security, the net impact of this decision is probably pretty much nothing. Joe Biden had already indicated that he planned to do the same thing after taking office, largely in a bid to shore up support among the rapidly growing Venezuelan-American community, particularly in Florida. Of course, even that would wind up being a redundant move if Biden gets his wish and just gives a blanket amnesty to every illegal alien in the country anyway.

On the one hand, there’s obviously a case to be made in favor of some forgiveness of illegal aliens fleeing for their lives from life in Maduro’s Venezuela. Millions of people have already left the country. Those who remain face critical shortages of food and swelling waves of many diseases aside from just the novel coronavirus. Medical supplies are always scarce, even at hospitals. And on top of all that, people are in constant fear of being ratted out by their neighbors and accused of supporting the resistance movement led by Juan Guaido. Simply being suspected of holding such opinions can land you in one of Maduro’s dungeons where conditions would be even worse than they are out on the streets.

But as harsh as it may sound, if we accept that as a basis for skirting our nation’s immigration laws, then what do we say to the people of Honduras, Syria, or the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia? Conditions in those countries aren’t much better. Our immigration courts handling asylum requests are already facing massive backlogs. If we’re going to use this as an excuse to allow people to enter the country illegally we may as well just throw up our hands, open the borders and say that the law doesn’t matter anymore.

Yes, yes… I know what you’re thinking. That’s precisely what Joe Biden is planning on doing anyway. But that’s no reason to give up on fighting for what’s right.