Original Story by Jenny Anchondo, Fox 4 DFW reporter
Adapted for the web by Sarah Crandall
Venezuela is dealing with the worst civil unrest in a decade, and at least 20 people have died in protests against the country’s president.
As that struggle rages on, an effort is being made in North Texas to get protected status for Venezuelans living in the U.S.
“There is no safety,” said Itha Rowland. “There is nothing to do. You go to the street to protest and you don’t know if you’re going to make it back, so you have to say bye.”
Rowland came to the U.S. from Venezuela 15 years ago, just as living conditions were getting bad.
She still has family there, in the midst of the chaos, and is in support of a proposal involving temporary protected status for Venezuelans.
The proposal was introduced Monday by immigration attorney Margaret Donnelly and U.S. Congressman Marc Veasey (D).
“It would provide people just a temporary visa to remain here and not have to go back to Venezuela,” said Veasey.
Donnelly says while asylum is available to Venezuelans, it is complicated.
“It is very costly, time consuming,” said Donnelly. “You don’t have the information; you don’t have access to the information, especially if a government like Maduros has control over everything.”
She says there are an estimated 20,000 Venezuelans in Texas right now who could benefit from this.
Temporary protected status is done on two year terms, and participants would be allowed to work in the U.S.
Typically, Congress states that a person must have arrived by a certain date to be eligible to apply.
While actual immigration reform is time intensive, offering protected status can be done quickly.
“It’s either lend a hand to the Venezuelan community that is in stress, or not,” said Donnelly.
But Congress still has to make the decision.
“I would imagine when we get back, that this is going to be one of the first things we talk about,” said Veasey.
They go back into session Tuesday, but he can’t say exactly how long it would take.
Rowland says she can’t imagine anyone having to go back there.
“I wouldn’t dare now,” said Rowland. “No way. It’s just a sad dream.”