SUNRISE, Fla. - Lawmakers held a roundtable discussion in South Florida Monday to discuss the crisis in Venezuela with local leaders from the Venezuelan community.
"People should not have to flee their country in order to live the life that every human on Earth has the right to expect," U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., said.
It's a humanitarian crisis that shows no signs of slowing down in the oil-rich country of Venezuela.
"We have thousands of Venezuelans that are now part of our economy, they're contributing to our economy," U.S. Rep.-elect Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, D-Fla., said.
Wasserman Schultz and Mucarsel-Powell are pushing the Trump administration to do more to ratchet up the pressure on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, whose government continues to repress the country's economy.
The two held Monday's group discussion in Sunrise and invited several Venezuelan-American advocacy groups to discuss solutions to the ongoing problem.
"This is a wealthy country that is starving its own people," Wasserman Schultz said. "And so far, we've put a few sanctions on a couple government officials, which is just a slap on the wrist."
Some of the ideas discussed include extending temporary protective status to those fleeing Venezuela, as well as increasing the existing sanctions and speeding up the asylum process.
Mucarsel-Powell also expressed some interest in limiting U.S. imports of oil from Venezuela -- a move that could impact gas prices here at home.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has also called for measures to be taken to support displaced Venezuelans.
Rubio, along with Senators Bob Menendez, D-N.J., Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., recently introduced the Venezuela Temporary Protected Status and Asylum Assistance Act of 2018.
According to a news release from Rubio's office, "The bipartisan legislation seeks to grant Temporary Protected Status for eligible Venezuelans fleeing the dire conditions in their homeland and to provide support for migration systems in the countries surrounding Venezuela."
"As Venezuelans continue to face serious threats to their safety and livelihood at the hands of Maduro's narcoterrorist tyranny, it is clear in-country conditions warrant granting temporary protected status to Venezuelan nationals residing in the U.S.," Rubio said in a statement. "Granting this protection will provide a temporary solution to many Venezuelans who fear returning to their homeland due to the ongoing crisis and extraordinarily difficult conditions."
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