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Miami U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia: Aid Venezuelans who fled Hugo Chávez

Cuban-American U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Miami, announced Monday that when the immigration reform debate begins in the House he will present an amendment that would grant permanent residence to tens of thousands of undocumented Venezuelans living in the United States.

“Many of these people have spent a big part of their lives here,” Garcia said at a press conference at his office in west Miami-Dade County. “Many are people who attend schools with our children, who are business partners with us and who live in a very difficult status and we want to give them a forward solution.”

Garcia’s Venezuelan Liberty Act is a response to requests from leaders of the growing Venezuelan community nationwide to provide immigration relief to undocumented Venezuelans, many of whom not only lack immigration papers but also fear they will be persecuted and tortured if they are sent back to their country.

Garcia’s proposal is the first concrete action in the form of a bill that would benefit Venezuelan immigrants who are in the country illegally and do not have a police record. If the proposal were to become law, it would grant green cards to Venezuelans who have arrived in the U.S. from Feb. 2, 1999, when Hugo Chávez took office as president of Venezuela, until now, according to an explanatory sheet from Garcia’s office.