The White House Was Not Against the Menendez Bill

The Venezuelans left in limbo by new US immigration plan

By David Ingram

21 June 2013

The Obama administration’s announcement today that only Venezuelans who have a family connection to that country will be accepted for refuge has created a new refugee crisis for the Latin American country.

On Wednesday the Administration announced that Venezuelans who are citizens of one party will not be considered refugees, while those who hold other documents will be accepted. The announcement followed a two-week long debate about the policy on Capitol Hill, and after it was rejected by the administration last month in a House vote, the Senate, in a vote last week, took up the cause.

The bill was sponsored by Senator Robert Menendez from New Jersey and was supported by the Hispanic Caucus. It was blocked by Senate Republicans. House Republicans rejected it in August.

The issue has come up twice during this Congress, first in June when the House rejected the Menendez-sponsored bill because it contained too many loopholes, and again just yesterday when a similar bill, which has not been altered, was rejected in the Senate by a vote of 60 – 39 in favor. Among the provisions which would have been added was a requirement that Venezuelans show their ties to the US by providing some proof of residency or family ties of any kind.

But the legislation was not the only reason for the refusal of the Venezuelan lawmakers. According to the Washington Post, the White House saw no chance that a legislative action would have been successful against the Menendez-sponsored bill in the Senate, and was apparently concerned that the Senate could vote in support of it. When the bill was initially introduced, there were reports of “concerns about the administration’s view of the Menendez bill and what that might mean for Venezuelans who are trying to enter the United States.”

Menendez’s spokesperson acknowledged that the “bill did have a number of loopholes” but said that the senator was not against allowing refugees, but only “a limited number” of Venezuelans.

“Under the Menendez bill, those who qualified would be able to enter the country and work with the government to develop an economic plan that would help them reintegrate into their home country,” the spokesperson said.

The decision of Congress to refuse to accept immigrants and refugees has become increasingly common in the ongoing struggle over the “sequester,” the across-the-board tax hikes and spending

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