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Venezuelans And TPS, Rethinking Education Post COVID-19, And A New Ban On Exotic Pets

A protester wears a respirator mask during a demonstration against President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, on May 18. Police used teargas against some demonstrators.
Bloomberg via Getty Images
A protester wears a respirator mask during a demonstration against President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, on May 18. Police used teargas against some demonstrators.

The Biden administration grants Temporary Protected Status to Venezuelans. How to make education better post-COVID-19 closures. And officials have banned numerous reptiles as pets — will it make a difference in the battle against invasive species?

On this Tuesday, March 9th episode of Sundial:

Venezuelans & TPS

The Biden Administration granted Temporary Protected Status Monday for those who escaped Venezuela’s political violence, persecution and a failing economy.

TPS offers legal protection for Venezuelans in the U.S. for 18 months.

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It’s a move that the Trump administration failed to do, even after years of bi-partisan support on the matter. Instead, on his last day in office, Trump protected Venezuelans from deportation through the Deferred Enforced Departure program, which deferred deportation for 18 months.

South Florida is home to the majority of Venezuelan nationals in the U.S.

“This is something that President Biden promised to give Venezuelans during his campaign last year. The only question was whether it would be through congressional action or an executive action. He chose the latter because he's got enough on his legislative plate already and he realizes that the situation in Venezuela is only getting worse and that this is very urgent,” said Tim Padgett, WLRN’s Americas editor.

The administration’s move comes as the world deals with a pandemic that has claimed millions of lives.

“[COVID-19] is, in fact, getting worse by the minute,” said Helena Poleo, a Venezuelan American journalist and political analyst writing for El Nuevo Pais y Zeta. “I personally send items every month to my family members, one of whom is a doctor and does not have any protection gear. I sent him all of the sanitizers, the masks, the little booties for his shoes.”

Venezuelans & TPS

Rethinking Education Post COVID-19

The pandemic has literally brought home some of the unfortunate realities of how children are educated.

Some experts are saying the education system should not go back to its old ways, but rather emerge stronger than what it was before COVID-19.

With the pandemic, many institutions stopped requiring some standardized tests or at least paused using test results for high-stakes decisions like hiring and firing teachers.

“I see it as a positive because being able to take the standardized test has a lot of disparities that are associated with it. Many students don't have the financial opportunities to study,” said Dr. Guerda Nicolas, a professor of psychology at the University of Miami school of education and human development. “It's a multiple choice test. It's not really testing the students' content. It's testing student’s ability to test.”

She added that a student's academic performance is a much better predictor of how they will fare academically in college in comparison to standardized test scores.

Her op-ed in the Miami Herald looks at what the pandemic has taught us about education inequality and how to put those lessons into practice.

“One of the things we also saw for many Black and brown kids is that the number of suspensions decreased. So most of those kids were not being suspended out of the classroom anymore because they weren't physically in this space, which then allows us the opportunity to pay attention to what are some of the social and environmental things that are structural things that are happening within the buildings, within the actual structure of our educational system,” Nicolas said.

This conversation is part of our statewide Class of COVID-19 reporting project.

Rethinking Education Post COVID-19

A New Ban On Exotic Pets

Florida officials voted to ban the sale, ownership and breeding of certain invasive reptiles.

In late February, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission included pythons, tegus, and iguanas and 13 other invasive reptile species in the ban.

“There was one lady who called in and was crying because she said ‘These are my babies. They help me get through the night when it’s tough. Don’t take this away from me,’” said environmental reporter and author Craig Pittman. “It’s an emotional issue as well as an economic issue for these folks.”

It’s a big industry here in Florida. Pushback on the business side of things also came from people in Oregon, Maine and other parts of the world.

“This is one issue that the livelihood is trumped by the damage that these invasive animals are causing to the native animals,” said Rodney Barreto, chairman of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. “We’re spending billions of dollars re-plumbing the Everglades and, once we finish re-plumbing, if there's no native animals left then we’ve failed. I think we have to make an effort.”

A New Ban On Exotic Pets
Reptiles like leopard geckos can bring <em>Salmonella</em> along with them.

Leslie Ovalle Atkinson is the former lead producer behind Sundial. As a multimedia producer, she also worked on visual and digital storytelling.
Suria is Sundial's fall 2020 high school intern and a production assistant.