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Florida Democrats Denounce Trump's Treatment Of Venezuelan And Cuban Immigrants

Maria Esquinca
U.S Rep. Donna Shalala and State Sen. José Javier Rodríguez spoke at a press conference at the Miami Freedom Tower on Jan. 23, 2020. ";

Florida Democrats held a press conference condemning President Donald Trump’s treatment of Venezuelan and Cuban immigrants on Thursday at the Freedom Tower. 


The press conference was held hours before President Donald Trump’s visit in Doral to speak at the Republican National Committee.


U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala and State Sen. José Javier Rodríguez, who both represent districts in South Florida, denounced the Trump administration for not granting Temporary Protected Status to Venezuelan immigrants, and for its changes to the asylum process.


Under TPS, immigrants are given a temporary relief from deportation if their countries are experiencing extreme hardship such as armed conflict, environmental disaster, or other extraordinary conditions.The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to grant TPS to Venezuelans, but the bill was blocked in the Senate. 

Credit Maria Esquinca
Frank Mora is a professor of politics and international relations at Florida International University and spoke at the press conference on Jan. 23 2020.

Frank Mora, professor of politics and international relations at Florida International University, said deporting Venezuelans is inhumane. 

“You can’t come to the Venezuelan community, embrace the Venezuelan community, tell them how much you love them, and how much you want to help, and yet you’re deporting their friends and family members. That’s hypocrisy,” Mora said. 

Rodriguez said the Trump administration is interested in deporting at all costs. 


“Frankly, from my vantage point, it’s also a very big change in what it means to be a Republican--because many of these things were not controversial,” he said.


Some of the changes to asylum under the Trump administration include a new rule that requires asylum seekers to claim asylum in any country they cross before claiming asylum in the U.S.; and the Migrant Protection Protocols, which order migrants to wait in Mexico while their asylum cases are being processed. Before, they were allowed to wait in the U.S.


The speakers also criticized the deportation of Cubans. An estimated 20,000 asylum-seeking Cubans have pending deportation cases.

Credit Maria Esquinca
A poster put up by the Florida Democrats at the press conference on Jan. 23 2020.

“We protest president Trump’s hypocrisy, criticizing the governments of Venezuela and Cuba while making unprecedented efforts to deport thousands of Cubans and Venezuelans,” said Shalala.

Trump supporters at the press conference shouted over Shalala and the other speakers, drowning out their remarks:


“Denounce communism and socialism!” 

“The news is scum!”

“Pardon Roger Stone!”


Towards the end of Shalala’s speech, Enrique Tarrio, president of the Proud Boys Miami chapter, which has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, shouted, “why don’t your kids put you in a nursing home?”


Leopoldo Martínez, a former congressman in Venezuela, and a member of the Democratic National Committee, said the hecklers reminded him of intimidation tactics he witnessed in Venezuela.


“They came here to attack the free press, to attack us, to intimidate us and to let us think that the streets belong to them,” Martínez said.

Credit Maria Esquinca
One of the Trump supporters present at the press conference, he declined to be interviewed or give his name to WLRN.

He added that the type of behavior displayed by the Trump supporters is not conducive to civil discourse and democracy. 

“All of that is trying to intimidate, trying to divide, and trying to manipulate public opinion,” Martínez said. “They were here bringing talking points that bear no connection to what we we’re seeking redress.”





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