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Congresswoman-Elect Donna Shalala Wants Protected Status For Venezuelans And Nicaraguans

Donna Shalala won the Democratic nomination for Florida's 27th U.S. congressional district.

Last month, Democrat Donna Shalala won a long-held Republican congressional seat after advocating strongly for laws that protect immigrants from Venezuela and Nicaragua who are living in the United States.

Shalala would like to extend Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, for immigrants from Nicaragua and Venezuela. Under the immigration status, which is granted due to conflict, natural disaster or other extraordinary conditions, those with TPS can temporarily live and work legally in the United States and be protected from deportation.

The Trump administration announced late last year the end of TPS for Nicaragua, which had been in place since 1999. The decision is currently being challenged in court. 

Shalala joined Sundial to talk about her priorities as she enters Congress, and specifically on immigration.

WLRN: How do you deal with the issue of aid to [Central American] countries when you don't even have confidence in the leadership of those countries?

SHALALA: One of the things I said in the campaign is that I would extend TPS. to Nicaraguans and to Venezuelans, in particular. I've actually approached the chairman of the judiciary committee to start a conversation and see how much interest there is and see how much I can push them to take a hard look. It's hard to do but one of the reasons those governments got so screwed up was that we weren't making those kinds of investments. Humanitarian aid is critical and finding people who believe in the rule of law in some of these countries and simultaneously investing in their economies is something that we have to do or we're not going to be able to handle the border crisis.

How do you approach the [immigration] issue?

This is going to require Congress paying attention to this issue. Obviously there's an executive order here and those of us from South Florida are very focused on the extension of TPS for all of the groups that are involved, and new extensions for Venezuelans and Nicaraguans in particular.

We're going to have to push the senate and the president to recognize that it makes no sense not to extend TPS to these groups. They're behaving as good citizens in our country. They're working every day. They're taking care of their families. They're contributing to our economy. But that leads you to the broader discussion of immigration. We've got to find a compromise where there's a pathway to citizenship.

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