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In a heartbreaking new piece, NBC’s Gwen Aviles, tells the story of Leila Calderón, spotlighting the desperate need for protections for Venezuelans living in the U.S. Lelia came to the U.S. after she became a target of the Venezuelan government for protesting the wrongful detainment of her nephew who was accused without proof of plotting to overthrow the Venezuelan government.
Leila is one of many who are in similar situations, and conditions continue to worsen with serious food shortages, skyrocketing inflation and unlivable conditions. Congress must act quickly in grant Temporary Protected Status for Venezuelans who have come to the U.S. fleeing crisis in their home country.
Read Aviles’ article here.
After Leila Calderón’s nephew was accused of plotting to overthrow Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and subsequently arrested, she took to the streets to protest.
“Innocent people like my nephew become the real victims of this regime and I wanted to do something about it,” she said.
It wasn’t long, however, until she became a target herself.
“They singled me out; they said that I was paying to be there and that I was paying to show up,” said Calderón.
In July 2016, she fled her home country for the United States with her husband and her nine-year-old son.
Calderón was one of several Venezuelans who joined lawmakers and advocates in a teleconference to ask the Trump administration to give Temporary Protected Status or TPS to Venezuelans like her. TPS is a form of humanitarian relief enacted through the Immigration Act of 1990, which gives immigrants from certain countries that have gone through war or natural disasters short-term legal standing to live and work in the U.S.
For the past few years, Venezuelans have been escaping political chaos, hyperinflation and shortages in food and medicine. More than 4 million Venezuelans have fled their country, according to the United Nations — the largest exodus in the recent history of Latin America and the Caribbean.
Senate Republicans blocked a vote last month on whether to grant TPS to Venezuelans in the U.S. who face political and economic turmoil at home.
In response, a group of lawmakers and advocates are urging Congress to act on Venezuela and provide its fleeing citizens with relief from immediately returning to the dangerous conditions.
“We need to put tremendous pressure on the Senate and have some kind of a vote,” Rep. Donna Shalala, D-Fla., said. “Something has to happen before the end of this year.”
Shalala described visiting hospitals in Venezuela and seeing women with high-risk pregnancies who had no access to prenatal care or proper nutrition.
…Calderón now lives with her son in New Jersey; her husband passed away in 2017. Her nephew remains in jail and her sister was arrested at one point for her connection to her son, though she’s since been released.
“We are advocating for liberation,” Calderón said. “I’m so afraid of going back. We will face death.”