Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Venezuelan Immigrants in Colombia: Permanent or Temporary?

David Smilde has a rundown on recent Venezuela political news, including how Juan Manuel Santos gave Special Permission status to 442,000 Venezuelans, allowing them access to social services and the ability to work. Questions about it are so similar to the United States.

EP status provides beneficiaries with access to Colombian social services and allows them to legally work and freely circulate in the national territory. Activists applaud this measure but point out that it is less than optimal. First, the ambiguity of the census meant that many Venezuelan migrants were fearful and did not participate. Second, the PEP status is temporary and does not include any road to citizenship. Finally, as a presidential decree it can easily be undone by Santos’ successor. What is needed instead is actual legislation that regularizes the situation of Venezuelan migrants now and in the future.
Colombia needs a discussion right now of how it wants to handle Venezuelans. This is exactly like the Temporary Protected Status question in the U.S. The president alone decides, and what started as "temporary" was renewed so many times that people had deep roots here. The measure is generous but too much ambiguity will cause pain in the future. Does it end with the end of the current government? With some measurable improvement in Venezuela? Never?

With regard to making it more permanent with a law, it's hard to imagine the current congressional composition passing something very liberal, but clearly Santos was in no position to get something passed before the election. I have not seen whether Iván Duque has indicated his precise position on migrants within Colombia, though he has said he wants to tighten border security.

In general, this is a time of high uncertainty. Venezuela cannot support its own citizens, Colombia struggles to support its own challenges plus migrants, the international community is slow to respond, and the political landscape in Colombia has shifted.


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