July 11, 2020

Venezuelans in the US: caught between two crises

They fled the crisis that has expelled millions of Venezuela and crashed into another, migratory, in the US, where the hope of an asylum has been transformed into days and even long months of detention.

They are Venezuelans who crossed from Mexico to US territory with hundreds of kilometers in tow, many even having failed in their attempt to settle elsewhere.


"I have been fleeing from my country because of fear of death and because in the other countries where I was there I did not have the opportunity to request asylum. No, they refused me, they closed my doors and there they attacked me for xenophobia, for my nationality: ' Damn Venezuelan, out of my country, they hinder and insult me, "Manuel Alejandro Valero, a 28-year-old nurse, tells Efe.

Manuel Alejandro is being held in the US since last April 27, when it was handed over to the authorities in McAllen (Texas).

He answers by telephone to Efe from the Winn Correctional Center penitentiary in Louisiana, with the mediation of his sister Eliana.

His odyssey began on September 14, 2017, when he left his native Merida for Peru, where he had to leave for Argentina when he did not find opportunities and for fear of being assaulted for racism.

He decided to leave Venezuela overwhelmed by the threats he began to receive after he joined the anti-government protests in 2017, which motivated his dismissal – for conspiring against the homeland – of a public hospital and in which he was wounded by pelting.

From Argentina he traveled to Mexico, where his passport and other belongings were stolen when he left Reynosa airport, the city where he waited 22 days at an immigrant shelter before crossing into McAllen.

He finally crossed the Rio Grande next to a friend, who is being held by him, a cousin and his six-year-old daughter. They were also arrested but released shortly.

Manuel Alejandro spent eleven days in the "cooler", as the migrants call the Border Patrol cells because of the low temperatures, before being transferred to a center in Tennessee and from there to Louisiana.

His sister defends that he is not a criminal: "Nobody wants a family member of his to be imprisoned for so long, that is, without committing any crime and more he who was not a criminal," laments Eliana, 31, who has been two years and medium in the US with her husband and two daughters.


Francisco Valverde's parents were detained for nine months after arriving in the US, where they have managed to stay after receiving what is called a supervised permit, with which they have to appear before the authorities from time to time.

They were about to be deported after they were not granted asylum: "They were not deported because they said 'there are no deportations to Venezuela, there are no commercial flights, they cannot deport them," this Venezuelan resident in Alabama tells Efe by phone.

His parents, both 55, arrived with Francisco's wife and three minor children. His wife and two of the children were released immediately upon crossing the border but the oldest daughter of 10 years, the result of an earlier marriage of Francisco, was in a shelter for children for a month before reuniting with the family.

After finalizing his arrest, Francisco's parents, who were entrepreneurs in Venezuela, are "quite affected" psychologically: "It has been difficult, they almost don't speak, they are quite affected."


The Venezuelan Tibisay Salazar continues from the Dominican Republic, her home for more than a year, the situation of her brother, Gary, arrested after crossing into the US, a country where he has no relatives.

Gary requested asylum at his first stop in the US, Laredo (Texas), where he was arrested. He was then transferred to a detention center in Georgia and later to Mississippi. Your request has been denied.

"They simply came out of a crisis, a situation, seeking improvements, and it turns out that they arrive and encounter this situation. They are the same (as in Venezuela), there is a violation of human rights," says Tibisay, born in Maracaibo, who warns that this situation has "supermal" to his mother.


Currently, there may be in the US between 90 and 100 cases of Venezuelans who are detained awaiting a response to their asylum application, according to data offered to Efe Gustavo Marcano, minister counselor at the Venezuelan embassy in the United States.

"It is not that they are stopping Venezuelans everywhere," says Marcano, who says that these people, not having a visa, must wait in the custody of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service (ICE, English) to their process of asylum.

Damarys Rangel, a lawyer in Venezuela, offers support to these families and has collected data from cases such as that of a young man who has been detained for 14 months, "mothers with young children, older people, people who have a cancer pathology."

Rangel points out that "there are many young people" who suffer "a lot of depression", of "a lot of hopelessness".

Laura Barros

. (tagsToTranslate) Venezuelans (t) USA (t) caught (t) crisis

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