A gutted economy that’s crushing Venezuela’s middle class is reverberating with reported U.S. Citizens and Immigration Services (USCIS) data showing a 150 percent spike in asylum requests in 2016 over the previous year. The record pace The uptick in the trend began in December 2015 with the political and social unrest fueled by a smash in oil prices for the oil-dependent South American country.
“Venezuela first cracked the top 10 asylum-seeking nations following months of sometimes bloody street protests in early 2014 seeking to oust President Nicolas Maduro,” according to an Associated Press report. “But back then, amid the widespread jailing and harassment of opponents of the socialist administration, fewer than 100 Venezuelans per month sought asylum. That compares with 2,334 requests in December 2016, the last month for which data is available.”
An American Thinker report compares Venezuela to Cuba and holds both countries up as examples of failed states resulting in tangible effects on U.S. immigration.
According to the AP’s reported USCIS numbers, 18,155 Venezuelans submitted requests for asylum last year. Faced with triple-digit inflation that has diminished the value of wages and salaries, along with widespread food and medicine shortages, life for many in the country has simply become unbearable.
While the uptick in asylum requests from Venezuelans is “alarming,” says Julio Henriquez. Henriques, director of the Boston-based nonprofit Refugee Freedom Program, most of those making the requests are middle-class nationals who don’t qualify for refugee status.
Despite this, hardships in the country push increasing numbers of Venezuelans to take advantage of a two-plus-year delay in the processing of asylum applications, according to the Associated Press report. These asylum seekers most likely will eventually face deportation.
Venezuelan citizens in the United States on visitor visas are also among those unwilling to face the harsh realities currently in play. The fiscal year 2015 put Venezuela in the top 10 countries with citizens with visa overstays, according to a reported Department of Homeland Security (DHS) estimate.
China was the second-place country in terms of asylum requests with 17,745 citizens making requests last year.