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Top Democrats, including 2020 contenders, urge Trump to back protections for Venezuelans

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Washington — Top Democratic senators, including 2020 presidential candidates, are urging President Trump to support bipartisan legislation to grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to certain Venezuelans living in the U.S.. 

"Granting TPS to Venezuela is a concrete measure your Administration can immediately take to alleviate the suffering of innocent Venezuelan civilians and to demonstrate our nation's commitment to supporting a safe democratic transition in Venezuela so that individuals can safely return home soon," a group of 24 senators, including presidential hopefuls Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar and Cory Booker, wrote in a letter addressed to the president Thursday afternoon. 

Other lawmakers who signed the letter included Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, Minority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois and Marco Rubio of Florida, the sole Republican in the group.  

If enacted, the legislation, which has been introduced in both the House and the Senate, would allow Venezuelans living in the U.S. who have fled the country's repressive government and collapsing economy to qualify for TPS protections and work permits. Although the Trump administration has sought to terminate TPS programs for immigrants from several countries in Latin America and Africa, some lawmakers are hoping the White House will support the bipartisan proposal for Venezuelans because of its tough stance against the government of President Nicolás Maduro. 

Departing from his more isolationist foreign policy approach, Mr. Trump has employed aggressive rhetoric to denounce Maduro's government, and his administration has undertaken concerted efforts to isolate the increasingly authoritarian leftist leader. Along with being the first nation to recognize National Assembly President Juan Guaidó as Venezuela's interim president, the U.S. has pledged $20 million in humanitarian aid to the Venezuelan people. The administration has also imposed sweeping sanctions against Venezuelan government officials and the country's state-owned oil company. 

But it's unclear whether the president will support granting TPS designation to Venezuela since he has been adamant about ending programs for other countries. Extending legal status to a new group of immigrants will likely anger immigration hardliners in his base. 

The State Department, which has largely taken the lead on the U.S. strategy towards Venezuela, did not respond to CBS News' inquiry on whether the administration supports the legislation. 

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