Venezuelans have to learn from scratch how to live in the USA
María Trina Burgos
How are Venezuelans who emigrate to the USA?
I have worked in migration affairs for 14 years, and I can say that I have noticed a decay in their profile. I don’t mean immigrations was good before and bad now. According to previous studies, Venezuelan immigrants used to be educated and highly qualified professionals, but nowadays many of those immigrants are smart alecks.
Unfortunately, there is decay. In the first moment of the immigration process, those people seemed to be relaxed, warm and friendly. That kind of people that take you home, and is very helpful. Otherwise, there is a group of Venezuelans that don’t follow basic traffic rules or regulations of a good citizen, from placing shopping carts back in the supermarket, making stops, not parking in unauthorized places to even say “good morning.”
It’s a terrible mistake to come to this country to do whatever you want because you are a Venezuelan.
Also, there are cases of frauds. People trust in friends or relatives and listen to their advice about businesses. They invest money with the promise of high profits that never come. This is not about a political hue.
Many people actually seek political asylum, but others just take advantage.
Political asylum is a mechanism that grants refuge to people persecuted for their race, religion, nationality or being part of a political or social group.
So Venezuelans prepare their case but lying. People who need asylum leave their country overnight, hidden, in the trunk of a car, on foot, running for a border because they are being persecuted and fear for themselves.
That’s the reality of asylum. It is not nice, with preparation time or custom-made for you. Now, State Department has a rush of cases and they are going to check as always each one to decide if they are legit or not.
What do Venezuelans have to learn from this process?
Proposing educational campaigns is important. I would like to work on that. I do not think I’m better than anyone, but these are major issues.
Venezuelans’ old habits are dying in Miami, for example, you say good morning and nobody answers. Why not greet, smile, or give way to others?
We need to rescue those good manners and the most basic rules of citizenship to function in society.
I think we are going backward. It’s time to learn from scratch how to live in the USA and educate our fellows. We have to overcome this new bad reputation that is harmful to our immigrant society.
¿Será que el venezolano piensa que Miami es una ampliación de Venezuela y no se da cuenta que esto es otro país?
That is right. Since you don’t need to learn English because everybody speaks Spanish, Venezuelans believe that they moved to a safer and cleaner neighborhood. But they are wrong; this is another country with different language and culture.
Venezuelans are arrogant as members of an oil-producing country. Cubans get here empty-handed, on boats, without luggage, but most of us came on a plane with several bags.
The oil culture makes Venezuelans buy the biggest house or the most expensive car. They expend all their money even before addressing their immigration status, and that’s a problem.
Do you think Venezuelans live to keep up appearances?
Unfortunately, it is so. Another negative aspect is that Venezuelans don’t help each other. We don’t offer help in this hard situation, and that’s very sad.
Cubans otherwise help each other. I think we, as a society, have learned to help those that are still in Venezuela.
Many Venezuelans arrive without money. You can find 5 or 6 families living all in one house and others that sleep in cars. Some organizations help Venezuelans get a job and have a place to sleep. This is an activity that we should support to help Venezuelans that come without a cent.
We have to learn to support each other without expecting anything in return.
So, do we have to overcome individualism and develop a collective culture?
We have the advantage of living in Miami, a warm city. Here, you don’t see the typical American with few friends, distant from neighbors. We as Latinos are emotionally closer. Our tropical culture is an advantage, and although Americans are different, they like our character and have learned to join us.
We have to practice the most basic rules of coexistence, being respectful, parking correctly, keeping off the grass, make a correct disposal of the cigarette butts, not on the floor, throughout the window or on the neighbor’s roof. But I think that we are going to learn. This is maybe a generational gap. Kids will learn faster than their parents how to be a good citizen because they are going to be part of the American Educational System.
What are the legal mechanisms that apply to Venezuelans in the USA?
When Venezuelans began to immigrate in 1999, most of them were professionals, so they came with H Visa – work visa- or with a job offer. We, as professionals, are high-value in this country.
The flood of asylum requests began in 2014, after the presidential elections, the problems between Maduro and Capriles, and the attack to students in San Diego. Since then, cases have increased significantly.
Nowadays, only Venezuelans ask for asylum.
But why? Because you can get an L Visa if you have a business in Venezuela, but we know that most companies are in the doldrums. E Visa is for other nationalities, Europeans, Colombians, Hondurans but not Venezuelans. Also, you need 100000$ as investments, and Venezuelans don’t have that money.
At this moment, asylum is the only one mechanism they have. The situation in Venezuela is getting worse. There is no medicines, food or security. However, those are not reasons for asylum, but political persecution.
Each asylum case is particular. Each one is a persecuted family or individual, and it needs to be demonstrated. Asylum is a Band-Aid that a lot of people use after being a long time as illegal in the USA. It doesn’t make sense because immigration officer will ask “Why are you requesting asylum if you haven’t visited Venezuela in years?” The case will be rejected.
In most cases, Venezuelans bet on asylum to make time. You get permission to work for two years, driver license, and money to live until asylum is rejected. Then, you are deported and can’t come back for five years.
Others are waiting for a law or resolution from the US Government that benefits Venezuelans like some years ago with Cubans. I don’t think this will happen.
Is Venezuelan immigration different now with Trump than during Obama administration?
Democrats are pro immigration. Instead, Republicans are defenders of America’s interests and law abiding. A person that gets a Visa and exceeds the time of residence is breaking the law.
Five years ago, there were about 12 million of illegal immigrants in the USA. It means that now there are more than 20 million. Trump promises to clean up. If so, he should deport criminals and people that don’t play by the rules but give a chance to the honest people that want to work, pay taxes, have American children that attend to college and help in the construction of this country.
Obama administration was discreet when it comes to immigration. A woman with American children would never be deported. But now, every illegal is deported. These are tough times.
Trump has addressed Venezuela’s situation. We have allies in the Senate: Marco Rubio, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Díaz-Balart. But no one takes decisive actions against Venezuelan Government.
The sanctions against the TSJ officials, all of their assets frozen and Visas banned, were a good start. If those people are related to drug trafficking, things could go like with Noriega in Panama.
Migratory matters are difficult. People are nervous, because they don’t want to leave. Others have left the country because they don’t want to be deported.
What do you think about the public shaming here in the United States?
Your rights end where others rights begin. You can stay in front of those people house with posters, but you can’t set foot on the property because they could call the police.
In the supermarket, if you see those people and insult them, police could step. And do not even think about touching them. Those exchange of words could end in a fight with police intervening.
You have the right to protest in the street, but you can’t defame or injure because that would open you up to lawsuits.
I think we reap what we sow. I don’t believe they deserve it, but I don’t feel bad when it happens.
Is it hard on Venezuelans, who lost everything, find another one that is here with stolen money.
Yes, that’s the point.
It is important to learn from this process and from reality that we can’t change. I mean we can’t still export bad habits, but good ones.
At my office, I have a tissue box because people cry here and I cry with them. They are sad for leaving their country to start over. You do everything you can just to survive, and here you have more opportunities than in our country. However, you need to be patient and understand that is not easy to emigrate with wife and kids because living in Venezuela was pleasant despite all.
So, do you have to be a lawyer and a counselor?
Yes, it usually happens. Many family problems come out during the conversation about their immigration status.
I do not want to practice psychology or counseling without a license, haha. But I know that many people are lost. I try to explain to them what to do and to be careful of giving money and do business without knowing.
What can we do with those Venezuelans that think they are lawyers and give wrong advice about immigration status? In a party, after the second drink, everyone is a lawyer.
I always recommend consulting one or more lawyers. It is better to spend some money than believe in tall tales.
Analyze everything because a mistake in the immigration status can be very harmful.