By Jordan Fabian and Ellen M. Gilmer, Bloomberg
The Biden administration is implementing a humanitarian parole program for Venezuelans fleeing their country, with the aim of curbing the number seeking to cross into the US illegally at the southern border.
The program, announced on Wednesday, would create a new legal pathway for some Venezuelans, while also sending those who try to enter the US illegally to Mexico.
The effort will include new checkpoints, additional resources and personnel on the border, and stepped-up efforts to target human smuggling groups, moves the administration said would provide an “orderly and safe” process. The program would accept as many as 24,000 Venezuelans.
“Those who attempt to cross the southern border of the United States illegally will be returned to Mexico and will be ineligible for this process in the future,” Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement. “Those who follow the lawful process will have the opportunity to travel safely to the United States and become eligible to work here.”
The expulsions will be carried out under Title 42, the pandemic-era restrictions that have been vehemently opposed by immigrant-rights advocates.
A senior administration official on Wednesday said they hoped the program would provide a safe pathway to the US and deter unlawful crossings.
Once in the US, Venezuelans who entered through the program will be able to apply for work authorizations. US Citizenship and Immigration Services expects to process those authorizations within weeks of an individual’s arrival.
The program is similar to an initiative offered to Ukrainians that allows them to apply to enter the US and stay temporarily. In the spring, thousands of Ukrainians arrived at the US-Mexico border after the Russia invasion and the program was established to allow them to enter in an orderly manner — as well as to limit illegal entry. Ukrainians seeking humanitarian admission must have a supporter in the US who can provide them with financial support.
Large numbers of Venezuelans, along with Cubans and Nicaraguans, have fled political instability, violence and poverty in their countries in the last year as crossings by Mexicans and Central Americans have fallen. US authorities have encountered more than 15,000 Venezuelans at the border on average per month in the last year, up from 127 a month in the five years before the coronavirus pandemic.
Republicans, however, have been less welcoming to those migrants than toward Ukrainians who have fled the war. Venezuelan migrants were among those flown from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, in a gesture designed to mock President Joe Biden’s immigration policies.
The White House has been sensitive to criticism that it has not managed the border in an orderly way, as GOP candidates use record-high border crossings as a cudgel against Democrats in the midterm election campaign.
To be eligible for the program, Venezuelans must have someone in the US who can provide financial and other support, pass biometric and public safety screenings and complete vaccinations and other health requirements.
Venezuelans already in the US would not be eligible for the humanitarian parole program. They would have to apply in their home country or in the region.