WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is considering a humanitarian parole program for Venezuelans who have fled political instability and poverty in droves, according to administration officials familiar with the proposed plan, which the administration hopes will discourage Venezuelans from illegally crossing the southwestern border.
If implemented, the program for Venezuelans would be similar to that of a Humanitarian program for Ukrainianswhich allows a family member or sponsor in the United States to apply on behalf of the refugee and the obligation to provide them with financial assistance while they are in the country.
While the Ukrainian program received bipartisan support, the Republicans were less welcoming of the Venezuelans, with more than 150,000 of them arrested on the US southwestern border from October 2021 through the end of August.
The humanitarian parole program will not apply to Venezuelans already in the country, but the hope is that it will encourage immigrants to seek refuge in the United States without traveling north on foot, rather than crossing the border illegally. Venezuelans in their home country or who have crossed into a neighboring country legally will be eligible for the program. Official ports of entry have been closed to immigrants since the start of the pandemic, effectively forcing those intending to reach the United States to take a more dangerous route to cross illegally.
Administration officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a plan that has not yet been finalized.
Since Washington and Caracas have no formal diplomatic relations, the United States has been unable to return most Venezuelans who enter the country and surrender to border officials. Instead, the administration has given most permission to remain in the country temporarily and face deportation proceedings in immigration court.
In a significant departure from this process, under the new plan, the administration will deport many Venezuelans who do not have a sponsor or cross illegally. They will be expelled to Mexico under the public health authority – known as Title 42 – that was put in place at the start of the pandemic. This is only possible because Mexico recently agreed to take in Venezuelans who were expelled from the United States under Title 42, according to officials.
It wasn’t immediately clear what the full scope of the humanitarian parole program would look like and why the administration is considering it now. Immigration advocates have long called for a more streamlined process that would allow vulnerable immigrants to enter the country without resorting to breaking US law. But they are vehemently opposed to the continued use of public health power, which a federal court prevented the Biden administration from lifting earlier this year.
During the Obama and Trump administrations, Mexican and Central American families made up most of those who crossed the border to seek protection in the United States. But the Biden administration has been scrambling to find ways to deter more populations who have historically not overrun in record numbers, including Venezuelans. Throughout Biden’s tenure, senior White House officials have been concerned about criticism from both Republicans and Democrats that the administration lacks an organized way to process and turn away immigrants who do not qualify for asylum.
in the past months, Thousands of Venezuelans make the dangerous journey through the Darien Gap Between South and Central America to reach the United States. Most of those allowed to stay temporarily will eventually face deportation procedures that will likely take years. The UN Estimates More than 6.8 million Venezuelans have fled their country.
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Venezuelans still accounted for only about 7 percent of all crossings in the southwest between last October and the end of August, according to the latest government data.
“Venezuelans are only one group. You also see Cubans and Nicaraguans arriving in droves,” said Chris Ramon, an immigration consultant who has written for the Immigration Policy Institute and the George W. Bush Institute. “This policy is not going to deal with these groups that are reaching the border now.”
A plan under consideration by the White House as recently as last week included offering the same humanitarian parole to Cubans, Haitians and Nicaragua, according to officials familiar with the discussions. It was not immediately clear why these nationalities were ultimately excluded. People from Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela made up about a quarter of the total number of migrants crossing the southwestern border between last October and the end of August, according to the latest available government data.
Biden said last month“What I see now is Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, and being able to send them back to those countries is not rational.”
The United States has not repatriated most immigrants from Cuba and Nicaragua due to the ongoing political instability in those countries, and will likely continue to release them provisionally until they face an immigration court hearing where they can attempt to argue that they should not be deported.
The White House has long been wary of making any changes to its border policy that could encourage more immigrants to cross illegally.
Calls to protect Venezuelan immigrants escalated after Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican from Florida, A group of mostly Venezuelan immigrants flew who entered the country illegally to Martha’s Vineyard, an upscale island off the coast of Massachusetts, last month.
The new program could benefit Florida, “where tourism, construction and rebuilding from natural disasters depend entirely on immigrants and refugees,” said Rebecca Shea, executive director of the business advocacy group, the American Business Immigration Alliance.