The Biden Administration will resume flights deporting migrants who enter the US illegally back to Venezuela, after officials in Caracas agreed to begin accepting their citizens, senior administration officials said.
(Bloomberg) — The Biden Administration will resume flights deporting migrants who enter the US illegally back to Venezuela, after officials in Caracas agreed to begin accepting their citizens, senior administration officials said.
The change takes effect immediately, and comes as the White House has been under intense pressure – including from Democratic governors and mayors – to address a migration crisis that has been fueled by political instability across Central and South America.
More than 22,000 Venezuelans entered the US illegally in August alone, part of an estimated 7.7 million refugees who have fled Venezuela in recent years during the country’s economic and political crisis, according to the United Nations.
Unlike other countries in the region, Venezuela had not previously accepted the return of migrants for years. Mexico has only accepted the return of a limited number of Venezuelan citizens, further tying the hands of US officials. In the 2021 and 2022 fiscal years, only 352 of the more than 235,000 Venezuelan migrants apprehended for crossing the southern border illegally were deported, according to US Border Patrol.
Biden administration officials, who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity, declined to say whether Venezuela had been offered concessions to begin accepting the return of migrants.
The Venezuela announcement came hours after President Joe Biden announced plans to add about 17 miles of the border wall along the Rio Grande in Texas. He had sought to redirect funds to build the wall but was unsuccessful.
Biden Says He Tried to Stop Plans to Add to Trump’s Border Wall
The move is expected to draw the ire of immigration activists, who have argued it is wrong to return those fleeing conditions under the regime of Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro.
The deportations will only involve those determined not to be in the country lawfully, and the US will consider if migrants face the threat of political persecution upon their return, the officials said Thursday.
The US last month offered nearly half a million Venezuelan migrants the ability to work and live in the country legally under the Temporary Protected Status program. It has also admitted around 61,000 Venezuelans under a sponsorship program launched in January, which critics have derided as too restrictive – particularly for refugees who do not have proper documentation or sponsors in the US.
The administration announced in September that Venezuelans who entered the US illegally before July 31 would be eligible for Temporary Protected Status, enabling hundreds of thousands to work in the country.
Officials told reporters Thursday that those migrants who arrived after July 31 are not eligible for TPS, and that the US government has identified several individuals in its custody who are eligible for removal soon.
(Updates with details on TPS in final two paragraphs.)
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