Washington – The Biden administration is resuming direct deportations to Venezuela in an effort to reduce illegal crossings at the southern border of Venezuelan immigrants who have traveled to the United States.In recent weeks, federal officials announced Thursday.
For years, the United States has not carried out regular deportations to Venezuela because of a strained diplomatic relationship with the country’s socialist government. American sanctions Because of its human rights abuses and repressive policies. But officials now plan to begin direct deportations there to deport Venezuelans who entered the United States illegally and have no legal basis to stay in the country. CBS News first reported the announcement earlier Thursday.
In a statement, the Department of Homeland Security said the Venezuelan government had agreed to accept the return of its citizens, though it did not say how often the deportation flights would take place. Briefing reporters, a senior administration official said the United States had already identified Venezuelans in federal custody and “they will be removed immediately in the coming days.”
“Today’s announcement makes clear that we are committed to rigorous enforcement of immigration laws and the rapid removal of individuals who do not take advantage of these orderly processes and choose to cross our border illegally,” DHS added in its statement.
A sharp increase in Venezuelan arrivals
The change in policy is designed to reduce unprecedented levels of migration to the United States from crisis-hit Venezuela and other countries, including Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, where millions of displaced Venezuelans live.
In September, nearly 50,000 Venezuelans crossed the U.S. southern border without permission, an all-time high, prompting an annual spike in migrant fears that month, according to internal federal data obtained by CBS News. That represents roughly a quarter of all Border Patrol apprehensions in September.
While resuming deportations to Venezuela could prevent some Venezuelans from making the trek to the U.S. border, it would prompt objections from human rights advocates and progressive Democrats because of the deteriorating economic and political situation in the South American country.
The economic and social collapse in Venezuela under its authoritarian government has triggered the largest exodus of migrants ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere. More than 7 million people have fled the country in recent years, which now exceeds the number of refugees displaced from war-torn Syria and Ukraine.
Increasingly, Venezuelans are leaving South America or countries within Venezuela to embark on week-long journeys to the United States, including crossing Panama’s Darien Gap on foot. A record number of more than 400,000 migrants, most of them from Venezuela, have crossed the roadless jungle this year.
A policy change
Over the past few years, the Biden administration has tried with varying degrees of success to stop Venezuelan immigrants from crossing the US border illegally. A strategy that involved expanding legal immigration programs for Venezuelans while deporting those who entered the country illegally to Mexico initially led to a dramatic drop in illegal border entries. But Venezuela’s low number of illegal border crossings lasted only a few months.
During Thursday’s briefing, administration officials urged Venezuelan nationals to wait for a chance to enter the United States legally through the Program for Persons with American Sponsors, or through a program that allows immigrants in Mexico to be processed at official ports of entry. Otherwise, officials warned, they would be deported to Mexico or Venezuela.
The U.S. will not deport Venezuelans who prove they could be persecuted if returned to Venezuela, officials said. The administration last month expanded the cut-off date for the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program, where deportation efforts focus on those who arrived after July 31, to grant work permits to the nearly half a million Venezuelans already in the United States.
At the time, DHS said the crisis in Venezuela prevented the U.S. from deporting people there for “safety.” Asked whether Thursday’s move contradicted last month’s announcement, an administration official said the U.S. has long deported immigrants to countries with TPS status.
Officials did not explain how they convinced Venezuela to accept the extradition. Asked if the U.S. was considering easing some sanctions, an official said the administration would only do so if the Venezuelan government took “firm steps” toward a “democratic solution.”
“At this time, those steps have not yet been taken and we continue to implement our sanctions,” the official said.