Biden administration considering humanitarian parole program for Venezuelans

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is considering a humanitarian parole program for Venezuelans who have fled political instability and poverty in large numbers, according to two administration officials familiar with the proposed plan, which the administration hopes will will discourage Venezuelans from illegally crossing the southwestern border.

If implemented, the program for Venezuelans would be similar to a humanitarian program offered to Ukrainians, which allows a family member or sponsor in the United States to apply on behalf of the refugee and s undertake to provide him with financial assistance during his stay in the country.

While the Ukrainian agenda has received bipartisan support, Republicans have been less welcoming of Venezuelans, more than 150,000 of whom were apprehended at the southwestern U.S. border from October 2021 through late August.

The humanitarian parole program would not apply to Venezuelans who are already in the country, but the hope is that it would encourage migrants to seek refuge closer to home and fly to the United States in the country. instead of traveling north on foot and illegally crossing the border. Venezuelans in their home country or who have legally entered a neighboring country would be eligible to apply for the program. Official ports of entry have been closed to migrants 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 condition of anonymity to discuss a plan that had not yet been finalized.

Because Washington does not have formal diplomatic relations with Caracas, the United States has been unable to repatriate most Venezuelans who enter the country and turn themselves in to border officials. Instead, the administration granted most of the country’s temporary stay permits and faces deportation proceedings in immigration court.

Unlike that process, under the new plan, the administration would turn away many Venezuelans who don’t have a sponsor or are crossing illegally. They would be deported to Mexico under a 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 deported from the United States under Title 42, officials say.

The full scope of what a humanitarian parole program would look like and why the administration is now considering it was not immediately clear. Immigration advocates have been calling for months for a more orderly process that would allow vulnerable immigrants to enter the country without having to break US law. But they are strongly opposed to the continued use of public health authority, which a federal court blocked the Biden administration from lifting earlier this year.

Throughout 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 other populations who, until now, have not historically crossed over in record numbers, including Venezuelans. Throughout Mr. Biden’s tenure, senior White House officials have worried about criticism from Republicans and Democrats that the administration lacks an orderly way to process and turn away migrants who don’t meet not the asylum conditions.

In recent months, thousands of Venezuelans have made the dangerous journey across the Darien Gap between South and Central America to reach the United States. Most of those who have been allowed to stay temporarily will eventually face removal proceedings that will likely take years to progress. The United Nations estimates that more than 6.8 million Venezuelans have fled their country.

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Yet Venezuelans make up only about 7% of total crossings in the southwest between last October and the end of August, according to the most recent government data.

“Venezuelans are just one group. You also see Cubans and Nicaraguans arriving in large numbers,” said Cris Ramón, an immigration consultant who has written for the Migration Policy Institute and the George W. Bush Institute. “This policy will not address those groups that are arriving at the border at this time.”

A plan under consideration by the White House just last week included offering the same humanitarian parole to Cubans, Haitians and Nicaraguans, according to officials briefed on the discussions. It was not immediately clear why these nationalities were ultimately left out. People from Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela make 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.

Last month Mr Biden said“What is under my watch now is Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua, and the possibility of sending them back to those states is not rational.”

The United States has not repatriated most migrants from Cuba and Nicaragua due to ongoing political instability in those countries and will likely continue to temporarily release them until they face a court hearing. immigration court where they can try to argue that they should not be deported.

The White House has long been reluctant to make changes to its border policy that could encourage more migrants to cross illegally.

Calls for protection for Venezuelan migrants have intensified after Governor Ron DeSantis, Republican of Florida, transported a group of mostly Venezuelan migrants who entered the country illegally to Martha’s Vineyard, an upscale island off the coast of Massachusetts , last month.

Rebecca Shi, executive director of business advocacy group the American Business Immigration Coalition, said the new program could benefit Florida, “where tourism, construction and rebuilding from natural disasters depend so completely immigrants and refugees”.