The Biden administration will restart deporting Venezuelans directly to Venezuela in an attempt to curb the record influx of crossings at the US-Mexico border, according to senior administration officials.
Venezuelans who cross the US-Mexico border unlawfully and lack a legal basis to remain in the United States will be eligible for removal, the senior administration officials said on Thursday, adding that Venezuela agreed to accept back their nationals.
“Today’s announcement is a key part of our continuing efforts to strengthen the consequences that are in place at the border for migrants who cross unlawfully,” one of the officials said.
Some migrants have already been identified for deportation. “Starting today, the United States will begin direct repatriations of Venezuelan nationals back to their home country, and in fact we have already identified individuals in our custody today who will be removed promptly in the coming days,” the official added.
Venezuelans make up a large share of border crossings and the US generally can’t deport them because of frosty diplomatic relations with Venezuela. Mexico has agreed to take some, but it remains a complicated – and unique – challenge for the Biden administration and for cities receiving them.
Last month, the Department of Homeland Security announced that Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is extending and redesignating Venezuela for a form of humanitarian relief known as Temporary Protected Status for 18 months for individuals that were residing in the US on or before July 31. DHS anticipated around 472,000 Venezuelans will be newly eligible for the status, according to a Homeland Security official.
Migrants apprehended at the border can be placed in a fast-track deportation process, voluntarily return to Mexico, be detained, or be released from custody as they go through their immigration proceedings.
Poor economic conditions, food shortages and limited access to health care are increasingly pushing Venezuelans to leave. The economic and political turmoil in Venezuela has resulted in more than 7.7 million people fleeing Venezuela, marking the largest displacement in the Western Hemisphere, and many are choosing to go north. As a point of comparison, the scale of this displacement outpaces Ukraine, where there’s an active war.
Venezuela was among the topics of discussion between President Joe Biden and Brazil President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva last month.
The two “noted the importance of the restoration of democracy in Venezuela, and President Biden reiterated the United States’ support for the people of Venezuela and outlined our vision of a step-by-step approach where concrete actions toward restoring Venezuelan democracy, leading to free and fair elections, are met by corresponding sanctions relief by the United States,” according to a White House readout at the time.