WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is considering a humanitarian parole program for Venezuelans who have been fleeing political instability and poverty in large numbers, according to two administration officials familiar with the proposed plan, which the administration he hopes it will discourage Venezuelans from crossing the southwest border illegally.
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 pledge to provide them with financial assistance while are in the country. country
While the Ukrainian program received bipartisan support, Republicans have been less welcoming to the Venezuelans, more than 150,000 of whom have been detained at the US southwest border from October 2021 to the end of August.
The humanitarian parole program would not apply to Venezuelans already in the country, but the hope is that it will encourage migrants to seek refuge closer to home and fly to the United States instead of traveling north on foot and cross the border illegally. Venezuelans in their country of origin or who crossed legally into a neighboring country could apply for the program. Official ports of entry have been closed to migrants since the start of the pandemic, forcing those trying 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 entering the country and surrendering to border officials. Instead, the administration has been giving most permission to remain in the country temporarily and face removal proceedings in immigration court.
In a significant departure from that process, under the new plan the administration would turn away many Venezuelans who do not have a sponsor or cross 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. That’s only possible because Mexico recently agreed to take Venezuelans who are being deported from the United States under Title 42, officials said.
The full scope of what a humanitarian parole program would look like and why the administration is considering it now were not immediately clear. Immigration advocates have been calling for months for a more streamlined process that would allow vulnerable immigrants to enter the country without resorting to breaking US law. But they are firmly against the continued use of the 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 the majority 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 additional populations that have so far not historically crossed over in record numbers, including Venezuelans. During Mr. Biden’s tenure, senior White House officials have been troubled by criticism from both Republicans and Democrats that the administration lacks an orderly way to process and turn away migrants who do not qualify for asylum.
In recent months, thousands of Venezuelans have made the perilous journey across the Darién Gap between South and Central America to reach the United States. Most of those who are 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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Even so, Venezuelans accounted for only about 7 percent of total Southwest crossings between last October and the end of August, according to the most recent government data.
“The Venezuelans are just a group. You also see Cubans and Nicaraguans coming in significant 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 these groups arriving at the border right now.”
A plan being considered by the White House as recently as last week included offering equal humanitarian parole to Cubans, Haitians and Nicaraguans, according to officials briefed on the discussions. It was not immediately clear why those nationalities were ultimately left out. People from Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela have accounted for about a quarter of the total number of migrants crossing the southwest border between last October and the end of August, according to the most recent government data available.
Last month, Mr. Biden said“What I have now is Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua, and the ability to return them to those states is not rational.”
The United States has not been repatriating most migrants from Cuba and Nicaragua because of ongoing political instability in those countries and will likely continue to release them temporarily until they face an immigration court hearing where they can try to argue that they are not they should be deported.
The White House has long been wary of making any changes to its border policy that could encourage more migrants to cross illegally.
Demands for protection for Venezuelan migrants increased after Gov. Ron DeSantis, Republican of Florida, took a group of mostly Venezuelan migrants who had entered the country illegally to Martha’s Vineyard, a luxury island off the coast of Massachusetts , last month.
Rebecca Shi, executive director of a business advocacy group, the American Business Immigration Coalition, said the new program could benefit Florida, “where tourism, construction and disaster recovery are completely dependent on immigrants and refugees.” .