A private sponsorship program for displaced Venezuelans – The Boston Globe

The idea is inspired by the innovative private sponsorship initiative called Unite for Ukraine. Implemented in April, the program allows US citizens and private groups to financially sponsor the resettlement of Ukrainians and others displaced by the Russian invasion. So far, nearly 130,000 applications were filed by Americans seeking to sponsor displaced Ukrainians. By August, more than 50,000 Ukrainians had entered the country through the program.

And if there was a similar program for Venezuelanswondered Matthew La Corte and Gil Guerra of the Niskanen Center, a Washington, DC-based libertarian think tank that advocates for lowering barriers to immigration. La Corte is the center’s director of government affairs for immigration policy while Guerra is an immigration policy fellow.

When Biden launched Uniting for Ukraine, “we were very supportive of what we felt was a program that showed tremendous promise in creating this fast track for Ukrainians to temporarily enter the United States if they had a US-based sponsor United,” La Corte said in an interview. “What happened in Ukraine, obviously, is a huge historical displacement. But the second biggest displacement crisis in the world right now is Venezuela. »

Indeed, there is 6.8 million Venezuelan refugees and migrants from all over the world who fled the dictatorship of President Nicolás Maduro. The country is practically in a permanent state of humanitarian crisis. There are widespread shortages medicines and basic health products. And as the country finally tamed itself hyperinflation after four yearsVenezuelans still face high prices – in August the year-on-year inflation rate was 114 percent – and struggle to get food. In 2019, a third of the population suffered from severe food insecurity. Power outages are common, and water and fuel are also scarce.

While the majority of displaced Venezuelans have moved to neighboring countries in Latin America, they have recently arrived in the United States in record numbers seeking protection. In August alone, over 25,000 Venezuelans crossed the country by the southern border, surpassing Guatemalans and Hondurans to become the second nationality after Mexicans. From October 2021 to the end of August, there were 154,000 encounters with Venezuelans along the US-Mexico border, representing a 216% increase over the entire prior year.

Venezuelan migrants largely pass through Texas. Organizations in El Paso would be at full capacity hosting migrants, and Venezuelans find themselves homeless and sleep on the street.

This is “a population of similar size to the Ukrainian exodus which is closer to our borders,” La Corte said. Obviously, the private sponsorship program for Ukrainians has been a success. It makes perfect sense to extend Uniting for Ukraine to Venezuelans. La Corte has even found a name: Volunteering for Venezuelans, V4V.

The program offers a fast track to protect Venezuelans and would allow them to apply for a work permit. To be clear, it would be separate from the refugee resettlement program, which La Corte said has accepted fewer than 100 Venezuelans this year. Clearly, there are many similarities between refugees and asylum seekers – both are fleeing dangerous conditions, to begin with – “but they face pretty separate processeswhen seeking protection in the United States, La Corte said.

The good news is that the Biden administration is apparently given the expansion of the private sponsorship program to include refugees from other countries. And offering it to Venezuelans in need is a humanitarian response the United States can launch immediately. After all, the Martha’s Vineyard stunt provided ample evidence that private citizens are more than willing to help desperate migrants.

Marcela García is a columnist for the Globe. She can be contacted at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @marcel_elisa and on Instagram @marcel_elisa.

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