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US allows 24,000 Venezuelan migrants with sponsors to enter legally, while deporting others

The Biden administration will allow some asylum seekers from crisis-hit Venezuela to enter the country legally if they have a US-based financial sponsor in a bid to deter illegal crossings along the southern border , the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced on Wednesday. .

Conversely, Venezuelan migrants who cross the US-Mexico border illegally could face rapid deportation to northern Mexico under a recently reached agreement with the Mexican government, senior government officials told reporters. American. Previously, Mexican authorities generally did not accept deportations of Venezuelans.

As part of the sponsorship program, inspired by another Biden administrative policy which has allowed tens of thousands of displaced Ukrainians to enter the United States since April, up to 24,000 Venezuelan migrants will be allowed to fly to a US airport and live in the country for two years.

Like Ukrainians welcomed to the United States after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, eligible Venezuelan migrants who pass background checks will be granted parole, a humanitarian immigration authority that allows recipients to apply for a work. Parole, however, does not pave the way to permanent legal status.

In addition to the numerical cap, the sponsorship program for Venezuelans includes several eligibility restrictions, including a ban on migrants who illegally cross the US-Mexico border after Wednesday’s announcement and those who were deported from the United States in over the past five years.

Venezuelans who enter Mexico or Panama illegally after Wednesday will also be disqualified from the sponsorship process, which U.S. officials say is contingent on the Mexican government honoring its commitment to accept the return of migrants from Venezuela who enter states illegally. -United.

Eligibility rules, a senior US official says, are designed to discourage Venezuelans from embarking on the perilous, multi-country journey through Central America and Mexico that tens of thousands of Venezuelan migrants have already undertaken over the past year to reach the United States.

The trek often includes a multi-day journey on foot through Panama’s infamous Darien Gap, a roadless jungle that more than 150,000 migrants, including 107,000 from Venezuela, have traversed this year, according to Panamanian government statistics.

“You hear the stories from the Darien Gap. These trips across the continent are incredibly dangerous. They are fueled by human trafficking organizations. We are seeing loss of life,” a senior US official said. “So we see this as a humanitarian issue. We want to reduce irregular migration and expand legal pathways.”

Wednesday’s announcement could mark a seismic shift in US border policy for Venezuelan migrants, who have traveled to the US-Mexico border in record numbers over the past year amid economic collapse and unrest. policies of their country of origin.

Since October 2021, US border officials have processed more than 150,000 Venezuelan migrants, government data To display. So far, the vast majority of Venezuelan migrants have been released and allowed to pursue their asylum claims because the United States has generally been unable to deport them to Mexico or Venezuela, where the government repressive Caracas rejects US deportations.

But senior US officials have said migrants who circumvent the new sponsorship process and seek to enter the country illegally will be deported to Mexico under Title 42, a Trump-era public health order that prevents migrants to seek asylum. The pandemic-era policy remained in place due to a federal court order.

“These actions make it clear that there is a legal and orderly way for Venezuelans to enter the United States, and legal entry is the only way,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Wednesday.

In A declarationMexico’s foreign ministry confirmed the deal with the Biden administration, saying it would continue “Mexico’s unilateral policy of welcoming migrants under Title 42 for humanitarian reasons.”

“Given the current increase in migration and the need for orderly, safe, regular and humane access for migrants in the region, Mexico will temporarily allow certain Venezuelan citizens to enter our national territory through the northern border. “, added the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Those seeking to sponsor Venezuelan asylum seekers will need to submit an online application to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Potential sponsors will be required to undergo background checks and prove that they are legally in the United States and have the financial means to sponsor Venezuelan migrants.

Asked how Venezuelan migrants without family or friends in the United States will find sponsors, a senior US official said the Biden administration would work with the private sector to identify potential sponsors, noting the goal is to replicate the success of the sponsorship policy for Ukrainians, dubbed Uniting for Ukraine.

As part of Uniting for Ukraine, 67,000 Ukrainians with American sponsors have been granted humanitarian parole to enter the country, according to DHS figures. In less than six months, USCIS received sponsorship applications from more than 146,000 US-based individuals.

US officials have said they will assess the Venezuelan sponsorship program to determine whether to continue with it. A version of the policy that was considered internally included migrants from other countries, including Cuba and Nicaragua, which also saw record numbers of their citizens move to the United States, people familiar with the matter said.

“We are committed to implementing this new process and seeing if it works. And if it indeed has the desired effect, we may consider in the future if we can apply it elsewhere,” an official said. American.

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