Biden to resume deportation of Venezuelans without legal status

US President Joseph Biden.
US President Joseph Biden.
Photo courtesy of Office of the President of the United States

In keeping with its commitment to enforce immigration laws and to continue strengthening the consequences for those who cross the US southern borders unlawfully, the Joe Biden administration in the United States announced on Thursday that it will resume direct repatriations of Venezuelan nationals who cross the borders unlawfully and do not establish a legal basis to remain in the country.

The announcement followed a decision by authorities from Venezuela to accept the return of Venezuelan nationals, as well as high-level discussions on Thursday in Mexico City between the United States, Mexico, Colombia and Panama, where US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, US Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas and US Homeland Security Advisor Liz Sherwood-Randall discussed ongoing coordinated efforts to address irregular migration in the Western Hemisphere.

“This decision is consistent with the administration’s efforts to implement a strategy of humane, safe and orderly enforcement of our immigration laws, and to process individuals in a fair and fast manner,” said the US Department of State in a statement. “These efforts include the administration’s significant expansion of lawful pathways to enter the United States, including for Venezuelans, which have allowed hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans to enter the country in a safe and orderly manner through our humanitarian parole process and after making an appointment through the CBP (Customs and Border Protection) One mobile application.

“Today’s announcement makes clear that we are committed to strictly enforcing immigration laws and quickly removing individuals who do not avail themselves of these orderly processes and choose to cross our border unlawfully,” it added.

The State Department said irregular migration is “a regional challenge that requires a regional response.

“Through the framework established under the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection, other partners across the hemisphere are also pursuing new actions to address this challenge, including increased repatriations of Venezuelans and other migrants without valid protection claims,” it said. “Our partners also continue to make progress in expanding legal pathways, so that individuals are not compelled to make the dangerous journey north.”

Under the Los Angeles Declaration, which President Biden and 20 leaders adopted last year, the State Department said, “we are collectively charged to take coordinated actions to stabilize flows, expand lawful pathways and humanely manage their borders. Conducting repatriations is a key piece to this balanced approach.

“We remain grateful for the efforts of these and other nations in the hemisphere to address historic levels of irregular migration and displacement,” it said. “The United States also continues to support countries as they strengthen their protection and asylum systems.”

The State Department said the US continues to urge Caribbean and other migrants seeking to come to the United States to “take advantage of the lawful pathways that we have made available and significantly expanded, instead of putting their lives in the hands of callous smugglers and crossing our border unlawfully only to be removed.”

The Biden administration has been under increasing pressure to address the mass influx of migrants crossing the southern borders of the United States.

Many of the migrants seeking refugee and asylum statuses, after crossing the southern borders and arriving in large cities, such as New York, are nationals of Venezuela, Cuba, Haiti and Guatemala.

The latest State Department statement comes as Caribbean-American legislators and immigration advocates in New York late last month welcomed the extension and redesignation of Venezuela for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 18 months by the Biden administration “due to extraordinary and temporary conditions in Venezuela that prevent individuals from safely returning.”

After reviewing the country conditions in Venezuela and consulting with interagency partners, Mayorkas said that he determined that an 18-month TPS extension and redesignation are “warranted based on Venezuela’s increased instability and lack of safety due to the enduring humanitarian, security, political and environmental conditions.”

“I welcome President Biden’s decision to provide Venezuelans residing in America with Temporary Protected Status, and I am thankful for DHS (Department of Homeland Security) Secretary Mayorkas’ commitment to ensuring the most vulnerable people and families are welcome, safe and cared for by this nation while they await an asylum determination,” Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, told Caribbean Life.

“This decision will not only empower New York City to remain a sanctuary for all those seeking relief and refuge, but also mitigate considerable strains on American taxpayers and our immigration system,” added the representative for the predominantly Caribbean 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn. “Once again, the Biden-Harris administration has demonstrated their commitment to putting people over politics – and our communities are grateful.”

New York City Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams, the son of Grenadian immigrants, celebrated the step while reiterating the need for additional actions from the US federal government to support asylum, which he has highlighted in two successive “Days of Action” this year in Washington.

“The extension and expansion of TPS has been one of our highest priorities for supporting asylum seekers, both in our trips to DC and here in the city,” he told Caribbean Life. “We’re grateful that President Biden and the White House heeded our calls alongside the voices of so many, especially our newest New Yorkers.

“This announcement will provide relief and opportunity for so many who have come here, seeking asylum and wanting to work,” he added. “It’s a big step, but also a baseline that we hope signals more action and support from Washington moving forward.”

The Biden administration said it was extending and re-designating TPS for Venezuelans who arrived in the United States before July 31, 2023.

“Nobody wants to leave their home if they don’t have to. But thanks to the Biden administration extending and re-designating TPS for Venezuela, people who were forced to flee the violence and instability of Venezuela’s collapsing government will now have a fair shot at remaining safe and secure in the United States,” said Murad Awawdeh, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), an umbrella policy and advocacy organization that represents over 200 immigrant and refugee rights groups throughout New York.

“This new status will allow the over 470,000 Venezuelans here in the US and 60,000 Venezuelans who have arrived in New York in the past year to quickly acquire work authorizations and immediately start contributing to our local economy and communities,” he added.

Additionally, Awawdeh said NYIC applauds the Biden administration’s extension of EAD to five years for Venezuelans.

“But Venezuelans aren’t alone in experiencing the types of conditions that make it difficult to return to their home countries,” he said, urging the Biden administration to also re-designate TPS for Haitians, among others. “We need to continue providing relief to all immigrants seeking safety and security.”