(CNN) — The Joe Biden administration, unable to return a growing number of Venezuelans detained at the U.S.-Mexico border to their home country, is now sending them to Colombia if they previously resided there, according to two Homeland Security officials.
White House officials are increasingly concerned about the large number of single adults continuing to cross the southern border of the United States, especially from countries that Mexico does not accept under a controversial Trump-era policy, two sources familiar with the situation said. discussions.
The previously unreported flights by Venezuelans to Colombia represent another effort by the government to try to stem the flow of migrants, keeping away those who arrive beyond the US-Mexico border, including those seeking asylum. .
In December, he(CBP, for its acronym in English) registered more than 13,000 single adults from Venezuela on the southern border of the United States, compared to 96 in December 2020, according to agency data.
A humanitarian crisis and political instability have gripped Venezuela in recent years. About 6 million people have fled the country, according to the UN, usually to other parts of Latin America that have also struggled during the pandemic.
In fact, the deteriorating situation in Venezuela has been recognized in a bipartisan manner. Last year, Senators Marco Rubio, a Republican, and Bob Menéndez, a Democrat, introduced a Senate resolution expressing their alarm at the state of the country.
Colombia also granted temporary legal status to Venezuelans who arrived in the country, allowing them to work legally. But those who chose to travel to the US border to seek protection there are now expelled to Colombia thousands of miles away from the possibility of seeking asylum.
The situation at the border
The state of the US-Mexico border has haunted the Biden administration since its earliest days, as increasing numbers of migrants arrive here to flee deteriorating conditions in the Western Hemisphere. Republicans have recently seized on the releases of migrants — some of whom cannot be deported because of their nationality — as another example of what they describe as government mismanagement at the border.
Under a controversial public health order, known as Title 42, authorities can quickly expel migrants found at the southern US border. This effectively prevents asylum seekers from filing and marks a unprecedented departure from the previous protocol. The move was implemented at the start of the covid-19 pandemic, despite suspicions among officials that it was politically motivated.
The White House has repeatedly referred to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about the future of the policy. In this sense, he points out that the agency considers it necessary given the delta and omicron variants of the coronavirus.
Last Thursday, the Department of Homeland Security returned two Venezuelan citizens to Colombia, where they had previously resided, the department told CNN, adding that flights to Colombia are expected to take place “on a regular basis.”
“As part of the United States’ COVID-19 mitigation efforts, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) continues to apply CDC Title 42 public health authority with all individuals along the Southwest border. However, DHS’s ability to remove individuals may be limited for a number of reasons, including Mexico’s ability and capacity to receive individuals of certain nationalities,” the department said in a statement. He also added that DHS has returned migrants to third countries in the region where they had lived or had status.
The department also recognized Venezuela’s precarious situation by granting a form of humanitarian aid to Venezuelans already in the United States.
Still, the Biden administration remains confident in the public health order and recently defended it in court. Precisely, a measure that received criticism from immigrant advocates and Democratic legislators. The recent decision to expel migrants from Venezuela ––a country in crisis–– to Colombia reveals a greater reliance on the public health order, amid a growing number of Venezuelans arriving at the US-Mexico border.
In December, the US CBP registered 24,819 Venezuelans on the US southern border, including single adults, families and minors. This represents an increase compared to the previous month and an upward trend. As a point of comparison, in December 2020, CBP only encountered about 200 Venezuelan migrants, according to agency data.
While tens of thousands of migrants have been turned away at the US-Mexico border, some, like South Americans, are not accepted by Mexico. Therefore, those people largely cannot be expelled. Under the health authority, the DHS has expelled migrants from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Brazil.
Some migrants from Venezuela crossed the border at Yuma, Arizona, often flying to an airport in Mexico and then crossing at a gap along the Colorado River, cutting the journey to just days. It is the most viable option for many Venezuelans and Brazilians, for example, who cannot obtain a visa that allows them to work in the US, or who cannot afford the long wait for the legal immigration process. Recently, Mexico put in place new visa restrictions for Venezuelans traveling to Mexico.
The United States has already taken steps to try to reduce the number of migrants at the border with Mexico. Last year, the government began moving migrants apprehended at the southern border and subject to Trump-era border policy linked to the pandemic into Mexico.
Embassy of Venezuela warns about the consequences and calls on the United States
The Embassy of Venezuela in the United States, which responds to Juan Guidó as interim president recognized by the US, made a “firm call” on Tuesday to “allow Venezuelan migrants to submit their asylum application, for it to be evaluated in accordance with established procedures, and a final decision is made accordingly.
“Summarily dismissing this humanitarian cry for help only leaves Venezuelans more helpless and vulnerable. Returning them to Venezuela carries even worse consequences,” the office said in a statement posted on its website, where they assure that they have not authorized deportation requests for immigration reasons.
In addition, they maintain that more restrictions would only deepen the crisis and increase “illegal businesses such as human trafficking and smuggling.”
The embassy stressed that Colombia “has been an example in the region” by receiving 1.7 million migrants and regularizing their situation through the Temporary Protection Status, and also made reference to the collaboration of the United States. However, with regard to the application of Title 42, he echoed the statements of the UNHCR, which has expressed that “the summary and mass expulsions of people that are being carried out under the authority of Title 42, without examining protection needs, are incompatible with international standards”.