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Biden administration will begin deporting Venezuelan migrants directly to Venezuela

<i>Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images</i><br/>Three migrants who walked from Venezuela arrive at a US Border Patrol processing center after they crossed the Rio Grande river and over the razor wire to cross into Eagle Pass
Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images
Three migrants who walked from Venezuela arrive at a US Border Patrol processing center after they crossed the Rio Grande river and over the razor wire to cross into Eagle Pass

By Priscilla Alvarez, CNN

(CNN) — The Biden administration will restart deporting Venezuelans directly to Venezuela in an attempt to curb the record influx of crossings at the US-Mexico border, according to senior administration officials, marking a major shift in policy.

Venezuelans who cross the US-Mexico border unlawfully and lack a legal basis to remain in the United States will be eligible for removal, the senior administration officials said on Thursday, adding that Venezuela had agreed to accept back its nationals.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the new policy “a key piece” of the administration’s approach to migration. “Under the Los Angeles Declaration … we’re charged with taking coordinated actions to try to stabilize flows, to expand regular pathways, to humanely manage all of our borders,” Blinken said Thursday at a press conference in Mexico City. “Repatriations are a key piece to this balanced approach.”

Thursday’s announcement is the latest effort by the Biden administration to try to discourage migration to the US-Mexico border, while highlighting other lawful pathways available to certain migrants who want to migrate to the US. It’s also a recognition of the complicated – and unique – challenge for the Biden administration as it faces a historic wave of Venezuelan migrants.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas confirmed that the administration had successfully negotiated a deal with Venezuela to execute the policy, but did not say whether Venezuela was getting anything from the US in return.

“We are a nation of immigrants, and we are a nation of laws,” Mayorkas said at the same Thursday press conference.

Officials said that some migrants have already been identified for deportation. “Starting today, the United States will begin direct repatriations of Venezuelan nationals back to their home country, and in fact we have already identified individuals in our custody today who will be removed promptly in the coming days,” a senior official said Thursday.

Venezuelans make up a large share of border crossings and for years, the US has generally been unable deport them because of frosty diplomatic relations with Venezuela. Mexico has agreed to take some, but it remains a difficult issue for administration and for cities receiving migrants.

“Restarting deportations to Venezuela will send a deterrence message. I would also expect it to trigger a short term drop in Venezuelan apprehensions. The question is what happens in five or six months,” said former acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Sandweg.

“Unless the administration can deport a high percentage of the Venezuelan’s apprehended the border, I would expect the long-term impact to be negligible,” he added.

Last month, the Department of Homeland Security announced that Mayorkas is extending and redesignating Venezuela for a form of humanitarian relief known as Temporary Protected Status for 18 months for individuals that were residing in the US on or before July 31. DHS anticipated around 472,000 Venezuelans will be newly eligible for the status, according to a Homeland Security official.

Migrants apprehended at the border can be placed in a fast-track deportation process, voluntarily return to Mexico, be detained, or be released from custody as they go through their immigration proceedings.

Poor economic conditions, food shortages and limited access to health care are increasingly pushing Venezuelans to leave. The economic and political turmoil in Venezuela has resulted in more than 7.7 million people fleeing Venezuela, marking the largest displacement in the Western Hemisphere, and many are choosing to go north. As a point of comparison, the scale of this displacement outpaces Ukraine, where there’s an active war.

Venezuela was among the topics of discussion between President Joe Biden and Brazil President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva last month.

The two “noted the importance of the restoration of democracy in Venezuela, and President Biden reiterated the United States’ support for the people of Venezuela and outlined our vision of a step-by-step approach where concrete actions toward restoring Venezuelan democracy, leading to free and fair elections, are met by corresponding sanctions relief by the United States,” according to a White House readout at the time.

Blinken, Mayorkas and Attorney General Merrick Garland also met with their Mexican counterparts in Mexico this week to discuss in part ongoing efforts to stem the flow of migration in the Western hemisphere.

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Alex Marquardt, Michael Conte and Haley Britzky contributed reporting.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - US Politics

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