A record number of Venezuelan migrants, 7,484, arrived at the border illegally in May, and nearly all will be allowed to stay as refugees, the Associated Press (AP) revealed recently.
Authorities cannot deport those deemed ineligible for refugee status because the U.S. joined dozens of other countries in recognizing Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s rightful leader in 2019, breaking diplomatic relations with socialist dictator Nicolas Maduro.
As a result, U.S. air travel to Venezuela is not allowed, not even charter flights, making deportations difficult.
Venezuelan migrants who cross the U.S. border illegally and request asylum, dubbed “pandemic refugees” by AP, enjoy certain privileges compared to other Latin American migrants due to “firmer financial standing, higher education levels and U.S. policies that have failed to remove Maduro but nonetheless made deportation all but impossible,” the news outlet reported, adding:
These [Venezuelan migrants] aren’t farmers and low-wage workers from Mexico or Central America, who make up the bulk of those crossing. They’re bankers, doctors and engineers from Venezuela, and they’re arriving in record numbers as they flee turmoil in the country with the world’s largest oil reserves and pandemic-induced pain across South America.
The U.S. is more likely to grant legal status to Venezuelans than other migrants because the American government is well aware of the political repression, lack of medicine, and food shortages, among other problems in the South American nation ruined by Maduro’s socialist policies.
Once in the U.S., Venezuelans tend to fare better than other groups. In March, Biden granted Temporary Protected Status to an estimated 320,000 Venezuelans. The designation allows people coming from countries ravaged by war or disaster to work legally in the U.S. and gives protection from deportation.
While new arrivals don’t qualify, Venezuelans requesting asylum — as almost all do — tend to succeed, partly because the U.S. government corroborates reports of political repression. Only 26% of asylum requests from Venezuelans have been denied this year, compared with an 80% rejection rate for asylum-seekers from poorer, violence-plagued countries in Central America, according to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse. … Even Venezuelans facing deportation have hope.
Given the strained diplomatic relations between Maduro, who remains in power, and the United States, there is no U.S. air travel to Venezuela, not even charter flights, making deportations difficult.
The 7,400-plus Venezuelans encountered by American border authorities along the U.S.-Mexico border in May amount to the highest monthly figure in all 14 years for which records are available.
While some Venezuelans are escaping persecution by their government for opposing Maduro, the vast majority are fleeing their country’s financial woes exacerbated by the Chinese coronavirus pandemic, making them economic migrants ineligible for asylum under the current U.S. law.
The Biden administration, however, is expanding the eligibility requirements.
Like the border crisis, which President Joe Biden long refused to acknowledge, the historic influx of so-called “pandemic refugees” from Venezuela, neighboring countries, and nations outside the Americas hit hard by the Chinese virus caught the U.S. administration “off guard,” AP noted.
Last week, experts deemed South America the new Chinese coronavirus hotspot, driving Venezuelans to flee from their country, home to the world’s largest oil reserves, to the U.S. and to nearby nations, which are also a source of migrants seeking asylum in the United States.
“Many of the nearly 17,306 Venezuelans who have crossed the southern border illegally since January had been living for years in other South American countries, part of an exodus of nearly 6 million Venezuelans since President Nicolás Maduro took power in 2013,” AP pointed out.
AP learned from some Venezuelan migrants that people from South American countries they initially fled to, including Brazil and Ecuador, were also making the journey to the U.S., allegedly driven out of their homes by the pandemic that has wrought financial havoc across the region.
“U.S. government data shows that 42% of all families encountered along the border in May hailed from places other than Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras — the traditional drivers of migratory trends,” AP noted. “That compares with just 8% during the last sharp increase in migration in 2019.”
Unlike low-skilled migrants from Mexico and Central America, Venezuelans making the journey to the U.S. can pay smugglers about $3,000 for “hassle-free transport” into the U.S. after flying into Mexico. Instead of traveling for weeks or months as many Central Americans, many Venezuelans can get to the U.S. border in four days.
Most Venezuelans enter the U.S. near the Del Rio sector in Texas, considered the epicenter of the worsening border crisis. Rather than avoiding apprehension and subsequent detention, Venezuelans surrender themselves to Border Patrol agents and request asylum.
The Biden administration is releasing migrants without a court date for their asylum hearing, which can take years, given the backlog. Some are just being told to report to an immigration office.