On Wednesday, the US announced it was expanding Title 42 — a pandemic-era provision that allows immigration officials to deport illegal migrants to Mexico on public health grounds — and unveiled a new program that would allow some Venezuelan migrants to have one Request to arrive at US ports of entry by air with a ceiling of 24,000.
Both plans are designed to stop Venezuelans like Morey from entering illegally and dangerously across the US-Mexico border.
But many migrants already on the move say the Biden administration’s decision leaves them in an agonized limbo, having already given up everything to begin the trek north.
They also point out that the new airport entry program favors the wealthy and well-connected, in other words, Venezuelans who can afford to fly north in the comfort of a plane.
The Venezuelan migration crisis is more acute than ever. More than seven million Venezuelans are now living abroad, fleeing a humanitarian crisis in their home country, according to new figures released this month by the United Nations.
Most live in other South American countries, there are more than two million in Colombia alone, but in recent months increasing numbers have begun to travel north to the United States via Central America and Mexico as living conditions worsen amid the Covid 19 pandemic worsening and a global food crisis.
As a result, the number of Venezuelans arrested on the US southern border is skyrocketing. According to the Department of Homeland Security, up to 180,000 Venezuelans crossed the border last year.
Panama and Mexico form a geographic passage for overland travelers from South America. Under the new US migration rule, any migrant entering Panama or Mexico illegally is barred from the program.
Despite the myriad dangers, 150,000 migrants have crossed the border on foot so far this year, according to Panamanian authorities.
Senior Homeland Security official Blas Nuñez-Neto said the goal is to reduce the number of migrants illegally approaching the U.S. southern border while providing a legal route for those who do.
But the plan drew rare criticism from members of the Venezuelan opposition, who are generally allied with Washington in their fight against Venezuela’s authoritarian leader Nicolas Maduro.
“The US government has announced cruel migration policies that make the situation of thousands of Venezuelans even more painful,” tweeted Henrique Capriles, a two-time presidential candidate and one of the few anti-Maduro leaders still living in Caracas.
Carlos Vecchio, the official representative of the Venezuelan opposition in Washington, also tweeted that the plan was “insufficient for the scale” of Venezuela’s migration crisis.
“We recognize the efforts of @POTUS to seek alternatives to the migration crisis through humanitarian parole to achieve orderly and safe migration for Venezuelans,” he said.
“But the announced 24,000 visas are not enough for the scale of the problem. A re-examination is required in this regard.”
Rights activists argue that asylum seekers should be able to present their case in the US before being turned away.
Still, some migrants say they see a glimmer of hope in the Biden administration’s new stance.