U.S. and Mexican authorities recently announced a new policy that would expel Venezuelans entering the U.S. land border back to Mexico, but allow up to 24,000 people from the country to apply for humanitarian entry into the United States by air.
As a result of the new policy, thousands of Venezuelans believed to be en route to the United States are now stranded between the two countries during a year when Venezuelans are arriving at the U.S. border in record numbers.
WHY WERE THE NEW MEASURES PUT IN PLACE?
The measures respond in part to political pressure on U.S. President Joe Biden to curb record numbers of illegal crossings at the Mexico-U.S. border. Venezuelans have been one of the largest groups of migrants involved in such crossings, in part because Washington granted temporary protection status last year to those who were on U.S. soil. Deporting Venezuelans is also more complicated than with migrants of other nationalities because the two countries broke diplomatic relations in 2019, making it difficult to organize deportation flights.
More than 150,000 Venezuelans were apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border between October 2021 and August 2022, compared with nearly 48,000 in fiscal-year 2021, according to U.S. government data. In September, over 33,000 Venezuelan individuals were encountered at the U.S.-Mexico border – more than the number of unique crossers from Mexico and more than immigrants from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras combined, according to U.S. government data.
WHAT HAPPENS NOW TO VENEZUELANS IN TRANSIT TO THE UNITED STATES?
Those in transit may attempt to reach the United States despite the near certainty that they will be sent back to Mexico. Mexican authorities so far have given many of these individuals a deadline of no more than two weeks to leave the country. It is unclear where Venezuelans waiting in Mexico will stay, as Mexico’s migrant shelter system is often overwhelmed.