The US and Mexico have agreed on a plan that allows some Venezuelans to enter the US — but those who arrive illegally will be sent back to Mexico.
It is hoped that the deal will ease pressure on the US-Mexico border, where a steady influx of Venezuelans continues to arrive as they flee the crisis-ridden nation.
Flights are now being organized for 24,000 migrants arriving in the United States.
Around six million people have left Venezuela in the last five years.
The exodus is one of the biggest migrations in the world, fuelled by violence, food, fuel and medicine shortages, and repression by President Nicolás Maduro’s government.
It has seen people desperate to improve their lives, walking thousands of kilometers on dangerous routes to try to reach the US-Mexico border, where they then try to enter illegally or apply for asylum.
Under the new agreement, which comes into effect immediately, the 24,000 eligible Venezuelan migrants — a tiny fraction of those who have fled are allowed to enter the US by air and stay for up to two years.
They must still be in Venezuela and must not have made the migration to the US-Mexico border, the US Department of Homeland Security said in a statement.
They also need an individual or organization based in the USA to provide financial support and support their claim to be part of the program.
It will be a huge relief for those who will benefit from it. In theory, they will be spared the arduous and dangerous journey to the US border and will instead be able to fly to the country where support measures are being taken.
One important policy change, however, is that all undocumented Venezuelans crossing the southern border are now being expelled to Mexico — where authorities previously did not normally accept the expulsion of Venezuelans.
This is part of a controversial Trump-era policy called Title 42, which allows the US to quickly expel undocumented migrants, depriving them of the opportunity to apply for asylum. It was introduced during the pandemic to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in holding facilities, officials said.
So far, most Venezuelans who entered the USA have not been rejected — instead, they were allowed temporarily and had the option to apply for asylum.
Venezuelans found to have entered the US illegally — of which there are many thousands — could now go to Mexico.
The US government and the Mexican government have stated that the policy is intended to prevent people from risking wandering through South America and Mexico — which they did in record figures last year when Venezuela’s economic and political situation changed has worsened.
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The program is based on a similar US model called Uniting for Ukraine, which includes more than 100,000 Ukrainians who fled their country after Russia invaded earlier this year.
The so-called “humanitarian probation program” was launched with the upcoming US midterm elections in November.
The Biden government is undoubtedly hoping for the idea of helping Venezuelans fleeing political poverty Turmoil and violence will play a good political role, particularly if it goes hand in hand with the expulsion of thousands who have crossed the southern border illegally.
But because the vote is so close, it can only have limited effects, and in the meantime, many thousands of desperate and tired Venezuelan migrants are trapped in the middle.
The BBC uses the term “migrant” to refer to all people who are on the move who have not yet completed the legal process for applying for asylum. This group includes people who are fleeing war-torn countries and who are likely to be granted refugee status, as well as people who are seeking jobs and a better life and who governments are likely to rule as economic migrants.