by Jennie Taer
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) sounded the alarm over a potential surge in Venezuelans illegally crossing into the U.S. due to an incorrect understanding of U.S. immigration policy, according to an internal memo obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation.
The recent alert mentioned a number of reasons that Venezuelans are increasingly coming to the U.S., including political changes, new visa requirements, a lack of resources due to the COVID-19 pandemic and poor economic conditions in Latin American countries they’ve fled to. There’s a possibility that many are also coming because of the protections for Venezuelans already in the U.S.
“Deteriorating opportunities for Venezuelans in Latin America coupled with changing immigration policies will likely increase Venezuelans’ decision to travel to the U.S. southwest border (SWB) via the Darien Gap and Mexico,” the memo stated. “Venezuelans may also be pulled to the United States by the perception that once they reach the border, they have a greater chance of remaining in the United States, based on a misunderstood perception of temporary protected status.”
There’s no exact date on the memo, which cites a report as recent as Sept. 7.
Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is currently granted to Venezuelans who were in the U.S. as of March 8, 2021. DHS in July announced an 18-month extension for those already in the program to renew their statuses.
Out of the 153,905 Venezuelan migrants encountered at the southern border between October 2021 and August 2022, only 988 were expelled under Title 42, the pandemic public health order used to quickly remove illegal migrants from the country, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data.
The number of Venezuelan migrants encountered in fiscal year 2022 is over triple the number encountered the previous fiscal year, when 1,270 Venezuelans were expelled under Title 42, according to CBP. The Biden administration attempted to end Title 42, but the policy remains due to a court order.
The reason many Venezuelans aren’t sent back under Title 42 is because the U.S. doesn’t have diplomatic relations with Venezuela, which refuses to allow for deportation flights, Cato Associate Director of Immigration Studies David Bier previously told the DCNF.
“This is true for deportations from Mexico as well,” Bier said. “The Trump administration also put a flight ban in effect for Venezuela, meaning no flights are allowed to go there. Nonetheless, some expulsions are still happening via third countries, but it’s much more difficult.”
There are around 5.75 million Venezuelan refugees and migrants living in Latin American and Caribbean countries, according to the Inter-Agency Coordination Platform for Refugees and Migrants from Venezuela.
Around 3.7 million of them live in Colombia and Peru, where they face “violence, hate, abuse, sexual and labor exploitation, and discrimination,” according to the memo. In places like Colombia, Venezuelans are often the prey of armed criminal organizations looking for “cheap recruits.”
“An exodus from these two countries alone would be a major concern as it could potentially signal larger waves of Venezuelan migrants to emigrate to the United States,” the memo said.
Panama is home to around 144,500 Venezuelans, who are at risk of losing their “pathways to residency” because of legislation that is set to expire, making their best option to come to the U.S. illegally.
“Without access to legal status, migrants cannot apply for work permits and are forced to seek jobs in the informal market, making them vulnerable to exploitation,” the memo said. “For those qualified to renew their regularization status, the 2,600 USD smuggling fee is cheaper than paying regularization costs in Panama.”
Venezuelans have also been further unwelcomed in Chile, where 448,100 of them reside, because of anti-illegal immigration protests and police-led evictions.
The issues are forcing Venezuelans to leave Latin America and go to the U.S., where they believe they will be protected, the memo stated.
DHS didn’t respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
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Jennie Taer is a reporter at Daily Caller News Foundation.
Photo “Illegal Immigrants” by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.