The Biden administration is going to resume deporting migrants from Venezuela, U.S. officials said on Thursday.
The process is expected to begin shortly, officials said — though they did not provide specific details on when the flights would begin taking off.
The news comes not long after the administration increased protected status for Venezuelans who arrive in the U.S. It reflects the larger strategy by the White House to not only provide expanded legal pathways for people arriving, but also to crack down on those who illegally cross into the U.S.
Venezuela plunged into a political, economic and humanitarian crisis over the last decade, pushing at least 7.3 million people to migrate and making food and other necessities unaffordable for those who remain.
The vast majority who fled settled in neighboring countries in Latin America, but many began coming to the United States in the last three years through the notoriously dangerous Darien Gap — a stretch of jungle between Panama and Colombia.
U.S. officials worried by rising migration took their concerns south of the border this week, with separate trips to Mexico City by high-level Biden administration officials and New York City's mayor.
This follows a decision from Venezuelan authorities to accept their citizens back, according to a senior Biden administration official who spoke to Scripps News.
The official told Scripps News that the U.S. will continue to enforce sanctions on Venezuela until the nation's leadership takes more concrete steps to try and find a democratic solution to its current problems.
The official told Scripps News that details about why Venezuela agreed to the deportations would not be discussed, but said the U.S. has long urged the Venezuelan government to accept its citizens back, and said the administration is satisfied the government has agreed to do so.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed migration with his Mexican counterpart Alicia Bárcena, as well as foreign ministers from Panama and Colombia on Wednesday.
Talks were scheduled to continue on Thursday, including a meeting between U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
López Obrador said Thursday during his daily news briefing that Mexico has reiterated in talks its position that there should be investment to spur development in the countries that migrants leave.
"The people don't abandon their towns because they want to, but rather out of necessity," the president said. He also criticized the Biden administration's announcement yesterday that it waived 26 federal laws in South Texas to allow border wall construction.
A senior administration official told Scripps News, regarding enforcing immigration laws, "This again, shows how we [the U.S.] are committed to imposing consequences on those who cross the border unlawfully. And it's a direct consequence that these individuals, not having availed themselves of the lawful pathways that we have created and expanded — which includes the humanitarian parole process for Venezuelan nationals and their family members, that has already allowed more than 73,000 Venezuelans to enter."
López Obrador had previously praised Biden for not building more of the border wall during his presidency.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams is traveling through Latin America to learn more about the paths migrants take to the U.S. and to spread a message about the realities of arriving in his city.
He was scheduled to meet with a nun running a migrant shelter in Mexico City on Thursday morning before heading to the city of Puebla, source of many of the Mexican migrants who arrive in New York, to meet with migrants and community leaders there.
In a press conference late Wednesday night in Mexico City, Adams said he hoped to "manage expectations" of migrants setting out on their journeys, and to inform migrants that his city was "at capacity" after receiving around 120,000 migrants over the past year.
He echoed a rising number of voices in calling for a larger global response to the increasing number of migrants to the U.S.
"It's not sustainable," Adams said at the base of a basilica where people often pray before setting out on their journeys. "The message of this not being sustainable cannot stay within the boundaries of New York City ... there is a global migration and it must have an international response."
Blinken and other top American officials are visiting Mexico to discuss shared security issues, foremost among them trafficking of the synthetic opioid fentanyl, but also arms trafficking and increasing migration.
The latest round of the high-level security dialogue brings Blinken, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, among others, together with their Mexican counterparts.
Heightened migration was on the agenda as President Joe Biden's administration comes under increasing pressure from Republicans and mayors from the president’s own party to do more to slow migrant arrivals.
In August, the U.S. Border Patrol made 181,509 arrests at the Mexican border, up 37% from July but little changed from August 2022, and well below the more than 220,000 in December, according to figures released in September.
The U.S. has tried to get Mexico and countries farther south to do more. In April, the U.S., Panama and Colombia announced a campaign to slow migration through the treacherous Darien Gap dividing Colombia and Panama. But migration through the jungle has only accelerated and is expected to approach some 500,000 people this year.
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