The United States announced on Wednesday new measures to control Venezuelan migration: a program that gives legal status for two years to those who arrive by plane and the immediate expulsion of most of those who cross the border through Mexico.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the creation of a new immigration relief for Venezuelans, similar to that already in place for citizens of Ukraine, which grants a two-year temporary status to those who have a sponsor in the US.
In parallel, the DHS will return to Mexico most Venezuelans who are intercepted after crossing the southern border; the expulsions will be carried out under Title 42, a public health regulation imposed at the beginning of the pandemic and inherited from the Administration of former President Donald Trump (2017-2021).
"Those who attempt to cross the southern US border illegally will be returned to Mexico and will not be able to apply for this program in the future," Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Wednesday in a statement.
The measures are intended to "reduce the number of people arriving at the border" irregularly and create a "more orderly" immigration process for Venezuelans fleeing the "humanitarian and economic crisis in their country," a U.S. government official said in a press call.
Under this immigration program, which excludes those deported from the US in the last five years or people who have entered Panama or Mexico in an irregular manner, the US government will initially accept 24,000 people, the official said. Nor will be accepted people who have a permanent residence or nationality of a country other than Venezuela.
To apply for the program, interested Venezuelans must demonstrate that they have a sponsor who has legal immigration status in the U.S. and who can prove that they have the financial resources for the period of time the migrants will reside in the country.
In addition, beneficiaries must pass a "national security and public safety" assessment, DHS said in a statement.
The US announcement comes amid an increase in the arrival of Venezuelans at the border with Mexico. Between October 2021 and August of this year, more than 150,000 Venezuelans have been apprehended at the southern US border, up from 50,499 in the same period last year.
In August alone, some 25,000 Venezuelans were intercepted by U.S. authorities at the border, according to data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Unlike the program for Venezuelans, the US did not establish a maximum number of people who can receive immigration relief for Ukrainians, which was announced in April and from which some 65,000 people have benefited, according to the latest available data.
More than 6.1 million Venezuelans have left their country, in what is the second largest migration crisis in the world, surpassed only by Syria, according to Refugees International.