The Biden administration has resumed repatriation of migrants from Venezuela who have not availed themselves of the legal pathways to stay in the U.S., starting on Thursday.

The United States announced today the resumption of the removal of migrants to Venezuela who are in the U.S. unlawfully. “Venezuelan nationals who cross our border unlawfully, are processed and are found to not have a legal basis to remain will be quickly removed back to Venezuela,” a senior administration official said in a call with reporters in which PoliticusUSA participated.

This decision followed a decision from the authorities of Venezuela to accept back their nationals. The first repatriation flight back to Venezuela will operate in the next few days.

“This again shows how we are committed to imposing consequences on those who cross the border unlawfully and it’s a direct consequence of 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 to be screened and vetted for advanced Travel Authorization and more than 66,000 have actually arrived in the United States,” a senior administration official said.

More than 7.7 million have fled Venezuela due to the repression of President Nicolás Maduro’s government, human rights abuses and economic catastrophe. In the fiscal year of 2022, the National Immigration Forum reported “U.S. authorities encountered almost 188,000 Venezuelans at the border, an increase of 73% from FY 2021.”

The UN Refugee Agency reports, “While host communities and countries in the region are committed to helping Venezuelans and have been generously welcoming them, they are increasingly overstretched. Several countries are implementing large-scale regularization processes to ensure refugees and migrants are documented and have access to rights and services. However, these efforts and gestures of solidarity require financial support to succeed and ensure no one is left behind.”

Officials say this move is consistent with the Los Angeles Declaration. The U.S. is one of 21 countries that signed the declaration on migration that prioritizes stability and assistance for communities, the expansion of legal pathways, humane migration management and coordinated emergency response.

“Today’s announcement is a key part of our continuing efforts to strengthen the consequences that are in place at the border for migrants who cross unlawfully, even as we have continued to oversee the largest expansion of lawful pathways to the United States in decades,” a senior administration told us.

Concerns about human rights abuses in Venezuela remain, however, given that the situation there has not improved. “Most refugees and migrants from Venezuela arriving in neighbouring countries are families with children, pregnant women, elderly people, and people with disabilities,” UNHCR reported.

President Biden said earlier on Thursday that he didn’t think border walls were effective, even as the administration waived 26 federal laws in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas to build border barriers, according to a DHS announcement overnight.

“The money was appropriated for the border wall. I tried to get to them to reappropriate it, to redirect that money. They didn’t. They wouldn’t. And in the meantime, there’s nothing under the law other than they have to use the money for what it was appropriated. I can’t stop that,” President Biden said in the Oval Office earlier on Thursday.

Barriers in locations like the Rio Grande Valley have to be built outside of the floodplain and north of the international boundary, and thus aren’t effective because it doesn’t prevent people from entering the country, according to Biden senior administration officials. But critics ask why the Biden administration waived the Environmental and Historical Preservation laws that will allow the border wall construction if they don’t believe it is effective.

It is unclear at this time how many flights will be necessary in order to keep up with the influx of migrants due to the crises in Venezuela. While the Biden administration is dealing with a large surge in migration including 73% surge from Venezuela just off the ’22 numbers, concerns about the protection of human rights need to be balanced, given that both the economic and political situation in Venezuela remain dire.

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