Record numbers of Venezuelan migrants have crossed into the United States from Mexico in recent months, hoping to apply for asylum. U.S. immigration authorities reported 24,819 Venezuelan border crossers in December 2021, compared to just 200 one year prior.
Despite the compelling case many Venezuelans have for seeking refuge in the U.S., the Biden administration is denying many of them that opportunity. Instead it is quietly deporting them to Colombia—a policy that resembles a controversial Trump administration practice.
Citing 42 USC 265, a public health provision that was also invoked by President Donald Trump, President Joe Biden thus far has expelled more than 1 million migrants who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border, preventing Venezuelans and many others from applying for asylum. Colombia will be a deportation destination for Venezuelans who have previously lived there, according to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Trump, no champion of immigration, offered Venezuelan nationals protection from deportation in one of the final moves of his presidency. But he also “deported an unknown number of Venezuelans through a third country,” the Associated Press reported in October 2020.
Candidate Biden criticized Trump for the deportations, saying in October 2020 that “it’s abundantly clear he has no regard for the suffering of the Venezuelan people.” Yet President Biden is also deporting Venezuelans to third countries.
Beyond this inconsistency lies an even more nonsensical one. In March 2021, Biden’s DHS announced an 18-month “temporary protected status” for Venezuelans already present in the U.S. That designation, which protects migrants from expulsion, is reserved for people fleeing an “ongoing armed conflict,” “an environmental disaster, or an epidemic,” or “other extraordinary and temporary conditions.” The designation applies to 320,000 Venezuelans in the U.S. but excludes newcomers, despite the Biden administration’s explicit recognition that America should be a safe haven.
Colombia, despite its own political and economic challenges, has welcomed the 2 million Venezuelan refugees who have traveled there as Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro drives the country into the ground. Colombia has even created a path to citizenship for its Venezuelan migrant population. But the U.S. is far better situated than Colombia to host Venezuelans, more than 5.4 million of whom have left their country since 2014 in what amounts to the second-worst refugee crisis in the world, topped only by the huge Syrian exodus.
Biden’s decision to send away refugees who are eager to become Americans belies his avowed “regard for the suffering of the Venezuelan people.”