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Gov. Abbott: Expand New DHS Rule That Returns Venezuelan Migrants to Mexico

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Governor Greg Abbott | Image by Shutterstock

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The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced new rules on Wednesday specifically aimed at dealing with an influx of unlawful entry by migrants from Venezuela along the Southwest border.

Any Venezuelans who enter the U.S. by unlawfully crossing the border will be immediately sent back to Mexico under Title 42, the Trump-era pandemic emergency rule. “These actions make clear that there is a lawful and orderly way for Venezuelans to enter the United States, and lawful entry is the only way,” said DHS Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas.

The new rules also create a new “parole” program for qualifying Venezuelans while allowing for the immediate return to Mexico of Venezuelan migrants who unlawfully cross the border.

That program will allow DHS to “lawfully and safely bring up to 24,000 qualifying Venezuelans” into an interior point of entry in the U.S. by air. The individuals can apply for a 2-year work authorization visa once in the U.S.

Venezuelan migrants are disqualified from eligibility in that program if they have been deported from the U.S. within the past five years, have entered Mexico or Panama unlawfully after the announcement, have refugee status in any other country, or have not completed vaccinations and health requirements.

In its announcement, DHS said the program is modeled after the Uniting for Ukraine (U4U) program instituted earlier this year when thousands of Ukrainians were fleeing amid Russia’s invasion. Ukrainians were allowed to enter the United States and work in the country temporarily, a process set up to avoid Ukrainians flooding the U.S.-Mexico border.

On Thursday, Gov. Greg Abbott criticized the new DHS rules for targeting only migrants from Venezuela, arguing that the Biden Administration should require the same process for all migrants regardless of national origin.

“They should have been doing this all along,” Abbott told reporters in San Antonio, where he gave a keynote address to the Asian American Alliance of San Antonio.

“They shouldn’t limit it to just people coming from Venezuela. It should be number one across the board,” he added.

DHS said its new rules explicitly target migrants from Venezuela because nearly four times the number of Venezuelans have tried to cross the southern border this year compared with last year.

In August, 55,333 migrants encountered at the border were from Venezuela, Cuba, or Nicaragua, a 175% increase from the year before.

In San Antonio, Venezuelan nationals account for 90% of the migrants being processed through its migrant resource center, according to city data.

Meanwhile, unlawful migration from other Central American countries is “down by a quarter from the level encountered last year,” DHS said in its announcement.

DHS said the new rules result from a joint agreement between U.S. and Mexico officials.

Gov. Abbott suggested the new process for Venezuelan migrants is the result of pressure on the Biden Administration from Democratic governors of states like New York and Illinois, which have seen thousands of migrants bused to their states from Texas and Arizona.

“We know that it has put pressure on the Biden Administration,” Abbott said. “It’s having an effect.”

The U.S. and Mexico will also ramp up coordinated enforcement operations against human smuggling organizations, the DHS announcement said.

Asked if the new DHS rules might increase human smuggling attempts, Gov. Abbott said no. The Texas governor instead suggested the Biden Administration sharpen its message to would-be migrants.

“He [Biden] needs to send a message that if you want to come to the United States of America, there’s a legal way, and that’s the only way you should be able to come,” Abbott said.

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