Biden policies driving massive surge in Venezuelan migration to southern border, report finds

A new report by a conservative immigration group into the ongoing surge in Venezuelan migration at the southern border finds that the crisis has been sparked by U.S. policy as much as it is by economic conditions. 

The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) has issued the report, a copy of which was obtained by Fox News Digital, which looks into the dramatic increase in migrants coming from the socialist dictatorship to the U.S. southern border.

It highlights how the number of Venezuelans coming to the border has skyrocketed from 50,000 in FY 21 to nearly 335,000 in FY 23.

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“This makes Venezuelans the second most commonly encountered nationality at the border,” it says.

“It is difficult to capture the scale of these numbers without conceptualizing them in some way besides the raw figures. The number of Venezuelan nationals encountered in FY 2023 is equivalent to five times the number of people who can fit into the New England Patriots’ Gillette stadium.  It is also nearly the same number of people who are active-duty personnel in the U.S. Air Force.”

Venezuelan migrants communicate with their families and friends at the camp area in front of the US Border Patrol operations post across the Rio Bravo River in the evening hours in Mexico on November 14, 2022.  (Carlos Ernesto Escalona/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Typically, analyses of the numbers coming have emphasized the conditions in Venezuela, which over the years has faced hyperinflation, poverty and human rights abuses. But the FAIR report stresses that until FY 21, numbers coming to the border were low, despite conditions being poor for years.

Instead, the report links the numbers with reduced enforcement, arguing that numbers have risen but have reduced sharply whenever the Biden administration has taken enforcement action.

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“Venezuelan illegal immigration to the U.S. is driven as much by policy as economic conditions. When the Biden Administration announces tougher enforcement policies, the number of encounters drops,” it says.

The report argues that after Mexico announced it would no longer allow Venezuelans to enter Mexico visa-free after calls from the Biden administration, there was a drop in encounters. It also points to a drop in Venezuelan migration after the ending of Title 42 in May and the promise of a re-imposition of “consequences” for illegal entry.

There was a similar drop in the fall of 2023, when the Biden administration announced that it was restarting deportation flights directly to Venezuela. The administration said this month that “we do have the intention of ramping up repatriation flights to Venezuela” and that the administration sees it as a “critical part” of the broader immigration strategy.

“It’s an important deterrent,” an official said. 

But the report also argues that other moves, including the program to allow up to 30,000 Venezuelans, along with Cubans, Haitians and Nicaraguans, into the U.S. each month via the use of humanitarian parole, and the redesignating of Venezuela for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) have encouraged migration levels from Venezuela.

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Overall though, it says that the move by the Biden administration to release more illegal immigrants into the country rather than detain and deport has been a driving factor, calling it a “major driver of mass migration.” 

The group, which argues for lower levels of immigration overall, says that the situation in Venezuela is “highly regrettable” but that the solution is not “allowing countless numbers of Venezuelans to come to live in the United States permanently.”

“If the U.S. wishes to promote political change, the best way to do that is not draining Venezuela of potential change makers by encouraging and enabling them to leave their home country behind,” it says.

The report also expresses concern about the potential for gang members from Venezuela to enter the U.S. — as well as concerns about terrorism, given Venezuela’s close ties with Iran, which in turn sponsors Hezbollah and Hamas. It notes past congressional hearings that have highlighted how Venezuela has provided militants with travel documents. Federal officials have said that all migrants encountered at the border are subject to a multi-layered vetting system before being released.

The administration has said it is pursuing a broad strategy of expanding “legal pathways,” including the parole program for Venezuelans and other nationalities, while enforcing “consequences” for illegal entry. It has pushed back against claims it is mass releasing migrants by arguing that it has returned more migrants since May than in the entirety of FY 2019. It has also sought funding from Congress which includes additional removal authorities.

Meanwhile, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has said it is the “broken” system that is the magnet drawing migrants north, and which Congress needs to fix.

“What is a magnet is the fact that the time in between an encounter of an individual at the border and their final ruling in their immigration case can sometimes take six or more years,” he said this month. “That is a magnet, which is precisely why I am working with Republicans and Democrats in the United States Senate to deliver a solution for the American people, to deliver a fix to an immigration system that everyone agrees is broken, and that is long overdue.”

The report calls for safe third country agreements to be formed with countries neighboring Venezuela, the ending of parole programs and the halting of “catch-and-release” policies. That is in addition to deportations, a Title 42 expulsion authority and increased vetting of Venezuelan nationals.

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“If these policies are enacted, it is highly likely that the mass migration from Venezuela will slow. Given the scale and speed of Venezuelan arrivals in America, these policies must be put in place without delay, and many can be done immediately by the Biden Administration,” it says.

The report comes as the migrant crisis is still breaking records. There were over 302,000 migrant encounters at the southern border in December, coming after a record 2.4 million encounters in FY 23.
 

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