Mayorkas calls policy to let 30k migrants fly in each month a ‘key element’ of border plan after legal win

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas defended a controversial policy to allow up to 30,000 migrants to be flown into the U.S. each month as a “key element” of the Biden administration’s border strategy, after it survived a lawsuit. 

Twenty GOP-led states sued over the program for Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans (CHNV) last year, claiming it was unlawful. But U.S. District Judge Drew Tipton, a Trump appointee who has struck down other Biden-era policies, ruled in favor of the administration.

The policy was first announced for Venezuelans in October of 2022, which allowed a limited number to fly directly into the U.S. as long as they had not entered illegally, had a sponsor in the U.S. already and passed certain checks. 

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Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas testifies before a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, on Capitol Hill on May 4, 2022, in Washington, D.C. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

In January 2023, the administration announced that the program was expanding to include Haitians, Nicaraguans and Cubans and that the program would allow up to 30,000 people per month into the U.S. It allows for migrants to receive work permits and a two-year authorization to live in the U.S. and was announced alongside an expansion of Title 42 expulsions to include those nationalities.

The states argued that the program is illegal given the “exceptionally limited” parole power available to the federal government by Congress that says the authority is to be used on a “case-by-case basis for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit.”

“The parole program established by the Department fails each of the law’s three limiting factors. It is not case-by-case, is not for urgent humanitarian reasons, and advances no significant public benefit. Instead, it amounts to the creation of a new visa program that allows hundreds of thousands of aliens to enter the United States who otherwise have no basis for doing so. This flouts, rather than follows, the clear limits imposed by Congress,” the lawsuit reads.

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Mayorkas in a statement after the Tipton ruling, defended the program, which has formed a centerpiece of the administration’s strategy to expand “lawful pathways” to migration to prevent illegal crossings at the border.

“We are pleased that today’s court ruling means that the parole processes for individuals from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela will continue,” he said. “These processes — a safe and orderly way to reach the United States — have resulted in a significant reduction in the number of these individuals encountered at our southern border.” 

“It is a key element of our efforts to address the unprecedented level of migration throughout our hemisphere, and other countries around the world see it as a model to tackle the challenge of increased irregular migration that they too are experiencing,” he said.

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However, since expanding the program, there have been record encounters at the border. There were more than 2.4 million migrant encounters in FY23, a record. And in December, there were more than 302,000 encounters, the first-ever time there were more than 300,000 encounters.

Republicans have blamed the historic border crisis on the policies of the administration, accusing it of embracing an open border by increasing releases into the interior, reducing interior enforcement and ending most border wall construction. 

The administration says it is dealing with a Hemisphere-wide crisis and needs more funding and immigration reform from Congress. It has called for the passage of the recent Senate bill, which includes funding, staffing and some limits on releases, but conservatives have rejected it as insufficient. 

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Mayorkas rejected claims that the border is open and encouraged wannabe-entries to use legal pathways rather than entering illegally.

“Do not believe the lies of smugglers. Those who do not have a legal basis to remain in the United States will be subject to prompt removal, a minimum five-year bar on admission, and potential criminal prosecution for unlawful reentry,” he claimed. “Migrants should continue to use safe and orderly lawful pathways and processes that have been expanded under the Biden-Harris administration.” 

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