DORAL, Fla. – The Department of Homeland Security announced Thursday that they are releasing new directives for a major change in the Venezuelan immigration policy to the U.S.
24,000 Venezuelan migrants will be eligible for a new program to come to the U.S.
The actions are intended to address the most acute irregular migration and help ease pressure on the cities and states receiving these individuals.
Effective immediately, Venezuelans who walk or swim across the border will be immediately returned to Mexico under a pandemic rule known as Title 42 authority, which suspends rights to seek asylum under the U.S. and international law on grounds of preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Any Venezuelan who illegally enters Mexico or Panama after Wednesday will also be ineligible to come to the U.S. under the offer.
The change comes as a response to an explosion in Venezuelans arriving at the southern border.
In 2020, just over 2000 Venezuelans were apprehended there.
According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, more than 150,000 Venezuelans were picked up at the U.S.-Mexico border between October 2021 and August 2022.
The growth came as word spread that U.S. authorities don’t have a way to turn Venezuelans back after almost all were allowed in to request asylum.
Immigration attorney Wilfredo Allen told Local 10 News that he is most concerned about the transition period.
“Right now, you have thousands of Venezuelans and Colombians who are crossing, or are already crossing and are in Guatemala, Nicaragua or Mexico,” said Allen.
With the southern border now immediately closed to Venezuelans, the tens of thousands believed to be on the way are now stranded.
Eduardo Velasco says the town is overwhelmed with thousands of Venezuelans after crossing the dangerous Darien Gap jungle in Panama and almost arriving at the U.S. border.
Velasco received the news that the border is now effectively closed.
“We feel like our trip is over, and it’s sad because so many things we already had mentally planned to help others,” said Velasco. “We just need an answer.”