President Joe Biden on Thursday announced a new legal pathway for up to 30,000 migrants per month from Venezuela, Cuba, Haiti and Nicaragua to temporarily come to the United States, as officials also plan to begin expelling people at the border from same countries under pandemic-related restrictions.
What You Need To Know
- President Biden on Thursday announced a new legal pathway for up to 30,000 migrants per month from Venezuela, Cuba, Haiti and Nicaragua to temporarily come to the United States
- It’s a new effort that senior administration officials said they expect will relieve pressure at the border by focusing on the populations who have most often claimed asylum in recent months
- The U.S. will also now expel up to 30,000 migrants a month from the qualified countries back to Mexico if they try to cross the border unlawfully
- The change received disappointed reactions from immigration advocates, who say temporary programs are an inadequate alternative to asylum protections, which have been stifled by pandemic restrictions
It’s a new effort that senior administration officials said they expect will relieve pressure at the border by focusing on the populations who have most often claimed asylum in recent months. The parole program will allow migrants to live and work in the U.S. for two years, provided they have family to sponsor them and go through security vetting.
The change also means that agents at the border will immediately begin to turn back migrants from the same countries under the pandemic-era restriction Title 42. Mexico has newly agreed to accept up to 30,000 people per month. Anyone who crosses illegally into Panama or Mexico will also become ineligible for the new program.
Biden on Thursday urged migrants to apply to migrate from their home country.
"If you're trying to leave Cuba, Nicaragua or Haiti, or have agreed to begin the journey to America: Do not -- do not -- just show up at the border," he said. "Stay where you are and apply legally from there."
But it's unlikely the new, limited program will capture the real demand at the border, where more than 230,000 people attempted to cross in November alone. Agents have encountered record numbers of people arriving over the last year, including an average of 7,000 to 9,000 per day in December.
President Biden acknowledged: "This is a hard one to deal with, but we have to deal with it."
He also said the new pathway was an example of one of the limited things he could do from the executive branch, calling on Congress to do more to come to an agreement to reform the immigration system.
"Immigration reform used to be a bipartisan issue. We can make it that way again," he said, calling immigration an economic imperative, too.
The program he announced Thursday builds on one implemented in October for Venezuelan migrants, which allowed 24,000 people with family in the U.S. to arrive under temporary humanitarian parole. Any Venezuelan who crossed illegally into Panama or Mexico was ineligible.
Venezuelan arrivals at the border dropped by about 90% after that, a senior administration official told reporters Thursday.
The new policy also reflects a shift in Mexico’s willingness to absorb some of the pressure of migration at the southwest border, days before President Joe Biden is expected to meet with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Mexico City.
Before that meeting, Biden is also scheduled to travel to El Paso, Texas, this Sunday to “address border enforcement operations” and meet with local authorities, a senior administration official said. It will be his first visit to the border as president.
The new pathway for Venezuelans, Cubans, Haitians and Nicaraguans received disappointed reactions from immigration advocates, who say temporary parole programs are an inadequate alternative to asylum protections that have been stifled by Title 42. Asylum is a legal way for migrants to ask for refugewho when they have a valid fear of persecution and arrive on U.S. soil.
"President Biden and his administration are now actively pursuing discredited Trump policies," Sunil Varghese, policy director at the International Refugee Assistance Project, said in part. "The Biden Administration is illegally and immorally gutting access to humanitarian protections for the majority of people who have already fled their country seeking freedom and safety."
Advocates also pointed out that the program's need for a family sponsor in the U.S. could limit applicants to wealthier people, shutting out those who may need asylum protections the most.
Biden on Thursday agreed that migration was a "human right" when people are being persecuted, as it has been throughout U.S. history.
"It's not new. It's part of it's human nature and fear. But there's got to be an orderly way. And I know we can make it much much better," he said.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Thursday also said the new pathway is meant to cut out "ruthless smuggling organizations," that can put migrants' lives at risk or cost their "life savings."
Meanwhile, DHS is also trying to relieve congestion at the border by implementing changes to prepare for the end of public health restrictions known as Title 42, Mayorkas said.
That includes the expanded use of the smartphone app called CBP One, through which people can claim asylum as an exception to Title 42 by making an appointment at a port of entry.
"The app is designed to discourage individuals from congregating near the border and creating unsafe conditions," Mayorkas said.