Biden Returns to Trump Policy to Deny Venezuelans Asylum

Administration has been critical of GOP treatment of arrivals
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 16, 2022 10:25 AM CDT
Like Trump, Biden Uses Rule to Expel Venezuelan Migrants
Venezuelan migrants walk across the Rio Bravo from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, toward the US border to surrender to the border patrol on Thursday.   (AP Photo/Christian Chavez, File)

Two years ago, candidate Joe Biden loudly denounced President Donald Trump for immigration policies that inflicted "cruelty and exclusion at every turn," including toward those fleeing the "brutal" government of socialist Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela. Now, with increasing numbers of Venezuelans arriving at the US-Mexico border as the Nov. 8 election nears, Biden has turned to an unlikely source for a solution: his predecessor's playbook, the AP reports. Biden last week invoked a Trump-era rule known as Title 42—which Biden's own Justice Department is fighting in court—to deny Venezuelans fleeing their crisis-torn country the chance to request asylum at the border. Under Title 42, migrants have been expelled more than 2.3 million times from the US after crossing land borders illegally from Canada or Mexico.

The rule, first invoked by Trump in 2020, uses emergency public health authority to allow the US to keep migrants from seeking asylum at the border, based on the need to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Under the new Biden administration policy, Venezuelans who walk or swim across America's southern border will be expelled, and any Venezuelan who illegally enters Mexico or Panama will be ineligible to come to the US. But as many as 24,000 Venezuelans will be accepted at US airports, similar to how Ukrainians have been admitted since Russia's invasion in February. Mexico has insisted that the US admit one Venezuelan on humanitarian parole for each Venezuelan it expels to Mexico, said a Mexican official. So if the Biden administration paroles 24,000 Venezuelans to the US, Mexico would take no more than 24,000 Venezuelans expelled from the US.

The Biden policy marks an abrupt turn for the White House, which has lambasted Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, both Republicans, for putting Venezuelan migrants "fleeing political persecution" on buses and planes to Democratic strongholds. "These were children, they were moms, they were fleeing communism," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. Biden's new policy has drawn swift criticism from immigrant advocates. "Rather than restore the right to asylum decimated by the Trump administration ... the Biden administration has dangerously embraced the failures of the past and expanded upon them by explicitly enabling expulsions of Venezuelan migrants," said Jennifer Nagda of the Young Center for Immigrant Children's Rights.

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Why the turnaround? Biden originally deferred to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which used its authority to keep in place the Trump-era declaration that a public health risk warranted expedited expulsion of asylum-seekers. On April 1, the CDC said it would end the public health order and return to normal border processing of migrants, giving them a chance to request asylum in the US. Homeland Security officials braced for a resulting increase in border crossings. In May, a court order kept Title 42 in place due to a challenge from Republican state officials, per the AP. With the increase in migration from Venezuela, an administration that had rejected many Trump-era policies to keep out migrants, that had worked to make the asylum process easier, and that had increased the number of refugees allowed into the US now turned to Title 42.

(Read more migrants stories.)

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