New U.S. immigration policies protect some Venezuelans in the United States, and deportation for others. The following article was published in the November-December 2023 issue of NewsNotes.
Bishop Mark Seitz Of El Paso, chair of the USCCB Committee on Migration, posted two statements on the social media platform X (formerly called Twitter), on Oct. 6 on the news that the Biden Administration will resume deportations to Venezuela.
“In solidarity with our Venezuelan brothers and sisters,” Bishop Seitz said, “we pray for bold action that promotes the right to life and integral human development throughout our hemisphere, relying not on failed policies of the past but forward-looking solutions that advance the common good.”
The bishop went on in a second post: “US plans to deport Venezuelans? When our government acknowledges the exceedingly dangerous conditions in a country such as Venezuela and less than three weeks later begins forcibly returning people to that country, we bear witness to the paradox of our broken immigration system.”
The news of more deportations of Venezuelans came just weeks after the Biden administration extended and redesignated Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for some people in the United States from Venezuela, Afghanistan, and Cameroon. While this will provide over 500,000 people with protection from deportation as well as the ability to work and support their families, it is not a permanent protection and does not address the backlog and red tape that has nearly paralyzed the U.S. asylum system.
About 472,000 Venezuelans in the United States on or before July 31 now will be eligible for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for a period of 18 months. Some 243,000 Venezuelans already have the status stemming from a 2021 designation that was renewed last year.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said the expansion of protected status for Venezuelans was warranted due to “Venezuela’s increased instability and lack of safety.”
The people of Venezuela have experienced unprecedented turmoil in recent years – economic and political crises, hunger and persecution. Expanding temporary protection from deportation for Venezuelans is a positive shift for Venezuelans who have sought peace, security, and stability in the United States while the country they know as home undergoes the largest displacement crisis in the world.
Approximately 50,000 Venezuelans crossed the U.S.-Mexico border without documents in the month of September, a record and once-unthinkable number, according to Department of Homeland Security statistics.
Deportation flights for Venezuelans who arrived since July 31 resumed on Oct. 18 with a first plane of more than 100 migrants landing back in their economically troubled country. This is the first time in years that U.S. immigration authorities are deporting people to Venezuela, marking a significant concession by the government of Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro to the United States, a longtime adversary.
The Biden administration said it plans to have multiple deportation flights a week to Venezuela, which would place Venezuela among the top international destinations for U.S. immigration authorities. An official from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), said those who were prioritized for the deportation include undocumented Venezuelans who recently arrived as well as those who have committed crimes.
The first flight occurred the day after the Venezuelan government and opposition parties agreed to work on electoral conditions, which triggered the United States to announce some sanctions relief on Venezuela’s oil, gas and gold mining sectors. According to the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), the agreement is partial but represents an important first step towards a democratic solution to the Venezuelan crisis.
“A route with greater electoral guarantees for the 2024 presidential elections is one of the most notable achievements of the agreements,” said Carolina Jiménez, the president of WOLA.
The agreement includes the holding of presidential elections in the second half of 2024, and the participation of candidates in official media and international observation. Even if support for these agreements weakens in the few months, Jiménez sees them as “very important issues” that offer hope for the “re-democratization of a country that, at this moment and for many years, lives under a government characterized by its authoritarianism.”
Photo of Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso greeting a parishioner after Mass at St. Rita's Catholic Church on 5/2/2010 via Wikimedia.