In an effort to alleviate congestion at the U.S. southern border, the Biden administration has announced plans to permit entry to tens of thousands of eligible asylum seekers fleeing the economic and humanitarian crisis of Venezuela.

The plan, which is effective immediately, will create a pathway for up to 24,000 eligible Venezuelans to lawfully enter the United States on the condition that they have someone in the country who can financially support them and that they didn’t illegally enter Mexico or Panama in order to do so.

“Venezuelans should not travel to Mexico to pursue entry into the United States,” the Department of Homeland Security said.

On the other hand, Venezuelans who do not qualify and enter the United States between ports of entry will be returned to Mexico and will be made ineligible to gain admittance through the newly created pathway in the future.

“These actions make clear that there is a lawful and orderly way for Venezuelans to enter the United States, and lawful entry is the only way,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement. “Those who follow the lawful process will have the opportunity to travel safely to the United States and become eligible to work here.”

The program, which is the result of an agreement with Mexico, is derived from the Biden administration’s effort unveiled in April to provide 100,000 Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s war entry to the United States and aims to combat surging numbers of migrants arriving at the U.S. southern border.

According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials, a record of more than 2 million encounters were tallied at the U.S.-Mexico border this fiscal year. Officials said about 1 million of those migrants were expelled under Title 42, a COVID-19 border protection.

The surge is attributed to asylum seekers fleeing authoritarian regimes in Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua, which accounted for 35% of all encounters and an increase of 175% from a year prior.

Homeland Security officials said nearly four times as many Venezuelans this year attempted to cross the southern border compared to a year earlier.

“This effort is intended to enhance border security by reducing the number of Venezuelans seeking to irregularly enter the United States,” the Department of Homeland Security said.

Mexico said in a statement that as part of the agreement it will temporarily allow some Venezuelan citizens rejected from the United States under Title 42 for humanitarian reasons entry within its borders.

Coinciding with the move, the Department of Homeland Security announced an additional 65,000 H2-B visas for temporary non-agricultural workers, of which 20,000 will be allotted for people from Central America and Haiti. This number is on top of the 66,000 H-2B visas that are normally available each year.

Mexico said that plan prioritizes entry by air instead of over the U.S.-Mexico border with the “shared goal of ensuring orderly, safe, regular and humane migration.”
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