MEXICO — Border crossings for Venezuelans fleeing to the United States from their South American country have plummeted in the first week of a US policy to deport them to Mexico without the possibility of seeking asylum, officials said on Friday. American and Mexican officials.
Biden administration officials said about 150 Venezuelans are crossing the border daily from Mexico, up from about 1,200 before the policy was announced Oct. 12.
Arturo Rocha, a senior Mexican foreign relations department official, said separately that the number of Venezuelans entering the United States had dropped by 90%, roughly matching US government figures. He said the number of Venezuelans crossing the dangerous Darien Gap between Colombia and Panama on the most popular route to the United States had dropped by 80%.
Biden administration officials said Venezuelans are generally deported under a public health rule known as Title 42, which suspends rights to seek asylum under U.S. and international law on the grounds prevent the spread of COVID-19. The White House has expanded the policy of deporting Venezuelans to Mexico despite an effort earlier this year to end Title 42, which remained in effect under a court order.
Under the new rules, the United States said it would accept up to 24,000 Venezuelan migrants at US airports if they first applied online with a financial sponsor. They would be granted humanitarian parole in an effort similar to how tens of thousands of Ukrainians have entered the United States since Russia invaded.
Rocha wrote in a newspaper column that the United States had received approximately 7,500 Venezuelan parole applications. US officials declined to confirm that number on a conference call with reporters, but said there was significant interest and flights would begin soon.
Although barely a week old, the crackdown on Venezuelans had an immediate impact on what had become a serious challenge for the Biden administration. Venezuelans were the second nationality to cross the border illegally from Mexico in August, with another sharp increase in September to more than 33,000.
Many Venezuelans who were heading to the United States when the new rules were announced are now in Mexico unsure of what to do next.
Mexican officials discussed the initial results of the joint exercise effort with Guatemala on migration control.
Even as this official event unfolded, migrants continued to cross the Suchiate River between the two countries on inner tube rafts, but most soon surrendered to Mexican agents.
Until now, Mexico granted Venezuelans and other migrants short-term transit passes that allowed them to reach a town further inland in Mexico, San Pedro Tapanatepec, where they could wait more formal visas.
Thousands of migrants had gathered in San Pedro Tapanatepec waiting for these papers, which many previously used to continue to the US border.
But on Friday, Héctor Martínez Castuera, coordinating director of Mexico’s National Immigration Institute, said visas would no longer be issued in San Pedro Tapanatepec. Instead, Mexican authorities set up a migrant shelter to care for anyone waiting there.
“We have set up a shelter there, a big shelter to accommodate migrants, but at the moment we are not distributing any immigration forms,” he said.
Martínez Castuera said migrants could try to get papers to stay in Mexico or return to Venezuela. He said Mexico could help some return, as “many Venezuelans want”, but the issue was complicated.
Spagat reported from San Diego.