President Biden’s administration quietly announced on Wednesday that Venezuelans who enter the US illegally will be “returned” to Mexico and that those seeking asylum must secure a sponsor, undergo a public safety screening and fulfill certain, as yet unspecified vaccination requirements, according to a statement put out by the Department of Homeland Security.
The policy is coming after New York City has buckled for months under the strain of migrants — many of them Venezuelans — streaming into the five boroughs in search of refuge.
So far this year, nearly 20,000 migrants have come to the Big Apple.
In that time, Mayor Adams has pleaded for assistance from the state and federal government to help relieve the pressure the influx of new arrivals has placed on the city’s homeless shelter system.
Biden’s new policy — pieces of which were posted with little fanfare on the Department of Homeland Security’s website Wednesday — is similar to former President Donald Trump’s in that it allows for migrants to be sent back to Mexico if they enter the US illegally.
Two areas where the policy differs from Trump’s are the provision that asylum seekers must secure sponsorship in the form of someone providing financial support in the US and a clearer path to legal residency. The Department of Homeland Security did not immediately respond to a message.
According to DHS, the new policy seeks to establish a safer and more orderly process for people fleeing Venezuela and ease the pressure on cities like New York that have been taking in the migrants.
“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,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas in a written statement. “Those who attempt to cross the southern border of the United States illegally will be returned to Mexico and will be ineligible for this process in the future. Those who follow the lawful process will have the opportunity to travel safely to the United States and become eligible to work here.”
The new program will also establish new migration checkpoints along the southwestern border, target human smuggling rings, and create a new process to lawfully allow up to 24,000 “qualifying” Venezuelans into the US
Migrants who’ve been ordered removed from the US in the last five years or who have crossed the border illegally after Oct. 12 will be ineligible to remain in the US People who are permanent residents or dual nationals of countries other than Venezuela or who hold refugee status in a country other than the US would also be subject to deportation.
“Venezuelans should not travel to Mexico to pursue entry into the United States,” according to DHS.
In the written statement it issued Wednesday, the agency noted that it “may consider expanding [the process] in the future,” but it did not elaborate on what exactly that means.
Over the past several months, assistance from the feds and state has either come in trickles, or not at all. Govt. Hochul activated more than 140 members of the New York National Guard to assist with the logistics of setting up tents to house migrants on Randalls Island recently, but with the midterm elections looming and Hochul in the middle of her own re-election run, both she and Biden have appeared reluctant to make any moves that would supply Republicans with talking points on a hot-button issue like immigration.
Despite the politics, Adams, also a Democrat, delivered a speech from City Hall last Friday renewing his demands that the feds and state do more to provide assistance to the city. Among those asks were that the federal government loosen work requirements for migrants now in the US and that there be a concerted effort to distribute the burden felt by New York to other cities and states.
On Thursday, Adams pointed to the president’s new policy as a victory — but with the caveat that more needs to be done.
“While details are still emerging, this federal action is a short-term step to address this humanitarian crisis and humanely manage the flow of border crossings. But a long-term and proactive strategy is still needed, which includes Congress both passing legislation that will allow asylum seekers to legally work and providing emergency financial relief for our city,” Adams said. “We additionally need a bipartisan effort to deliver long-awaited immigration reform so we can offer people a safe, legal path to the American dream. We are grateful to President Biden and his administration for our ongoing dialogue to address this humanitarian crisis and look forward to continuing to work closely with them moving forward.”
Republicans were declaring victory over the announcement Thursday morning as well.
City Councilman Joe Borelli (R-Staten Island) suggests the news validated Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s controversial practice of bussing migrants to New York — a policy Adams has repeatedly criticized for Abbott’s failure to coordinate with him.
“The pressure that built after New York’s crisis exploded was enough for the administration to realize they couldn’t advertise an open border policy going into the midterms,” Borelli said. “If you’re the governor of Texas or Arizona, you probably can’t help but think the mission was partially accomplished today. This wouldn’t have happened without New York experiencing an explosion in the migrant population with budget-busting costs.”