President Joe Biden’s administration on Jan. 5 announced steps officials said would improve border security and help slow illegal immigration while helping migrants obtain legal status in the United States.
The administration is expanding a parole program that was restricted to Venezuelans to would-be immigrants from three other countries. People from Cuba, Nicaragua, and Haiti are now eligible for applying for legal status for two years, provided they find a sponsor inside the United States and pass a background check.
Under U.S. immigration law, the secretary of homeland security may grant parole to individuals who would otherwise be illegal in America. The program, launched in October 2022, leveraged that power to thousands of Venezuelans. Up to 30,000 people per month from the four countries who are paroled can come to the United States for two years and be allowed to work. They are required not to come to the border or illegally enter the United States while their application is weighed.
Mexico, which already agreed to accept Venezuelan nationals that illegally crossed the border, has said it will accept up to 30,000 illegal immigrants per month from the countries, according to the White House.
The program has led to a drop in Venezuelans entering the U.S. illegally, from about 1,100 per day to less than 250 a day on average, according to U.S. officials.
Partnering with Mexico is crucial because Venezuela, Cuba, Haiti, and Nicaragua have generally rejected bids to return illegal immigrants, officials said.
Another prong of the new effort is enabling people interested in entering the United States to schedule an appointment at a port of entry to start a claim for asylum, or legal protection due to issues such as fear of persecution.
Most asylum claims are ultimately rejected but a major backlog in the courts leave most illegal immigrants living in the country for years before their case is adjudicated. Some are not deported even if their claims are rejected.