US will begin expelling Cubans, Haitians and Venezuelans who cross border illegally, White House says

Biden Border (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Biden Border (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

The Biden administration will begin expelling migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela who cross into the US illegally between ports of entry as part of a crackdown on illegal immigration while opening a number of legal pathways for people to legally claim asylum, the White House said on Thursday.

President Joe Biden is expected to announce the new policies in a speech at the White House at 11.15 am, just one day after he said he intends to make his first visit to the US-Mexico border next week when he visits Mexico for a trilateral summit with the Mexican and Canadian heads of government.

A senior administration official who briefed reporters on the plan said the Department of Homeland Security is implementing the new policies as part of a strategy to prepare for the end of a Trump-era public health order which has allowed the US to expel a significant number of migrants, ostensibly to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

“Today we are announcing some significant steps that we are taking to not only increase legal pathways to the United States, but also continue to deliver consequences for those who attempt to enter the United States unlawfully. The legal pathways that we are announcing today are generous, but at the same time, there are serious consequences for circumventing them,” said the official, who told reporters Mr Biden will announce the expansion of a program that has been used for migrants seeking to come to the US from Venezuela to Cuban, Haitian and Nicaraguan migrants.

“Under the expanded program, DHS will admit up to 30,000 individuals per month from these four countries. At the same time we will return to Mexico 30,000 people each month from these countries who circumvent the process and attempt to cross our border unlawfully,” the official continued, adding that the US will immediately begin to “swiftly return” migrants from those countries who attempt to cross the US-Mexico border illegally and deem any such migrants ineligible for the new program.

Anyone who crosses from those countries illegally into Panama or Mexico will also be ineligible, the official said.

“The message is clear: Those who are interested in migrating to the United States should stay where they are and apply for this rapid new process,” the official said.

To be eligible for the new process, any potential asylum seeker will need a US sponsor and will have to pass a security vetting process. Anyone approved can travel to the US by plane and will have a two-year residence and work permit upon arrival.

“The process is easy. You can do the whole thing on an app on your phone. It costs nothing more than the price of a commercial airline ticket,” they said.

The administration’s latest push to stem the flow of asylum seekers across the US-Mexico border comes amid a record number of crossings and attempted crossings that has contributed to what critics describe as a crisis that has overwhelmed border communities and consumed significant amounts of resources on both sides of the border.

The official said the new programme is based off a similar arrangement launched for Venezuelan migrants last year, which the administration has considered successful because it resulted in a 90 per cent decrease in the number of Venezuelan nationals seeking asylum between ports of entry.

“Coupling consistent consequences for those who cross our border with a streamlined legal pathway is proven is proven to reduce irregular migration and facilitate safe, orderly migration,” the official said. “Fewer people are risking their lives and their entire life savings at the hands of human smugglers. This is what we are seeking to build upon today”.