Last week, the Biden Administration announced it will resume deportation flights of Venezuelan migrants back to Venezuela — but many Venezuelans themselves say the move won’t deter them from coming to the U.S.
Venezuela continues to experience the worst humanitarian crisis in modern South American history, not to mention a brutally oppressive socialist regime. In recent years, more than a fifth of the entire population have fled the country — an exodus that’s now estimated to be even larger than those from war-torn Ukraine and Syria.
Venezuelans report that their country’s economic collapse keeps spiraling. President Nicolás Maduro’s government has been unable to resuscitate the vital state-run oil industry, which has been wrecked by gross mismanagement and the effects of U.S. sanctions.
At the same time, Maduro shows little if any sign of giving up his iron-fisted rule in transparent elections, while international organizations like the U.N. continue to condemn his regime’s human rights abuses.
So even though tens of thousands of Venezuelans are taking advantage of President Biden’s new humanitarian parole as a legal means of coming to the U.S. — a program that’s meant to dissuade migrants from making the dangerous journey north through Central America and Mexico to the U.S.’s overwhelmed southern border — tens of thousands more keep coming by land, many risking their lives in the treacherous Darién jungle between Colombia and Panama.
In fact, Panamanian authorities say this past summer, most of the migrants tramping through the Darién were Venezuelan.
That’s a big reason the Biden Administration, on the one hand, last month extended Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, to Venezuelans who’ve been in the U.S. since before July 31. TPS protects migrants from crisis-torn countries from deportation for renewable, 18-month stretches.
On the other hand, it’s why Biden got Maduro last week to agree to receive deportation flights carrying Venezuelans who are determined to have entered the U.S. unlawfully.
But Venezuelan migrants like Norbelis say that’s unlikely to stop the Venezuelan exodus to the U.S.
Norbelis — who asked WLRN not to use her full name — is a Venezuelan woman who recently arrived in Florida after crossing the U.S. southern border. On her journey here, she trekked through the Darién jungle.
“The default move for Venezuelans right now is to emigrate,” said Norbelis. “It’s pure desperation.”
As a result, expat leaders here in South Florida say Biden’s decision to deport Venezuelans will have little if any effect.
“It doesn’t matter what this administration does,” said Patricia Andrade, who heads the migrant aid nonprofit Raíces Venezolanas Miami en Doral. “Venezuelans will keep crossing the Darién, the Rio Grande, the desert, whatever.”
Tim Padgett is WLRN's Americas editor, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida.. His work appears under a partnership between WLRN and the Key Biscayne Independent.