Venezuelan immigrants in shock and limbo after new US immigration plan | CNN

CNN — “The news hit me like a bucket of cold water,” said Alejaidys Morey, a 30-year-old Venezuelan woman who planned to travel to the United States by this week. On Wednesday, the United States announced that it has expanded Title 42, a pandemic-era regulation that allows immigration officials to deport illegal immigrants to Mexico for public health reasons, and unveiled a new program that allows some Venezuelan migrants to apply to arrive in U.S. ports. . You can enter by air with the upper limit of 24,000. Both initiatives are aimed at deterring Venezuelans like Mori from attempting illegal and dangerous overland entry through the US-Mexico border. But many immigrants already on their way told CNN they are in a painful limbo after the Biden administration’s decision has already given up everything to start a journey north. They also point out that the new airport entry program is beneficial for wealthy and well-connected Venezuelans who can comfortably fly north by plane. Venezuela’s immigration crisis is more severe than ever. More than 7 million Venezuelans are currently living in their own country fleeing a humanitarian crisis, according to new figures released by the United Nations this month. Most of them live in other South American countries. There are over 2 million people in Colombia alone. However, in recent months, the COVID-19 pandemic has made living conditions worse and more and more people are heading north to the United States via Central America and Mexico. global food crisis. As a result, the number of Venezuelans arrested on the southern border of the United States is increasing rapidly. According to the Department of Homeland Security, up to 180,000 Venezuelans have crossed the border in the past year. Panama and Mexico form a geographic gateway for overland travelers from South America. Under new US immigration rules, Northbound immigrants entering Panama or Mexico illegally are excluded from the program. The trip Morey, her husband Rodolfo, and her three children had planned could have been just that. They first made a trip to Colombia’s town of Necocli, and then aimed to hike into Panama through Darien Gap, a 100-kilometre stretch of impassable jungle. Despite numerous risks, 150,000 migrants have crossed on foot so far this year, according to Panamanian authorities. Morey, who is now in Colombia, says returning to Venezuela is impossible. In 2018, her family sold her home in Santa Teresa del Tui, a poor village about 30 kilometers southeast of Caracas, for US$1,500 to cover a trip to Colombia. Now she feels herself in limbo. Like many others, she can’t afford to pay for a transcontinental flight. “In this situation, I have nowhere to go… I am afraid. What can I do?” Morey told CNN. Her situation is now standard for most immigrants traveling north. “After so much suffering and so many obstacles that we had to overcome, we are now at a standstill. We are in Necocli and have nowhere to go… A Venezuelan immigrant who only asked to be identified as José told CNN. Up to 10,000 migrants are waiting in town to cross the bay to Darien Gap, according to local authorities, but some are currently reconsidering their next move. “I am sick and I don’t know what to do now,” said Ender Dairen, a 28-year-old Venezuelian who was planning to join a group traveling north from Ecuador. But his plans changed after talking to other immigrants online. “I’m thinking of settling down wherever some of my friends have reached somewhere between Costa Rica and Nicaragua,” he told CNN. “Everyone you talk to says the same thing. The whole path collapsed. We can no longer travel.” In a phone call with reporters on Thursday, senior homeland security official Blas Nuñez-Neto said the goal is to reduce the number of migrants illegally accessing the southern border of the United States while creating a legal route for those who qualify. However, the plan was rarely criticized by Venezuelan opposition lawmakers, who generally sympathize with Washington in the struggle against Venezuela’s authoritarian leader Nicholas Maduro. Henrique Capriles, a two-time presidential candidate and one of the few anti-Maduro leaders still living in Caracas, tweeted: “The US government is announcing a brutal immigration policy that makes the situation more painful for thousands of Venezuelans. did,” he said. Carlos Vecchio, the official head of the Venezuelan opposition party in Washington, also tweeted: “This plan is not good enough for the scale of Venezuela’s immigration crisis.” “I acknowledge @POTUS’ efforts to find an alternative to the migration crisis through humanitarian parole for the orderly and safe migration of Venezuelans,” he said. “However, the 24,000 visas announced are insufficient for the scale of the problem. We need to reconsider this,” he said. The Venezuelan government has not commented on the new US policy. However, humanitarian groups such as Doctors Without Borders (MSF) have reiterated the criticism of others that 24,000 legal permits are not enough, arguing that deporting others to Mexico under Title 42 should not be allowed. Avril Benoit, MSF Executive Director, said in a statement: “We are shocked by the decision of the Biden Administration to begin the deportation of Venezuelans under Title 42. “Special Humanitarian for Venezuelans We welcome the launch of the parole program, but ensuring a safe pathway to the United States should be the standard, not the exception.” Immigrants say they see a glimmer of hope in the Biden administration’s new stance: boxing instructor Oscar Chacin, 44, who had considered traveling to the US via Central America for weeks, now sees a legal path to immigration, told CNN. “It’s actually better for me. It’s going to make a lot of people worse, but it’s a good thing for me,” he said, “I have relatives and friends in the US and some who were boxing students. Some of them will be able to support me and my family.” His son, Oscar Alexander, is already in Mexico and arrived before the new US immigration rules were released. “He will be staying there now. He is already looking for a job and will submit documents as soon as he finds a sponsor,” said Chacin. “Then I will wait for the documents. Maybe a year, maybe two years, but I’m sure we’ll make it!”

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