The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden has agreed to accept up to 24,000 Venezuelan migrants at U.S. airports.
Mexico has also agreed to take back Venezuelans who come to the U.S. illegally by land, the United States and Mexico said Wednesday.
The order goes into effect immediately.
Venezuelans who walk or swim across the border will be immediately returned to Mexico under a pandemic rule known as Title 42.
The rule suspends rights to seek asylum under U.S. and international law in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Any Venezuelan who illegally enters Mexico or Panama after Wednesday will also be prevented from coming to the U.S. under the rule.
The U.S. offer of parole for up to 24,000 Venezuelans is similar to a program for Ukrainians who fled Russia's invasion.
Immigration parole permits migrants to enter the U.S. temporarily.
The program’s success depends on whether Mexico will take back Venezuelans who enter Mexico illegally, the Department of Homeland Security said.
The moves are in answer to a large increase in migration from Venezuela.
Venezuela passed Guatemala and Honduras in August to become the second-largest nationality arriving at the U.S. border.
Alejandro Mayorkas is the Homeland Security secretary.
He said: “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.”
Until now, Mexico has agreed to accept migrants expelled under Title 42 only if they are from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, as well as Mexico.
The U.S. struggles to expel other nationalities because of costs, poor diplomatic relations and other reasons.
Poor relations with the Venezuelan government have made it very hard to apply Title 42 to Venezuelans.
The pandemic rule has been used 2.3 million times since March 2020 but used only 2,453 times on Venezuelans.
In August, Venezuelans were stopped 25,349 times at the U.S. southern border.
That is a 43 percent increase from July and four times the amount from August 2021.
An estimated 6.8 million Venezuelans have fled their country since its economic crisis in 2014, mostly to Latin America and Caribbean countries.
But the U.S. economy’s strength since the pandemic has led Venezuelan migrants to look north.
Venezuelans who successfully apply to the new program online must come to the United States through an airport.
That is similar to an effort that began in April to admit up to 100,000 Ukrainians fleeing war.
Venezuelans, like Ukrainians, must have someone providing financial support in the United States.
They also must find a way to reach the United States.
There are currently no flights permitted from Venezuela to the U.S.
It is also possible that Mexico limits how many Venezuelans it will accept from the United States.
Mexico said in its statement that it will “temporarily allow some Venezuelan citizens” to be returned.
The 24,000 spots that the U.S. is offering is less than the number of Venezuelans that crossed the border illegally from Mexico in just the month of August.
I’m Dan Novak.