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U.S. will resume deportation flights to Venezuela even as thousands flee that country

Immigrants from Venezuela crossed the Rio Grande from Mexico into the U.S. last month in Eagle Pass, Texas.
John Moore
Getty Images
Immigrants from Venezuela crossed the Rio Grande from Mexico into the U.S. last month in Eagle Pass, Texas.

U.S. immigration authorities are restarting deportations to Venezuela, as the Biden administration tries to discourage migrants from crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally.

The U.S plans to resume repatriation flights directly to Venezuela immediately, the administration announced Thursday.

The Biden administration has faced record levels of migration from Venezuela, fueled by economic and political turmoil in that country. Hundreds of thousands of migrants have made the dangerous journey through the Darién Gap jungle in Panama in order to reach the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Biden administration has responded with a combination of new legal pathways, as well as tougher enforcement at the southern U.S. border.

On a background call with reporters, an administration official said the resumption of deportations to Venezuela will "show how we are committed to imposing consequences on those who cross the border unlawfully."

Border crossings had declined for several months after the Biden administration rolled out a new set of enforcement policies in May, but they have since climbed sharply.

Apprehensions continued to increase in early September, according to preliminary figures from U.S. immigration authorities that were published by the president of Mexico.

So far in this year, some 400,000 migrants have crossed the Darién on their way to the United States, according to Panamanian officials — a sharp rise from the nearly 250,000 people who made the journey in all of 2022.

U.S. officials did not say how many repatriation flights to Venezuela the administration would operate or how many migrants would be on board those planes.

The latest announcement comes just weeks after the Biden administration said it would grant work permits and temporary relief from deportation to an estimated 472,000 Venezuelans who were already in the U.S., following calls from Democrats in New York to help newly arrived migrants work legally.

But U.S. officials stressed that Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, is only available to Venezuelans who were already in the U.S. as of July 31.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Joel Rose is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk. He covers immigration and breaking news.