It’s a striking image that shows a family’s struggle and great change at the US-Mexico border.
The Venezuelan father’s eyes are filled with tears, and he tries to wipe away his 4-year-old son.
Pictured in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico this week by Reuters photographer José Luis González is a man identified as Franklin Pajaro who was recently deported from the United States.
And there’s more to the story beyond that powerful moment.
Here’s a look at the bigger picture.
Pajaro is one of thousands of Venezuelans deported from the United States as part of a new deal the Biden administration negotiated with Mexican authorities.
Facing growing pressure and criticism from state and local governments over the growing number of migrants crossing the US-Mexico border, the Biden administration unveiled a new plan last week.
Now, for the first time, large numbers of Venezuelans are subject to the Trump-era public health authority known as Title 42, which allows officials to deport migrants to Mexico after they are apprehended at the border.
Why focus on Venezuelan migrants? Officials say the number of Venezuelans trying to cross the border has skyrocketed, nearly quadrupling in the past year.
And the growing number of Venezuelan asylum seekers has been among the thousands of migrants bussed across the border to New York and elsewhere.
So far, since the new US-Mexico deal was announced on October 12, US authorities have sent more than 4,500 Venezuelans back across the border, according to the latest count from the International Organization for Migration. And the number is growing every day.
Officials on the ground in Mexico describe an increasingly precarious situation. Dana Graber Lad, IOM’s chief of mission in Mexico, said he was concerned that Title 42 – a policy the UN agency had long condemned – would now apply to more people.
“Most shelters are already full. They are saturated,” he said. “These people are returning to cities they don’t know. They don’t have their own social network. They don’t have the resources, and the numbers are quite large.”
As part of the same new policy, the US also says it is creating a legal pathway for some Venezuelans to enter the United States through a process known as humanitarian parole.
The program, first reported by CNN, will allow 24,000 Venezuelans with US-based sponsors to fly to the US if they meet certain conditions, including background checks and vaccinations. Officials began accepting applications from potential sponsors this week.
They said the number of people the US wants to accept under the program is far less than the number of Venezuelan migrants who have attempted to cross the border this year, and it is unclear what will happen once they reach the border. Depending on what happens, they may decide to expand or end the program, officials said.
On a call with reporters Thursday, advocates praised the humanitarian parole program and encouraged potential sponsors to sign up.
“This is a very tangible and impactful way for ordinary Americans, for civic organizations, to get involved. … We believe we have the capacity to welcome tens of thousands more newcomers,” said Cecilia Muñoz, a former Obama administration official who now runs Welcome.US. , hoping to help connect potential sponsors with Venezuelans trying to reach the United States. the states “Private finance is a viable way forward.”
But some migrants returning to Mexico as a result of the new policy have begun to protest at the border.
Pajaro, a tearful father pictured with his son, told Reuters he had already been in the US for six days with his wife and two children when they crossed the border in Ciudad Juarez.
“They left us on the street,” he said, according to Reuters. “There are many families like us, and we are suffering.”
Elsewhere in the Mexican border city of El Paso, Texas, protesters – including young children – held signs asking them to be reunited with their relatives in the US. “I went through the jungle and they won’t let me see my father,” read one girl’s poster.
Watch Mom’s Painful Reaction After Biden Brings Back Trump-era Politics
– Source: CNN
In Washington and across the US, immigrant rights groups are also criticizing the Biden administration’s move, decrying the decision to pursue controversial Trump policies that officials are fighting to end in court.
“This decision follows President Biden’s declaration less than a month ago that the pandemic is over, highlighting the hypocrisy behind the continuation of the so-called public health order,” said Nicole Melaku, executive director of the National Association of New Americans. a statement last week.
“All people should have the right to seek safety and protection, not just a few.”
Previously, Title 42 did not apply to most Venezuelans because Mexico refused to accept return and the South American country also did not accept deportation flights. The new policy of the Biden administration changes that.
But many of the factors that have fueled Venezuelan migration in recent years remain the same.
Poor economic conditions, such as food shortages and limited access to health care, are increasingly pushing Venezuelans to leave. More than 7 million Venezuelans now live outside their country as refugees or migrants, matching the number of people displaced by Ukraine and surpassing Syria, according to the United Nations.
In recent weeks, about 1,000 Venezuelans have been apprehended each day at the US-Mexico border, according to a Homeland Security official. By comparison, fewer than 1,000 Venezuelans arrived at the US southern border in all of February 2021, US government data show.
Many migrants are fleeing dire situations and have made a long and difficult journey to reach the United States. The latest photos and videos from the border show that emotions are running high.
Thousands of people have made their way through Panama’s Darien Gap, a notoriously dangerous jungle crossing where migrants are forced to wade through mud and other harsh conditions.
Some who were preparing to cross the Darien Gap now say they don’t know where to turn.
“After so much pain, so many obstacles to overcome, now we are stuck. We are in Necocl (Colombia) and we have nowhere to go,” a Venezuelan migrant who asked to be identified only as José told CNN last week.
It is also a lot misinformation being circulated This makes it difficult for migrants, said IOM’s Graber Lad.
“We are releasing ours reliable information about the process and eligibility and what they should do. … It can be quite confusing for a Venezuelan migrant,” he said.
The Biden administration’s announcement last week drew immediate skepticism from some law enforcement officials.
National Border Patrol Council He denounced Venezuela’s new policy as “PR” on Twitter and argued that there would be a cap on how many migrants Mexico could accept under the new plan.
An Associated Press report quoted a Mexican government official as saying that Mexico has only agreed to accept as many Venezuelans as the United States accepts through its humanitarian parole program. The Department of Homeland Security did not respond to a CNN inquiry about that response.
But El Paso officials told CNN they are already seeing things change in their city as a result of the new approach.
On Wednesday afternoon, due to a sharp drop in arrivals, El Paso closed its migrant center, where charter buses full of migrants were bound for New York and elsewhere.
“At this time the numbers have decreased and we are reducing our operations,” said Mario D’Agostino, Deputy Director of the City.
He told CNN that he attributed the sudden drop in migrant arrivals to the Biden administration’s new policy and so-called “decompression,” or the federal government’s efforts to reduce overcrowding in processing facilities.
For officials in the border city – who warned they were overwhelmed and struggling to deal with the crisis – it is a welcome sight.
For the Biden administration, it’s a sign that their new approach could work.
But for Pajaro and others like him, the path is far less certain.