Michelle Hackman and Alicia A. Caldwell, Wall Street Journal, December 13, 2022
U.S. officials are moving to expand a program creating a legal process for Venezuelan migrants seeking asylum to also include Nicaraguans, Cubans and Haitians, amid a surge in Nicaraguan migrants that has begun to overwhelm parts of the border in recent days.
The humanitarian program would allow migrants from those countries to apply from abroad to fly to the U.S., according to internal government documents viewed by The Wall Street Journal and two officials familiar with the plans.
The new program, the administration plans to argue, would give migrants from those countries an alternative path into the U.S. so they don’t attempt to cross the southern border illegally.
The new program represents one of several border-policy changes the Biden administration is weighing ahead of the scheduled expiration of Title 42, a pandemic-era policy that allows border patrol agents to rapidly expel migrants back to Mexico. That policy is set to end Dec. 21. Officials are looking for numerous ways—including new deterrence measures—to limit overcrowding in border facilities amid an expected rise in illegal crossings once the policy is formally lifted.
A record of more than two million arrests have been made along the border in the past year and in advance of the scheduled end to the use of Title 42. The public health law first used by the Trump administration during the Covid-19 pandemic has barred most migrants from asking for asylum at legal border crossings and allowed immigration authorities to expel roughly one million migrants in the past year before giving them an opportunity to ask for asylum.
Officials are planning for a worst-case scenario of up to 20,000 migrants crossing the border a day once the policy is lifted, according to people familiar with their thinking. Few officials expect a surge to grow that large, the people said, but the benchmark helps government agencies ensure they have enough people, buses and other equipment to care for and transport migrants once they are in government custody.