Dozens of thousands of Venezuelan migrants have crossed the Mexican-American border over the last few months. According to the data from the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, just between October and December of 2021, more than 59,000 Venezuelans have been captured or expelled nationwide by U.S. border agents, a staggering amount for a country that shares no direct border neither with America or Mexico.
The data confirms the dozens of articles and journalistic evidence about the growing influx of Venezuelan refugees who are risking their lives in the perilous travel through the Mexican border to escape the dire humanitarian crisis Venezuela is living through since at least 2015, a situation that has forced 5.9 millions of Venezuelans to flee their country according to data from the United Nations.
Just a few days ago, Reuters reported the heartbreaking story of a 7-year-old girl who drowned while trying to cross the Rio Grande. The tragedy highlights the dangerous nature of the travel that now thousands of Venezuelans are doing in order to escape the dreadful situation in their home country and find a better life in the United States.
The Venezuelan migrant crisis has reached the United States
The growing Venezuelan exodus towards the United States comes after years of a constant trickle of Venezuelan migrants seeking better opportunities throughout Latin America, creating one of the largest refugee crises in the world, only surpassed by the Syrian refugee crisis.
According to UNHCR data, the United States is the fourth country in the world with the most Venezuelan migrants, with approximately 465.2 thousand living in America. However, those numbers pale in comparison to the figures of the top three countries with most Venezuelans, as there are 1.8 million Venezuelans are living in Colombia, 1.3 million in Peru, and 508.9 thousand in Ecuador, a country that only has 17.6 million inhabitants.
David Smolansky, a Venezuelan politician and exilee who is the OAS commissioner for the Venezuelan migrant and refugee crisis called this tragic event “Chávez and Maduro’s legacy” and said that his fellow countrymen “will not stop fleeing until democracy is restored.”
The growing flow of Venezuelans crossing the border is not a common trend and it exploded in 2021. Just in the Fiscal Year of 2020, CBP reported that there were only 4,520 total nationwide encounters (the total sum of apprehensions and expulsions) with Venezuelan nationals, with 2,787 of them crossing the Southwestern border. That number skyrocketed to 50,499 encounters nationwide and 48,678 on the Mexican border in FY2021, a tenfold increase in just one year.
The new year has not brought down the number of encounters of Venezuelans on the southwestern border, quite the contrary. Just in the first three months of FY2022, the record set by 2021 was already broken and 58,630 Venezuelan encounters have occurred on the Mexican border.
Although this number is expected to fall over the following months, as Mexico imposed heavy visa restrictions on Venezuelans (reportedly at the behest of the Biden administration), the sheer number of Venezuelans who have already crossed the border over the last couple of years will substantially increase the growing Venezuelan community in America, which according to a 2020 estimate of the Migration Policy Institute hovers around 380,000.
Venezuelans were granted Temporary Protected Status by the Biden administration in early 2021, and around 323,000 are eligible for the status according to an estimate by the Immigration Forum. However, only Venezuelans who have physically been in the United States before March 8, 2021, are eligible for TPS, meaning that the dozens of thousands of Venezuelans who have crossed the Mexican border are not covered by the measure.