President Joe Biden said Tuesday that it’s “not rational” to send illegal immigrants at the southern border who fled Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua, back to their own nations.
“There are three countries,” Biden said during a Tuesday briefing, upon being pressed about why the U.S.–Mexico border is “more overwhelmed on [his] watch.” “There are fewer and fewer immigrants coming from Central America than from Mexico. It’s a totally different circumstance,” he said, referring to the administration of his predecessor, former President Donald Trump.
“What’s on my watch now is Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua, and the ability to send them back to those states is not rational,” the president continued, adding that he is “working with Mexico and other countries” to stop the flow from those nations.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection has documented over 2 million encounters at the southern border so far this fiscal year, compared to 1.7 million encounters in the whole fiscal year of 2021 and less than half a million the previous year.
The three countries are driving the recent increase in encounters at the U.S. southern border, while fewer migrants from Mexico and some Central American countries are coming. In August, out of the about 158,000 illegal immigrants who crossed at least once, over 55,000 came from Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua—a jump of 175 percent from August 2021—while nearly 57,000 are from Mexico or the Northern Triangle countries.
About 6.8 million Venezuelans have left their homeland since an economic crisis took hold in 2014 for the country of 28 million people. Most have gone to nearby nations in Latin America and the Caribbean, including more than 2.4 million who are in neighboring Colombia.
Venezuelan migration to the United States plummeted early in 2022 after Mexico introduced restrictions on air travel but has increased in recent months as more come over land through the notoriously dangerous Darien Gap in Panama.
The trend of more Venezuelans is reflected in daily headlines. The 50 illegal immigrants that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis flew to Martha’s Vineyard in the heavily Democrat state of Massachusetts on Sept. 14, are all Venezuelan.
The Republican governors in border states including Texas, Arizona, and Florida, have been transporting asylum seekers to so-called “sanctuary” Democrat-controlled cities in the past months, in a bid to protest Biden’s open-border policies, while providing much-needed relief to its overwhelmed border communities.
The White House said on Sept. 20 that it was eyeing the potential air arrival in Delaware of illegal immigrants sent from Florida or Texas, and was “coordinating closely” with state officials after receiving reports that a planeload of illegal immigrants may be inbound from Texas. Delaware officials later declared that no migrant flights showed up during the day.
After being asked Tuesday about DeSantis possibly sending migrants to his home state, Biden responded, “He should come [to] visit. We have a beautiful shoreline.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.