1.5 million apply for a US migrant sponsorship program with a monthly cap of 30,000
Washington – In just a few months, the U.S. received more than 1.5 million requests from individuals seeking to assist migrants from four countries, an extraordinary number that could jeopardize the Biden administration’s goal of reducing border crossings show internal documents obtained by CBS News.
The deluge of hundreds of thousands of sponsorship requests on behalf of would-be migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela has overwhelmed caseworkers at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which can’t approve more than 30,000 arrivals under the program each month.
American citizens, residents and other US residents with legal immigrant status are eligible to assist migrants from these four countries provided they agree to provide financial assistance. Migrants arriving under the program are given a two-year work permit under the Humanitarian Parole Board.
Due to the enormous and rapidly growing backlog of unresolved claims, USCIS recently changed the way it handles these cases and selects half of the claims it reviews each month through a lottery system. The other half will continue to be decided on a first-come, first-served basis.
Internal Department of Homeland Security documents obtained by CBS News show that late last month the agency was receiving an average of nearly 12,000 applications per day from people seeking assistance to Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans, calling the number “overwhelming.” Documents pointed out that due to the monthly limit of 30,000 applications, less than three days per month were processed.
More than 100,000 migrants have arrived in the US under the sponsorship initiative. But the government was monitoring more than 580,000 pending cases for Haitians, more than 380,000 for Cubans, nearly 120,000 for Venezuelans and more than 20,000 for Nicaraguans at the end of April. Other cases have been reviewed or approved.
A version of the program was first launched in October 2022 to allow Venezuelans with US-based sponsors to fly direct to the US as part of an effort to reduce the then-record-breaking arrivals of Venezuelan migrants along the southern border. In January, the initiative was expanded to include Cubans, Haitians and Nicaraguans, who also traveled to the US-Mexico border in record numbers last year.
The sponsorship program was paired with a policy to repatriate Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans illegally crossing the southern border to Mexico. The country agreed to the readmission of these nationalities, first under the now-expired Title 42 public health regulation and now under regular US immigration law.
The combination of returns to Mexico and the sponsorship program has resulted in a sharp drop in illegal border crossings by migrants from these four crisis countries whose governments, for diplomatic or operational reasons, are unwilling or unable to accept large numbers of US deportations.
Senior White House officials have boasted about the strategy’s success. But the surging number of applications for the sponsorship program, well above the 30,000-per-month cap, threatens to scuttle the policy’s main goal: to encourage would-be migrants not to cross the southern border illegally by giving them a meaningful opportunity is offered for legal entry into the USA.
According to DHS internal documents, hundreds of thousands of pending cases have resulted in “significant” wait times for claimants. If the monthly cap is not raised, the effectiveness of the program could decrease, the documents say.
“The migrants who are desperate, and they are desperate migrants, will only wait a limited amount of time before they say, ‘This is not happening and I will take my chances to get something else’, whether they come in secretly or just show up at the border and…”See if they can be let in,” said Theresa Cardinal Brown, a former DHS officer and current immigration analyst at the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington think tank.
Senior US officials have not indicated they will raise the entry cap of 30,000 per month. DHS officials did not comment on whether they are considering increasing the number of monthly arrivals.
“This administration has sponsored the largest expansion of legal avenues in decades, and the probation procedures for individuals from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela are just one of the many avenues now available to individuals seeking to lawfully enter the United States,” DHS said Monday in a statement to CBS News.
The department noted that it recently decided to randomize half of the approximately 1,000 travel permits issued daily under the program to “ensure that all individuals who apply are confident that they will go to the United States.” be able to travel.” United States soon.
“Now in its fifth month, the parole procedures for Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans have continued to be successful in reducing irregular migration and we expect this to continue, but challenges remain, including current court cases attempting to reduce them.” successful action,” DHS added in its statement.
In April 2022, the Biden administration launched its first version of the sponsorship policy, establishing a program called “Uniting for Ukraine,” which allows Americans to sponsor Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion of their homeland. Unlike the following sponsorship program, Uniting for Ukraine does not have a numerical limit. By early May, 127,000 Ukrainians had entered the United States under this policy.
Changing the cap on the Cuban, Haitian, Nicaraguan and Venezuelan sponsorship initiative could have legal and foreign policy ramifications.
The Biden and Mexican governments have tied the arrival of up to 30,000 migrants in the US to Mexico’s commitment to accepting the return of the same number of Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans who have been turned away by American border officials.
“Thirty thousand for 30,000 has worked, and we — both countries — are committed to continuing that 30,000-30,000 arrangement after May 11,” a senior US official told reporters earlier this month.
The sponsorship policy is also being challenged in federal court by a coalition of Republican-led states who argue the Biden administration lacks the legal authority to accept up to 360,000 migrants each year on probation outside the regular visa system.
Blas Nuñez Neto, DHS’s top border and immigration policy official, said last week that Mexico was “unlikely” to continue accepting returns of Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans if the sponsorship program were blocked in court.
The number of daily illegal border crossings rose to a record high of 10,000 earlier in the month just before the lifting of Title 42 sanitary immigration restrictions, but has since fallen to 3,000 in recent days.
Biden officials attribute the sharp drop in border crossings to increasing formal deportations of those entering the U.S. illegally and a restriction barring many migrants from asylum, as well as efforts by Mexican and Guatemalan military and law enforcement officials who to slow migration to the US.