WASHINGTON (The Hill) — The U.S. will continue to explore ways to block Venezuelan migrants from seeking to enter the country after a court struck down the Title 42 policy that allows the government to expel would-be asylum-seekers.
In an appearance before lawmakers Thursday, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the department will look to existing authorities to find ways to block Venezuelans from entering the country, pushing them back into Mexico.
The comments from Mayorkas come after the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in October expanded Title 42 to include Venezuelans, paving the way for them to be swiftly expelled to Mexico and blocked from seeking asylum.
“We’re working with our partners in the south, with Mexico, with respect to the end of Title 42 and whether we will be able to continue our thus far successful program with respect to Venezuelan nationals and use our Title 8 authorities,” Mayorkas told lawmakers on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, referring to the title governing standard removal proceedings.
The department has until Dec. 21 to wind down its use of Title 42, with Mayorkas adding that the department plans to make “enhanced use of expedited removal” processes at the border across nationalities.
“We’re looking at our consequence regimes and how we can most effectively employ them,” he said.
DHS’s new approach for Venezuelans, which expanded Title 42 along with a program that allowed for 24,000 Venezuelans, mostly those with U.S. ties, to enter the country, has been underway for just a few weeks.
DHS hosted a call with reporters shortly after its implementation, noting border officials’ encounters with Venezuelan nationals dropped as much as 86 percent compared to the week before the program was announced.
Roughly 1,100 a day sought to cross the U.S. border the week before the program kicked off, compared to just over 300 a day on average by the end of October.
More than 7 million Venezuelans have left their country over the last decade amid political and economic turmoil, including a foot shortage.
A judge on Monday found that Title 42 was arbitrary and capricious, with the government violating the Administrative Procedures Act by failing to consider other means to control the spread of COVID-19. Judge Emmet Sullivan wrote, “Defendants have not shown that the risk of migrants spreading COVID-19 is ‘a real problem.’”
Immigration advocates have long argued the policy was illegal, contravening U.S. and international law that gives migrants the right to seek asylum at the border.