MEXICO CITY ( Associated Press) — At the gates of a shelter operating east of the Mexican capital, Venezuelan mechanic Jose Cuicas eagerly awaits the response of an American friend who will sponsor him to select one of 24,000 humanitarian visas Joe Biden’s government announced that it would hand over Venezuela.
Cuicas was one of 1,700 Venezuelans expelled from Mexico last week by US authorities under a US order denying them the right to asylum and trying to stem a growing influx of migrants from that country.
Many of them were moved to the Mexican capital to ease pressure on Mexico’s border cities already full of migrants.
The asylum ban comes in response to a significant increase in the number of Venezuelans arriving at the US border illegally. Venezuelan immigrants represented the second largest nationality arriving at the US border in August, leaving behind immigrants from Guatemala and Honduras, behind only Mexico.
Since Cuicas was expelled just before the official launch of the Visa scheme, he may be eligible to apply. Eligible Venezuelans who apply online, find a US sponsor and meet other requirements can fly directly to the United States if they are granted a visa.
A Mexican foreign ministry official on Friday gave the first update on the program: 7,500 applications were being processed and the first 100 Venezuelans were approved to fly to the United States.
While Cuicas was optimistic about his chances of enrolling in the program, activists and analysts have noted that the number of visas on offer is much smaller than demand. In September alone, more than 33,000 Venezuelans crossed the border with Mexico illegally.
For Venezuelans visiting the United States, the announcement made by the Biden administration was shocking. The migrants have been returned to Mexico last week under an order activated during the Donald Trump administration related to the pandemic known as Title 42, which seeks asylum on grounds of preventing the spread of COVID-19. Suspends the right to make a request – 19.
Asylum restrictions haunt hundreds of expelled Venezuelans, many of whom now roam between various shelters in Mexico City, the northern bus terminal and the Mexican Commission for Refugee Aid (COMAR), where about thirty they spend the night on the street and do their jobs. Waiting to start. immigration procedures.
Immersed in a depressive state into which he entered after his expulsion, Cuicas admits he is unwilling to do any refugee procedures in Mexico because he fears it may block the process for US visas, and hints Given that he would wait for his friend’s response. , who lives in New York, to decide what he will do with his life.
“My dream is to build a new life there (in the United States),” said the 31-year-old mechanic, assuring that although he has left his wife and two young children in Venezuela, he has no plans to return. is their country of origin because “there is no future, no work”.
Despite the fact that Venezuela emerged from a prolonged period of hyperinflation of more than four years last year, it continues to suffer from one of the highest inflation rates in the world and its economy remains in very precarious conditions that have allowed it to recover. not given. Poor purchasing power of the majority of the regions, which has prompted a new wave of migration.
Since 2015, there has been a mass exodus of Venezuelans, who left the oil country to face the worst political, economic and social crisis in more than a century.
While many of his compatriots try to leave Venezuela, young Dario Arevalo, who was among those expelled last week, said he is considering returning to his country after US officials said they did not knew, separated him from his parents. and sisters. When he was arrested earlier this month for illegally entering the state of Texas.
“It’s the first time I’ve been separated from them, that I’ve been left alone,” said Arevalo, 20, who is still devastated by the separation from his family, who managed to pass immigration control and get to Chicago. are.
The slim young man admitted that the only thing he hopes to do now is to collect money for air tickets to travel to his native Venezuela, which he abandoned four years ago when he moved with his family to the Colombian city of Pereira went. The devastating crisis that plagues Venezuela. The South American nation that has forced more than 7 million people to leave.
In front of the COMAR headquarters, in the center of the Mexican capital, where he has slept outside in recent days after being deported from the United States last week, 29-year-old Jonathan Castellanos said he had no intention of returning to Venezuela, where he The elderly mother and three children still live.
After six years between Chile and Colombia, Castellanos entered Texas in late September, but was expelled last week along with a group of 95 Venezuelans.
Despite sleeping on the ground and suffering cold nights, Castellanos admitted that he was not ready to give up and would now bet on staying in Mexico after the authorities had given him a migration form for humanitarian reasons that would allow him to stay in the country. Legally, find a job and a place to live in.
About 140,000 Venezuelans now live in Mexico.
“My dream was to move to the United States, but since I didn’t achieve it… life goes on and I can’t stop myself. I have to move on and work in Venezuela to help my kids, Have to find a way to produce, help,” he concluded.