Currently, Venezuela has the highest crime rate of any country in the world due to a corrupt and oppressive government, unchecked violence, high unemployment and chronic food and medicine shortages. This humanitarian crisis has forced over 7 million Venezuelans to flee their country, making it one of the highest external displacement crises globally.
At World Relief, we know that you care about the most vulnerable and want to compassionately live out Jesus’ call to welcome the stranger with actionable steps.
The Biden Administration has released a new Venezuelan Sponsorship program giving up to 24,000 Venezuelans a chance to start a new life in the U.S. with the support of an American sponsor. The Process for Venezuelans (P4V) is a pathway that will provide safety and refuge in the U.S.
Matthew Soerens, the U.S. Director for Church Mobilization and Advocacy at World Relief answers some questions about this new parole program and how it serves our Venezuelan brothers and sisters.
If you have a friend or family member in Venezuela that you would like to sponsor, learn more and start your sponsorship application below here.
6 Things You Need To Know
1. Why was a new parole program for Venezuelans created?
The goal of a parole program is to allow a limited number of Venezuelans who meet certain criteria and already have sponsors able to help support them within the U.S., the opportunity to be approved for parole in the U.S. before they make the dangerous journey to the U.S. border to seek asylum.
More than 7 million people have fled Venezuela since 2015 due to an ongoing political and economic crisis. The vast majority of these individuals are living in neighboring countries as refugees while many others have come to the United States either on temporary visas or seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border.
In the last few months, the number of Venezuelans who have arrived at the U.S. border has dramatically increased, stretching the U.S. government’s capacity to process asylum requests. Many Venezuelans are likely to win their asylum requests, but the wait time for an asylum decision can stretch on for many years.
In the last fiscal year, approximately 77% of asylum decisions by U.S. immigration judges were to grant asylum, meaning the applicants had demonstrated a credible fear of persecution in Venezuela. But the wait time for an asylum decision can stretch for many years due to the limited capacity of the U.S. government.
Whatsmore, the U.S. government does not recognize the current government Venezuelan administration as a legitimate leader; without formal diplomatic relations, it is very difficult to carry out removal orders for Venezuelans who do not qualify to stay permanently in the United States.
A parole program can speed up the resettlement process and help many Venezuelans avoid the dangerous land journey to the U.S. border, while also easing some of the capacity restraints the U.S. government is facing in processing asylum cases.
2. What does the new program do?
Essentially, the new parole program allows certain Venezuelan nationals who have someone willing to serve as their sponsor within the U.S. to petition on their behalf, so that they can be lawfully brought to the U.S.
It was announced concurrently with new restrictions on Venezuelans who arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border seeking asylum. Most Venezuelans who arrive at the border are now being returned to Mexico.
3. Is this a good policy?
For individuals who can secure a sponsor and have the requisite documents to travel to the United States, this parole program could be a lifeline. We are always encouraged by the expansion of lawful opportunities for those fleeing persecution to find safety in the U.S.
However, we would prefer that the U.S. bring in more Venezuelans not through parole, but with formal refugee status, which would allow them immediate employment authorization, access to resettlement support and a clear process to apply for permanent legal status and eventual citizenship. Parolees are only allowed in on a temporary basis.
We are also deeply concerned by the decision to pair this new parole program with a restriction of due process rights for Venezuelans who reach the U.S. border and wish to request asylum. U.S. law permits anyone facing persecution to seek asylum.
The Biden administration is now returning people to Mexico without being given the opportunity to request asylum under the dubious legal authority of Title 42 — a public health emergency law invoked in light of the COVID-19 pandemic that, nearly three years after the COVID pandemic began, is being misused to restrict access to asylum.
4. If I know someone in Venezuela who wants to come to the U.S., how can I help them?
The process for sponsoring a Venezuelan is operated by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and explained on their website.
5. I don’t know anyone in Venezuela, but I want to help. What can I do?
Our partners at Welcome.US have a registration form for potential sponsors of Venezuelans. Please note that World Relief does not operate this connection process.
6. What is World Relief doing to help?
While Venezuelans arriving under the new parole program will not have permanent legal status or access to governmentally-funded refugee resettlement benefits, World Relief partners with local churches to meet as many needs as we are able.
Many of our offices provide accredited immigration legal services, which could include helping qualifying individuals apply for Employment Authorization and/or help them understand their options for pursuing long-term legal status.
Some of our offices offer English classes or other support services, which may be available to Venezuelan parolees. We’re also continually advocating for a more robust welcome for Venezuelans and others who have had to flee persecution and hardship in their homelands, including a rebuilt refugee resettlement program that would ensure Venezuelans would arrive.
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