WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas

Sergio Borbolla Ortíz/WOLA

6 Oct 2023 | WOLA Statement

DHS Announcement of Deportations to Venezuela is Contradictory and Dangerous

On October 5, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that the U.S. had reached an agreement with the Venezuelan government to carry out deportations of Venezuelan nationals who entered the U.S. irregularly and lacked legal grounds to remain. This announcement contradicts the Biden administration decision of just weeks ago when Temporary Protected Status (TPS) was extended and re-designated for Venezuelans in the United States because of the dangers posed by return to that country. 

The September 20 TPS decision granted legal status to Venezuelans citizens for 18 months, making it available to those in the United States before July 31, 2023. That decision was welcomed by WOLA, as it provided a lifeline for those seeking refuge in the United States. Now, just weeks later, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas stated “We have made a determination that it is safe to return Venezuelan nationals who’ve arrived in the United States subsequent to July 31st and do not have a legal basis to remain here.”  

This new decision to return Venezuelans is reprehensible, considering the risks that Venezuelans face in their own country and the international obligation the U.S. has to guarantee it is not returning people to a country where they would face probable danger or persecution (non-refoulement).

It ignores the reality of the situation in Venezuela and flies in the face of the Biden Administration’s own finding of September 20 when the DHS Federal Register statement concluded that “Venezuela continues to face a severe humanitarian emergency due to a political and economic crisis, as well as human rights violations and abuses and high levels of crime and violence, that impacts access to food, medicine, healthcare, water, electricity, and fuel, and has led to high levels of poverty.” 

Venezuelans are fleeing a dire humanitarian crisis marked by massive human rights violations. The conditions described by DHS itself have forced over 7.7 million Venezuelans to leave. Venezuela is also the only country of the region with an ongoing investigation before the International Criminal Court, because there are reasons to believe that crimes against humanity have been committed.

Under both international and U.S. law, anyone who fears for their life, personal integrity or freedom has the right to seek asylum and to due process. The U.S. also has additional tools at its disposal, including TPS, to provide legal status to individuals from a country whose conditions prevent their safe return. The United States must not be a country that deports people to repressive dictatorships where they may face serious threats to their lives or freedom.