Joe Biden: Since the introduction of the new immigration program, the number of Venezuelans trying to enter the US illegally has fallen “from an average of 1,100 people a day to less than 250 people a day.”
PolitiFact solution: Mostly true
President Joe Biden announced an expansion of an immigration program that will allow 30,000 migrants a month from Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti and Venezuela to enter the US legally. He spoke about the success of the parole program among Venezuelans who have been eligible since October 2022.
“Since we created the new program, the number of Venezuelans trying to enter America without going through legal process has dropped dramatically,” Biden said Jan. 5. “On average, from 1,100 people a day to less than 250 people a day.”
The Parole Program for Venezuelans, which gives eligible immigrants the opportunity to legally enter the US for two years and work, was announced Oct. 12 after the number of Venezuelans stopped at the US southern border from May to September , increased by 84%.
To receive parole, immigrants must apply from outside the United States, not be in Mexico or Panama illegally, pass a background check, and have a suitable sponsor.
The same day the parole program for Venezuelans was announced, the Department of Homeland Security said it would begin using Section 42, a public health policy, to quickly deport Venezuelan immigrants who were not eligible for the parole program. Section 42 is a section of federal law that gives the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the power to deny entry into the United States to people from countries where an infectious disease outbreak has occurred. The Trump administration invoked Section 42 in 2020 to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Prior to the October changes, Mexico did not accept Venezuelans sent back under Section 42. Due to tensions between the US and Venezuela, border control was also unable to send immigrants directly back to their country of origin, so they were allowed into the US.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection data supports Biden’s claim that illegal immigration from Venezuela has dropped sharply since the parole program was implemented. But the use of Title 42 also likely affected the numbers.
In September, the border patrol stopped Venezuelan immigrants at the southern border nearly 34,000 times, about 1,100 times a day. In November, that number dropped to almost 7,000, or about 230 a day.
Experts told PolitiFact that Biden is correct in saying illegal immigration from Venezuela has declined rapidly. But “it’s almost impossible to tell which had more effect” between the parole program and the use of Section 42, said Aaron Reuchlin-Melnick, political director of the American Immigration Council, an immigrant rights group.
Data is only available for one full month of the program, so the long-term effects of parole and Section 42 on curbing illegal immigration from Venezuela are not yet known.
Biden’s Jan. 5 announcement means that Nicaraguans, Cubans and Haitians will also be eligible for the parole program and can be sent to Mexico under Section 42 if they illegally cross the U.S. southern border. Mexico agreed to receive 30,000 immigrants per month from those three countries and Venezuela.
Experts told PolitiFact that illegal immigration from these countries is likely to decline in the short term.
“Camps will spring up at the border while migrants who were already on their way wait to assess their options,” Raikhlin-Melnik said. “The real question, which remains to be seen, is whether this will cause a significant number of people not to leave (their countries) at all.”
Ariel Ruiz Soto, a political analyst at the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute, said benefits from the program could vary by nationality. For example, a sponsorship requirement would likely affect Nicaraguans, who are a new group of immigrants to the US and therefore have fewer contacts in the US compared to Cubans or Venezuelans.
Biden said that since the new immigration program went into effect in October, the number of Venezuelans trying to enter the U.S. illegally has dropped “from an average of 1,100 to less than 250 a day.”
The program created a legal route for people to enter the United States. CBP data shows that from September to November, border patrol stopped fewer Venezuelans trying to enter the US illegally, Biden said. The border patrol stopped Venezuelans about 1,100 times a day in September, compared to about 230 a day in November.
At the same time, Mexico began to take in Venezuelans, who were quickly denied the U.S. border under a public health policy they had previously been exempted from. Experts say it’s unclear if the drop in numbers can be attributed solely to the parole program; this could also be affected by the use of Section 42 to quickly deport Venezuelans to Mexico.
In addition, data is only available for one full month of the program, so the long-term effects of parole and Section 42 on curbing illegal immigration are not yet known, experts say.
The statement is accurate but needs clarification or more information. We estimate this mostly true.
- Telephone interview with Ariel Ruiz Soto, Policy Analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, January 5, 2023,
- Email Exchange, Aaron Reuchlin-Melnick, Policy Director, American Immigration Board, January 5, 2023
- Email Exchange, US Customs and Border Protection, Spokesman, January 5, 2023
- Email Exchange, White House Press Secretary, January 5, 2023
- Email Exchange, Stephen Yale-Lauer, Professor of Immigration Law Practice at Cornell Law School, January 5, 2023
- White House, President Biden Remarks on Border Security and Law Enforcement, January 5, 2023
- White House FACT SHEET: Biden-Harris Administration Announces New Border Security Actions, January 5, 2023
- Department of Homeland Security, DHS continues to prepare for Section 42 termination; Announces New Border Security Measures and Additional Safe and Orderly Processes, January 5, 2023
- US Customs and Border Protection, DHS Border Immigration Policy Announcement Press Conference, January 5, 2023
- United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, Process for Venezuelans, accessed January 5, 2022.
- US Customs and Border Protection, Nationwide Encounters, accessed 5 January 2023.