1.5 million apply for the US Immigrant Sponsorship Program to a maximum of 30,000 per month

Washington In just a few months, the United States has received more than 1.5 million applications from individuals hoping to sponsor entry for immigrants from four countries, an unusual number that could jeopardize the Biden administration’s goal of reducing border crossings, internal documents obtained by the network show. CBS News.

An influx of hundreds of thousands of requests for sponsorship on behalf of would-be immigrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela has overwhelmed caseworkers at the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which can approve No more than 30,000 expatriates under the program every month.

US citizens, residents and others with legal immigration status are eligible to sponsor immigrants from these four countries, as long as they agree to support them financially. Immigrants who arrive under the program are granted two-year work permits under the authority of humanitarian parole.

Due to the massive and rapidly growing backlog of unresolved applications, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has recently changing The way you handle these cases, choosing half of the applications you review each month is through a lottery system. Segregation will continue in the other half on a first come, first served basis.

Internal Department of Homeland Security documents obtained by CBS News indicated that as of the end of last month, the agency was receiving nearly 12,000 applications per day from those seeking sponsorship from Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans, calling the number “overwhelming.” The documents indicated that requests were processed for less than three days per month due to the monthly cap of 30,000.

More than 100,000 immigrants have arrived in the United States under the sponsorship initiative. But the government was overseeing more than 580,000 pending cases for Haitians, more than 380,000 for Cubans, about 120,000 for Venezuelans and more than 20,000 for Nicaraguans at the end of April. Other cases were under review or approved.

A version of the program was first launched in October 2022 to allow Venezuelans with US-based sponsors to travel to the US directly, as part of an effort to reduce what was at the time a record arrival of Venezuelan immigrants along the southern border. In January, the initiative was expanded to include Cubans, Haitians and Nicaraguans, who also traveled to the US-Mexico border in record numbers last year.

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES – 05/12/2023: Asylum seekers are seen climbing a hill between the US-Mexico border to reach the Mexican military who were providing assistance alongside American volunteers

John Putman/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The sponsor program was paired with a policy of returning Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans who illegally cross the southern border into Mexico, which agreed to restore these nationalities, first under the now-expired Public Health Act 42 and now under the regular order. US immigration law.

The combination of returns to Mexico with the sponsorship program has led to a sharp decline in illegal border crossings by immigrants from these four crisis-stricken countries, whose governments will not or cannot accept large numbers of U.S. deportations due to diplomacy or operations. Reasons.

Senior White House officials bragged about the success of the strategy. But the growing number of applications for the sponsorship program, far in excess of the 30,000 monthly cap, threatens to derail the policy’s main goal: encouraging would-be immigrants to refrain from illegally crossing the southern border by offering them a real chance to enter the United States legally. .

Internal Department of Homeland Security documents say hundreds of thousands of pending cases have caused “significant” waiting times for applicants. The documents acknowledged that if the monthly cap is not raised, the effectiveness of the program may be reduced.

“Desperate immigrants, desperate immigrants, are only going to wait so long before they say ‘This isn’t happening and I’m going to take my chances on something else,’ whether that’s going in clandestinely or just showing up at the border and going in,” said Teresa Cardinal-Brown, a former DHS official. and current immigration analyst at the Center for Bipartisan Politics, a Washington think tank, “Let’s see if they can be let in.”

Senior US officials have not indicated that they will raise the monthly admission cap of 30,000. DHS representatives did not say whether they were considering an increase in the number of arrivals per month.

“This administration has led the largest expansion of legal pathways in decades, and paroles for individuals from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela are just one of those many pathways now available to individuals seeking to enter the United States legally,” Monday said in a statement to CBS News.

The administration noted that it recently decided to use a random selection process to allocate half of the approximately 1,000 travel authorizations issued each day under the program, in order to “ensure that all individuals who apply have optimism that they will be able to travel to the United States soon.”

DHS added: “Now in its fifth month, paroles for Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans have continued to successfully reduce irregular migration and we expect that to continue, but challenges remain, including current court cases trying to block these successful measures.” “. in her statement.

SAN DIEGO, CA, UNITED STATES – 05/12/2023: Asylum seekers are being loaded into pickup trucks to be formally processed in the US system.

John Putman/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

In April 2022, the Biden administration launched its first version of the sponsorship policy, creating a program called Union for Ukraine to allow Americans to sponsor Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion of their homeland. Unlike the post-sponsor program, there is no maximum number of “Union for Ukraine”. Earlier in May, 127,000 Ukrainians arrived in the United States under this policy.

Changing the cap on the Cuban, Haitian, Nicaraguan, and Venezuelan sponsorship initiative could have legal and foreign affairs ramifications.

The Biden administration and the Mexican government tied the arrival of up to 30,000 migrants in the United States to Mexico’s commitment to accept back the same number of Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans who were turned away by US border officials.

“Thirty thousand for 30,000 is something that has been proven to work, and we have committed — both countries — to continue with that 30,000 to 30,000 arrangement after May 11th,” said a senior US official. to reporters earlier this month.

The bail policy is also being challenged in federal court by a coalition of Republican-led states who argue the Biden administration does not have the legal authority to use parole to accept up to 360,000 immigrants each year outside the normal visa system.

Blas Núñez Neto, the Department of Homeland Security’s top official for border and immigration policy, He said Last week, he said Mexico was “unlikely” to continue accepting Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans back if the sponsorship program was blocked in court.

Daily illegal border crossings rose to a record 10,000 earlier this month, prior to the end of Act 42 of the Public Health Restrictions on immigration, but have since fallen to 3,000 in recent days.

Biden officials have attributed the sharp drop in border crossings to an increase in official deportations of those entering the US illegally and restrictions that deny many immigrants asylum, as well as efforts by Mexican and Guatemalan military and law enforcement officials to slow US-bound immigration. .

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