Biden Administration Offers Voluntary Return Option to Some Migrants at Southern Border

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The Biden administration is set to introduce a new measure offering certain migrants at the southern border the opportunity to voluntarily return to Mexico. Asylum seekers from Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Haiti who have been apprehended by Border Patrol agents will be informed of an alternative pathway to the United States.

A script prepared for asylum officers encountering these migrants outlines the process. Officers will inform the individuals that they can choose to follow this voluntary return process, which allows them to apply for legal entry into the U.S. if they have a financial sponsor and pass security checks. However, they must be outside the U.S. to be eligible for this option, as part of a deal between the U.S. and Mexico.

DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas stated that this voluntary return option is being provided to individuals in custody as a consequence of removal. The measure is part of the broader efforts by the Biden administration to address the anticipated increase in migration at the southern border once the Title 42 policy, which enabled quick turnbacks of migrants, expires.

To address the situation, the administration plans to deploy troops, increase the presence of asylum officers and judges to process and deport migrants swiftly, and implement policies that restrict asylum for those who cross through a third country without seeking protection there, such as Mexico. This new policy is expected to make it challenging for unauthorized migrants to obtain asylum, with potential legal challenges from immigrant advocates on the horizon.

Under the voluntary return plan, migrants from the aforementioned four countries are given an opportunity to withdraw their application for admission to the U.S. and return to Mexico, thus remaining eligible for the parole process. If they fail the initial asylum screening, known as a credible fear interview, they could face deportation and a five-year ban from reentering the country.

Migrants from Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti, and Venezuela who have verified sponsors in the U.S. will continue to be allowed to apply for legal entry. The process, which began earlier this year, requires rigorous background checks and financial support from sponsors during their two-year stay in the U.S.

For migrants who decline voluntary removal, there may be another chance to accept the option later in the process. Those who do not qualify for asylum under the new Biden policy will be screened for a different form of protection that is more difficult to obtain.

As the Biden administration takes steps to address the situation at the southern border, the voluntary return option provides an alternative for some migrants while ensuring that those who qualify for legal entry can continue the application process with verified sponsors.