Jordan, Grassley demand docs on Venezuelan parole program, slam ‘flagrant violation’ of federal law

FIRST ON FOX: The top Republicans on the House and Senate Judiciary Committees are calling for more information from the Biden administration on a recently announced program that would allow tens of thousands of Venezuelans to enter the U.S. using humanitarian parole – calling it a “flagrant violation” of federal law.

“The Department of Homeland Security’s newly created categorical parole program for Venezuelan nationals is yet another misguided immigration policy of the Biden Administration and flagrant violation of immigration law,” Rep. Jim Jordan and Sen. Chuck Grassley, the ranking Republicans on the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, say in a letter to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

DHS announced the program as part of a new cooperation agreement with Mexico. The parole program provides a legal pathway for Venezuelan nationals to enter the U.S. Capped at just 24,000, the agency said the humanitarian parole program requires Venezuelans to have a supporter in the U.S. to provide financial and other support, pass biometric and other security screenings, and complete public health requirements, including vaccinations. It’s similar to a program announced earlier in the year for eligible Ukrainians.

Nationals would be ineligible for the program if they have previously been deported, have crossed into the U.S. or into Mexico illegally, or have residence or refugee status in a country other than Venezuela. DHS said the program will be stopped if Mexico stops accepting Venezuelan returns.

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Rep. Jim Jordan speaks at a news conference on July 21, 2022.
(Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

“These actions make clear that there is a lawful and orderly way for Venezuelans to enter the United States, and lawful entry is the only way,” Mayorkas said in a statement. “Those who attempt to cross the southern border of the United States illegally will be returned to Mexico and will be ineligible for this process in the future. Those who follow the lawful process will have the opportunity to travel safely to the United States and become eligible to work here.”

The parole program was coupled with an announcement that Title 42 expulsions at the border would now be expanded to Venezuelan nationals crossing illegally – however since then a federal judge has ordered Title 42 expulsions be halted next month.

The Republican lawmakers say the program “ignores congressional intent and departs from how past administrations have exercised case-by-case parole authority.”

“Even worse, it does nothing to secure the southern border or prevent the continued and unprecedented surge of aliens across that border,” they write.

The objections to the parole program tap into long-standing concerns from Republicans and immigration hawks about the use of the parole authority. The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) states that parole is to be used on a “case-by-case” basis for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit – yet it has been used to parole massive amounts of migrants, both across the southern border and in special cases such as the entry of Ukrainian and Afghan evacuees in the last year.

The lawmakers say any effort to carve out a program using parole is an abuse of the “case-by-case” authority granted to the administration by Congress.

“You have described this new program as a ‘new lawful pathway created’ for Venezuelan nationals to enter and live in the United States,” they say. “The Secretary of DHS cannot legally ‘create’ any such ‘pathway’ and your assertion otherwise is just another example of how the Biden administration displays contempt for enforcing federal immigration law as set by Congress.”

They also cite a DHS staff briefing in which the 24,000 cap was said to only be an “initial commitment” and that the number could be revisited for a potential increase, while also saying that DHS officials have provided few details on who could sponsor parolees and how nationals would be vetted.

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Sen. Chuck Grassley is the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
(Susan Walsh/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

Specifically, the lawmakers say the sponsor system could mean that illegal immigrants whose removal had been deferred or temporary immigrants could be eligible to be a “supporter” for additional Venezuelan migrants.

“In addition to making a mockery of federal immigration law, this policy raises obvious questions about what happens to a parolee whose supporter is no longer in the country,” they say.

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The lawmakers are seeking the statutory authority used to create the program, as well as documents related to the program. The Republicans also want monthly updates on the number of Venezuelans encountered at the border and expelled under Title 42, and a breakdown of those granted parole into the U.S. under the new parole program.

They have also provided DHS a lengthy list of questions as to the workings of the program, including how it validates Venezuelan passports, eligibility for sponsorship and the agreement with Mexico on returning Venezuelans to Mexico under Title 42.

DHS has linked the new process with a drop in attempts to cross the border illegally, with crossings dropping from 1,100 a day on average before the announcement to around 300 a day. So far more than 6,800 Venezuelans have been approved to travel to the U.S. under the new program, and nearly 500 have arrived in the U.S. legally.

Mayorkas last week told lawmakers that there is a plan in place to deal with the end of Title 42 next month that includes more resources, speedier processing and the use of other removal methods – amid growing concern that the ending of the expulsions could lead to an additional surge at the border on top of high numbers Border Patrol agents are already seeing.