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Surge of US Migration Includes Dispossessed Venezuelans

Serving as Antonio Madero Professor for the Study of Mexico until his retirement, Dr. Jorge I. Dominguez was a member of the Harvard University faculty for more than three decades. Focused on international affairs, Dr. Jorge I. Dominguez continues to maintain a close watch on developments in Mexico.

As reported by NBC in June, migration to the US-Mexico border has increased significantly during the first half of 2021. While the majority of these migrants are still small farmers and low-wage earners from regions such as Central America, an increasing number come from Venezuela’s professionals ranks. They are engineers, physicians, and other highly educated individuals driven to seek out better opportunities amid the collapse of an economy integrally tied to the world’s largest oil reserves.

A material indicator of the trend is nearly 7,500 Venezuelans registered by U.S. Border Patrol agents at the border in June alone. This number is greater than that of the past 14 years combined, dating to when records started. In tandem with this, a large percentage of the estimated 17,000 Venezuelans who illegally crossed Mexico’s southern border in 2021 are part of a 6 million-strong exodus that has occurred since 2013, when Nicolas Maduro ascended to the presidency. Many had been living abroad for years before migrating northward.

Because of the political antagonism between the US and Venezuela, claiming asylum may be an option for migrating Venezuelans that is not available to other border crossers. In an echo of US policy to past refugees to the US from Cuba, the Biden Administration granted approximately 320,000 Venezuelans Temporary Protected Status in March 2021.