White House pushing for resumption of deportation flights to Venezuela

White House officials are working to resume deportation flights to Venezuela after Nicolás Maduro’s government in Caracas paused the program in January, frustrating efforts by the Biden administration to crack down on illegal immigration and deter future arrivals.

The monthlong pause is a setback in a program that had fits and starts since resuming in October. Flights were intended to take place once a week.

The Maduro government halted the flights after the Biden administration said it would allow certain licenses to expire and resume limited sanctions on Venezuela, a reaction to Maduro reneging on commitments he made to Venezuela’s democratic opposition to allow free and fair elections to proceed this year.

While crossings by Venezuelans at the U.S.-Mexico border are down in recent weeks, the pause in flights come as Venezuelan migrants have made headlines nationwide in two violent criminal episodes, involving the killing of a retired Venezuelan cop in Miami and of a student in Georgia.

The State Department declined to comment. An official at the Department of Homeland Security said the administration “continues to work with countries throughout the hemisphere to address the historic migration trends we are all experiencing, including with Venezuela.”

“Migrants who do not have a lawful basis to remain in the United States, including Venezuelans, are being removed or returned daily to their home countries and, in some cases, Mexico,” the DHS official said.

“If Venezuelan migrants do not avail themselves of lawful pathways, like CHNV parole processes, or do not use CBP One appointments to present at a port of entry, they are subject to removal,” the official said, referring to a parole program rolled out last year for Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans. “If they fail to establish a legal basis to remain, they will be removed or returned to Mexico or repatriated to Venezuela — and face a minimum 5-year bar to admission.”

White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre declined to comment in a press briefing with reporters on Wednesday whether further democratic backsliding by Maduro would lead to additional sanctions on Caracas.

But she commented briefly on the killing of Laken Riley, 22, a nursing student at the University of Georgia who was jogging when she was allegedly killed last week by Klinsman Torres, 31, an undocumented migrant from Venezuela.

“It is heartbreaking – can’t even imagine what the family is going through,” Jean-Pierre said, declining to comment further on what she described as a case under active investigation and referring further questions to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and local law enforcement.


The cancellations of deportation flights come at a time when the Caracas regime is attempting to pressure the Biden administration into agreeing to have Maduro hold a presidential election later this year without competing against opposition leader Maria Corina Machado, who most polls say would easily beat the socialist leader in a fair election.

After participating in a protracted round of negotiations with the administration last year, the Venezuelan government signed an agreement with the country’s democratic opposition in October in Barbados agreeing to undertake a series of long awaited electoral reforms, permitting all opposition presidential aspirants to compete, and freeing all political prisoners in exchange for a gradual lifting of the sanctions imposed on the regime.

The deal also led Caracas to free all Americans being detained in Venezuela, and to the release of akey Maduro business partner, Alex Saab, who was imprisoned while facing corruption and money laundering charges in Miami federal court.

As part of the accord, Maduro also agreed to receive regular deportation flights, helping the administration deal with an increasing problem caused by a growing list of Venezuelans inside the U.S. slated for removal.

However, warming relations between the two countries hit a snag last month after the government-controlled Venezuelan Supreme Court ruled that Machado could not compete in this year’s presidential election, in what most Venezuelan analysts believe provided a severe blow to the terms of the Barbados accord.

The Biden administration quickly responded by saying that Maduro was in fact not fulfilling his commitments, and that he has until April to make good on his word if he wanted to avoid the reimposition of the previously lifted sanctions.

The news was not taken kindly in Venezuela, where regime officials said the U.S. could go ahead and reinstall the sanctions now because it would not bend to foreign pressure. As a manifestation of its displeasure, the Caracas regime halted the deportation flights, signaling it would no longer be willing to help Washington with the problem of having thousands of Venezuelans attempting to illegally cross its southern border.