The United States will restart direct deportation flights to Venezuela, White House officials said Thursday, as President Joe Biden comes under pressure to halt illegal border crossings.
Washington had for years halted sending migrants back to Venezuela due to instability in the South American nation and still maintains sanctions against Caracas.
“Today the United States is announcing the resumption of removal flights to Venezuela,” a senior administration official said.
“This comes following a decision from the authorities of Venezuela to accept back their nationals.”
The move will affect Venezuelans who have arrived in the United States illegally since July 31, with the first flight coming “in the next few days,” the official said.
Around 50,000 Venezuelans crossed the southern US border from Mexico in September alone, CBS News said.
The US government had announced as recently as September that it would allow 472,000 Venezuelans who entered before July 31 to remain and work legally for 18 months due to unsafe conditions there.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, the heir to firebrand leftist Hugo Chavez, last won an election in 2018 in a vote widely criticized internationally for irregularities.
The United States declared Maduro to be illegitimate and recognized then opposition leader Juan Guaido, imposing sweeping sanctions on Venezuela including its key money-making oil sector.
But Guaido failed to take control and the opposition removed him late last year.
In signs of a possible thaw, the Biden administration last year approved an oil project in Venezuela by Chevron and has voiced a willingness to ease sanctions further in return for progress.
The announcement on Venezuelan migrants meanwhile comes on the same day as the Biden administration said it was extending the US border wall with Mexico.