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I met Venezuelans scamming the asylum system to get into the US

JUAREZ, MEXICO — Venezuelans are one of the highest-volume immigrant nationalities to have crossed the southern border during this historic mass-migration crisis, now in its third year, with 5 million foreign-national border crossers in the country.

All Venezuelans have been or will be let into America to stay on asylum or humanitarian claims that presume they are directly fleeing Venezuelan government persecution or face some other imminent danger back home.

But that widespread narrative is largely a fable.

Most Venezuelan border crossers have been living for years, safely, happily and prosperously in other countries.

This fact means a massive fraud is underway as Venezuelans become a main feature of an expected mass rush on the border after the midnight May 11 demise of the pandemic-era Title 42 rapid-expulsion policy that has been holding some back.

Many will eventually have to lie on government forms or to government agents about where they’ve really been, a lie that is a federal crime that can bring up to five years in prison if ever investigated.

Many are part of a diaspora of some 7 million Venezuelans coming from safe third countries like Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador, Chile and Argentina.

In interviews en route to border crossings, Venezuelans have admitted to me that they only decided to leave their safe lives in those adopted countries because they saw the American government admitting Venezuelans who illegally crossed the southern border.

If telling a few white lies gets them an American lifestyle upgrade, why not?

Neila admitted she’d been living in Ecuador — for all of the past seven years, making a good living managing a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise in Quito.
Center for Immigration Studies / Youtube

Consider one emblematic Venezuelan woman named Neila I met in Juarez who had just received a US humanitarian parole permit granted through the online reservation app the US government has set up called CBP One.

One of the main grounds for Venezuelans to gain one of these coveted permission slips while still south of the border is a claim for protection from “targeted or individualized harm.”

But Neila admitted she’d been living in Ecuador — for all of the past seven years, making a good living managing a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise in Quito.

A smile appeared on Neila’s face as she described the wonders and joys of living there.

“I loved it! I loved it! It’s beautiful,” she recalled. “The people are really kind. They have a lot of high morals. I love the fruit from Ecuador. It’s beautiful. It’s very good. The scenery is very beautiful.”

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro
Under Maduro, many Venezuelans have applied for asylum and humanitarian claims.

Neila did not cite any problems in Ecuador for her decision to leave so much as that the Americans had just given her boyfriend humanitarian entry, and he sent her the good news that she could easily join him in an upgraded lifestyle.

“He told me about the [CPB One] application, that you could go close to the border and start using the application,” she explained, holding the document in a folder.

“So, after seven years, you heard about the application and pulled the trigger?” I asked.

“Si,” she replied.

Lying on federal immigration forms or to federal immigration officers can be charged as serious felonies under a cocktail of laws, like 18 US Code 1001 or 18 US Code 1546, as well as others.

CBP has encountered 297,500 Venezuelans from fiscal 2021 through March 2023 — 61,000 in just the first half of 2023.

Until recently, the American government told Venezuelans they would be returned to Mexico under Title 42 if they chose not to wait in CBP One queues in Mexico.

But starting in April, tens of thousands of Venezuelans who came to Mexico’s northern border began abandoning the lines and illegally crossing to turn themselves in again, after discovering the Americans would process many right in without the humanitarian permit and not send them back under Title 42.

With millions of Venezuelans in a dozen South American countries looking for an easy American lifestyle upgrade, the spigot will remain open to any of them who show up and find many kinds of US protections open to them.

Last year, for instance, some Venezuelans living in the South American diaspora decided to head for the border after President Biden granted Temporary Protected Status to 300,000 Venezuelans who’d already entered over the border and were living in America illegally.

The much-coveted, frequently renewed TPS exempts those under it from deportation and authorizes work permits and access to public welfare benefits.

One 22-year-old man I interviewed in Tapachula, Mexico, who’d just crossed in from Guatemala, cited TPS as his reason for leaving Colombia, where he’d been living since he was a young child.

He made no mention of political persecution or any humanitarian-related danger in Medellin, where he attended college.

When asked what news had prompted his journey, the young man answered: “Biden . . . because of the laws that Biden passed . . . TPS.” He understood that at some point, a new TPS would likely cover him too.

How did he hear about this “new law”?

“On the television,” he answered.

22-year-old man interviewed in Tapachula, Mexico.
One 22-year-old man interviewed in Tapachula, Mexico, cited TPS as his reason for leaving Colombia.
Center for Immigration Studies / Youtube

Other Venezuelans were well aware that the Americans were not investigating or vetting humanitarian claims for CBP One applications.

A US Customs and Border Protection spokesperson recently acknowledged that 99% of 80,000 CBP One applicants for humanitarian permits got accepted.

Texas Monthly reported in March the Biden Department of Homeland Security conducts no vetting of applicants for CBP One humanitarian permits.

“Those arriving for the CBP One appointments are given no interviews and asked no questions about vulnerabilities they listed in the app or about why they’re seeking asylum in the US — they’re simply released into the country on official parole.

“We’re going to let in those who may or may not have any particular reason to seek asylum, including some who feel safe in their home country,” an immigration attorney told the magazine.

It is little wonder why another Venezuelan man who had been living and working as a metal worker for seven years in Colombia only now decided to head for the American border.

I found him living in a tent encampment in Juarez, waiting for his CBP One appointment for a humanitarian entry permit.

When I asked him why he left, he cited only economic reasons, nothing about persecution or imminent harm he faced in Colombia.

“There wasn’t enough money in Colombia to survive. Whatever we earned, we had to send to our family” back in Venezuela.

But you didn’t seem to mind doing that for seven years, I noted. Why leave now?

“Because of friends who were working with me, working in Colombia with me, and they came and they had a chance to go through,” he responded. “We came for a better future and for our families.”

In other words, not for humanitarian protection.

"U.S. Enabling Mass Asylum and Humanitarian Permit Fraud at the Southern Border" video screengrab.
Many Venezuelans are crossing the border for better opportunities, not a humanitarian crisis.
Center for Immigration Studies / Youtube

Many Venezuelans do not even seem to be suffering economically.

They head for border crossings wearing the latest fashions, often sporting clothing with name-brand labels.

In fact, many can afford to fly almost all the way to the southern border, very often seen rolling their regulation overhead airplane luggage up river banks or through Mexican towns.

The fraudsters display a surprising knowledge about how to abuse the Biden government setup.

Two young Venezuelan men I interviewed at a bus station in Monterrey in January, both coming from Colombia, where one got a college degree and the other worked gainfully in construction, said they were going to illegally cross the American border.

To earn more money for their families than they could in Colombia, not to escape anything terrible.

“What matters is to work and help family,” one of the young men told me.

Both expected that immigration lawyers would help them get humanitarian protection at some point later because all that’s what happened for everyone they knew who’d already gone.

“Once we’re inside, with the help of a lawyer, we’ll regularize the situation.”

“How do you know that?” I asked. The other Venezuelan answered.

“They’re talking about humanitarian forgiveness.”

Both revealed a strong understanding of the American asylum-claim process, which starts with an initial interview screening called a “credible fear interview.”

“We always knew about credible fear,” one said. “The first Venezuelans who got into the States told everybody else the questions that they made over there. . . . Why you can’t stay in your country, why you run from your country . . . All those type of questions,” he explained. “They know about those questions. Whether the country helps you depends on your response and if you can stay or not.”

One week later, both young men texted that they were in Denver, having been rewarded for their decision to travel, just as all those thousands who went before them.

Todd Bensman is the author of “Overrun: How Joe Biden Unleashed the Greatest Border Crisis in U.S. History.”

This story originally appeared on NYPost

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