U.S. talking to Mexico, other countries to facilitate return of Venezuelan migrants

Venezuelan migrants, some expelled from the U.S. to Mexico under Title 42 and others who have not yet crossed after the new immigration policies, stand at a camp on the banks of the Rio Bravo river in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico November 21, 2022. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez

Nov 23 (Reuters) - The United States is in talks with Mexico and other countries to facilitate the return of Venezuelan migrants to their homeland, a senior U.S. official said in a call with reporters on Tuesday.

"We're in discussion with Mexico and other countries to see what can be done in that sense," said Blas Nunez-Neto, the acting assistant secretary for U.S. border and immigration policy.

Nunez-Neto declined to provide details when asked which other countries were in talks with the United States. Mexico's foreign ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

The discussions likely involve deporting Venezuelans to a third country and flying them back to Venezuela from there, though Nunez-Neto did not specify.

The talks come as Washington has said it needs time to wind down Title 42, a COVID-era order that allows authorities to rapidly send migrants at the U.S. southern border back to Mexico.

The future of the policy is unclear. A U.S. federal judge invalidated Title 42 last week but then a Republican-led legal challenge was filed seeking to keep it in place.

Luis Miranda, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said any discussions with other nations were aimed at continuing a U.S. effort launched in October that allows border agents to expel Venezuelans to Mexico under Title 42 while also offering the chance for 24,000 Venezuelans to apply for temporary entry into the United States through a humanitarian program.

Miranda called the program "very successful," saying it had "resulted in significant decreases of encounters of Venezuelan nationals at our borders."

Nunez-Neto said authorities had not yet decided how Venezuelans could request asylum at the border, but said those who entered the United States illegally would be deported.

"We're looking to see how we can have a safe, orderly and functional process," Nunez-Neto said. "We don't currently have a relationship with the government of Venezuela, but we do have the capacity to carry out repatriations to Venezuela."

Two U.S. officials previously told Reuters that the Biden administration had been sending a small number of Venezuelans to the Dominican Republic on commercial flights.

Return flights of Venezuelans from Mexico began last month, Mexican officials told Reuters.

Reporting by Kylie Madry and Lizbeth Diaz in Mexico City; Additional reporting by Ted Hesson in Washington Editing by Mica Rosenberg and Marguerita Choy

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