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Biden White House resumes Venezuela mass deportations

By Jake Beardslee · October 28, 2023

In brief…

  • The US recently resumed deportation flights to Venezuela after years, sending 100+ Venezuelans back.
  • These ICE-chartered flights are operated secretly by private companies that have been accused of rights violations.
  • Over 7 million have fled Venezuela, with many now trying to reach the US. Deportations aim to deter this.
  • Biden condemned Trump's Venezuela deportations but has now restarted them despite human rights concerns.
The Biden administration has resumed deportation flights to Venezuela to deter migration after years of suspension, despite human rights concerns.  Marcelo Camargo / Wikimedia

The Biden administration has renewed deportations to Venezuela for the first time in years, with over 100 Venezuelans being sent back on an ICE-chartered flight on October 18th. This follows negotiations between the US and Venezuela which also led to decreased sanctions and a potential opening for free elections. According to the administration, this is the first of multiple weekly flights to Venezuela, coming after the US also renewed deportations to Cuba months prior.

Images show shackled Venezuelans lacking shoelaces being deported, looking desperate. As Tom Cartwright of Witness at the Border told The Progressive, 15-25% of migrants detained by CBP are deported, as “deportation is a cornerstone of US immigration policy” and deters migrants without it. Per Cartwright, as of September 2023, 1100 charter deportation flights left the US, carrying thousands.

Most of these flights were operated secretly by Classic Air Charter until their contract ended in June. A temporary $148.6 million contract was then awarded to CSI Aviation. CSI uses companies like iAero Airways to operate the flights, which cost around $7,800 per hour. These companies have been accused of human rights violations like refoulement, where migrants are returned to face danger, according to a report from the University of Washington Center for Human Rights.

The flights deter migrants but may not do so long-term, said Cartwright. Over 7 million Venezuelans have fled crisis and instability under President Maduro. Many now go north to the US, with 209,000 crossing the Darién Gap this year. While some Venezuelans got Temporary Protected Status, it only applies to those here before July 31st. Deportations warn those still coming.

Deportations to Venezuela were suspended since 2019 but occurred illegally in 2020. Biden condemned Trump’s deportations but has now renewed them. Advocates urge stopping the flights given Venezuela’s human rights issues.