The BorderLine is a weekly Daily Signal feature examining everything from the unprecedented illegal immigration crisis at the border to immigration’s impact on cities and states throughout the land. We will also shed light on other critical border-related issues like human trafficking, drug smuggling, terrorism, and more.
The Biden administration announced a deal to ease economic sanctions on Venezuela on Oct. 18 in exchange for President Nicolas Maduro agreeing to hold fair presidential elections and allow opposition candidates to compete. He also promised to release some political prisoners, including American citizens. But with the ink barely dry on the deal, Maduro has already signaled his intransigence.
On Oct. 30, the Venezuelan Supreme Court, working on behalf of the dictator, suspended the results of a presidential primary held a week earlier by a coalition of opposition parties, citing “electoral violations, financial crimes, and conspiracy.”
Last week, affiliates of the Carvalho Dialogue on the Americas issued a statement criticizing President Joe Biden’s latest attempt to loosen economic sanctions on an authoritarian state in exchange for political concessions.
The statement’s signatories called it “a massive step backward” to ease sanctions on Venezuela’s Maduro regime in exchange for empty promises. They fear it will create a dangerous precedent in a region rife with autocrats and that it will exacerbate the illegal immigration wave that the Biden administration has done nothing to stop and nearly everything to encourage.
More than 40 conservatives convened by The Heritage Foundation, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, and other partners formed the Carvalho Dialogue to discuss the threat to the U.S. of transnational organized crime as well as authoritarian socialism and political instability in Latin America. (The Daily Signal is Heritage’s news and commentary site.)
The Carvalho Dialogue’s statement declared that by allowing Venezuela to freely sell oil and gas, the U.S. will also enrich regimes friendly with Maduro such as those of China, Cuba, Iran, Nicaragua, North Korea, and Russia—all of which are hostile to the U.S.
Sanctions relief will also directly benefit criminal and terrorist organizations with investments in Venezuela’s corrupt oil, gas, and gold industries. Rather than rely on the good faith of a bad actor, the statement said, Biden should enforce sanctions on Venezuela until Maduro actually allows legitimate national elections.
It is certainly in U.S. interests to see a prosperous and secure Venezuela. The U.S. has many companies with historical links and once-profitable investments in the country that it would be of mutual benefit to revive.
But U.S. interests are threatened by the corruption, international crime, and even terrorist activity that is endemic to, and encouraged by, Maduro’s regime. Along with China and Russia, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, Iran, is active in Latin America.
Iran has a defense agreement with Bolivia and is accused of funding extremist attacks against Peru’s president, Dina Boluarte. Iran has a good friend in Colombia’s ex-guerilla president, Gustavo Petro, who will not condemn the Hamas terrorist attacks on Israel of Oct. 7 but considers Israel’s response to be “genocide.” Iran’s foreign minister visited Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua last February. In June, he was back, along with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, who said that Iran and Venezuela had “common enemies” as he ironically accepted an “Order of the Liberator” award from Maduro.
On Oct. 22, Mexico’s president hosted the presidents of Colombia, Cuba, Honduras, and Venezuela for a migration summit, where they had the collective gall to blame U.S. sanctions on Cuba and Venezuela for causing the region’s illegal migration crisis rather than their own disastrous economic policies, political repression, and weaponized migration.
But for now, the biggest headache for the United States coming from Venezuela is an endless flow of migrants fleeing the country’s dire economy. In 2020, 4,250 Venezuelans crossed the U.S. border illegally, but in 2023, over 200,000 did. The Biden administration allowed another 133,000 in via an unlawful mass parole program that bypasses our lawful visa process.
Venezuelans make up a significant percentage of the over 3.2 million people who were caught illegally entering the U.S. at the border in fiscal year 2023. And on his watch so far, Biden has allowed an estimated 5 million total aliens to enter the country on thin legal pretexts or illegally through negligence.
A few weeks before the sanctions-easing deal was made public—not coincidentally—the Biden administration announced the resumption of deportation flights of illegal aliens back to Venezuela, which Maduro had previously refused to accept.
On Oct. 18, Immigration and Customs Enforcement sent the first flight. Yet while arranging to safely return illegal Venezuelans home, on Sept. 20, the Department of Homeland Security had already extended “temporary protected status” for hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans through September 2025.
The secretary of homeland security provides temporary protected status to nationals of a country experiencing conditions or conflict that make it unsafe to return them there. On Oct. 11, Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas granted such status to an additional group of Venezuelans, all those “who have continuously resided in the United States since July 31, 2023, and been continuously physically present in the United States since Oct. 3, 2023.”
This additional group is estimated at nearly half a million. Perhaps 750,000 Venezuelan illegal aliens total are now covered by the designation.
On Oct. 31, there were reports of yet another migrant “caravan” moving up from Mexico’s southern border toward the U.S. border, with many Venezuelans among its 7,000 people. Refusing to wait for the Mexicans to process their refugee applications, they are heading to the U.S. border where there are no real impediments.
One migrant told a reporter that he left Venezuela “because of the dire economic situation back home.” Another said, “In Venezuela, things are very tough. We can’t live with the money we get … that’s why we’re going to the United States.”
These interviews, and many others, show that most Venezuelans are fleeing for economic reasons. While there’s no doubt Maduro has ruined Venezuela’s economy, being poor or out of a job is not grounds for an asylum claim in the U.S. or anywhere else. But the Biden administration’s refusal to separate genuine asylum claimants from purely economic migrants has created a giant magnet for illegal immigration.
If Maduro allowed free elections and restored democracy, Venezuela could rebuild its economy and provide economic opportunities for its people. This, together with ramped-up U.S. deportation flights and much-needed U.S. immigration border and asylum reforms, would greatly reduce incentives for illegal migration to the U.S.
But instead of fixing their own houses, leftist Latin American leaders have the cojones to demand the U.S. should remove its sanctions on Cuba and Venezuela and open our borders even wider to illegal migrants inspired by their corrupt and ineffective governance.
The winner of the primary Maduro’s Supreme Court nixed was his enduring nemesis, Maria Corina Machado. Maduro engineered a legal ban to prevent her from holding office for 15 years, and whether she will be able to run at all is in doubt. Allowing her, and others, to compete legally and campaign without harassment was at the heart of the sanctions-relief deal.
Isaias Medina III, a former Venezuelan diplomat, said that Maduro had “hoodwinked” Biden, adding, “Until Maduro’s network of influence is removed from power and Venezuela is liberated from his grasp, it’s unrealistic to expect any significant change.”
Former U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela Michael Skol calls it a “fantasy” for the U.S. to be “negotiating with a criminal dictatorship,” while former White House advisor Juan Cruz calls negotiating with Maduro “Lucy and Charlie Brown all over again. … She’s putting down a football one more time, and we’re going for it.”
Read Other BorderLine Columns:
Have an opinion about this article? To sound off, please email letters@DailySignal.com, and we’ll consider publishing your edited remarks in our regular “We Hear You” feature. Remember to include the URL or headline of the article plus your name and town and/or state.