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Left-wing congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said the US was “contributing to the destabilisation that drives migration” with measures such as sanctions on Venezuela and Thursday’s decision to resume deportation flights to the South American country.
She also demanded that Joe Biden reverse his recent decision to expedite border wall construction.
“We also have to finally invest in meaningful immigration reform,” said Ocasio-Cortez, a New York congresswoman and leading progressive popularly known as AOC.
With Biden lagging behind Republicans in polling regarding the border, on Wednesday his administration announced the waiving of 26 federal laws to speed border wall construction in Texas. That was followed by the decision to restart deportation flights to Venezuela.
The border wall order cited a congressional appropriation passed under Donald Trump in 2019, but amid outcry from advocates for environmental protection and immigration reform, Ocasio-Cortez said: “The Biden administration was not required to waive several environmental laws to expedite the building of the border wall.
“The president needs to take responsibility for this decision and reverse course. A wall does nothing to deter people who are fleeing poverty and violence from coming to the United States.
“You do not risk your life or your children’s lives going through the Darién Gap or traversing hundreds of miles of desert if you have any other options. Walls only serve to push migrants into more remote areas, increasing their chances of death. It is a cruel policy.”
The move on Venezuela is aimed at reducing undocumented crossings of the southern border including, CBS News said, the arrival of approximately 50,000 Venezuelans in September alone.
The Department of Homeland Security said: “We are committed to strictly enforcing immigration laws and quickly removing individuals who do not avail themselves of these orderly processes and choose to cross our border unlawfully.”
Under its authoritarian president, Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela has pitched into crisis, the United Nations estimating more than 7.3 million people have fled in recent years. Trump reportedly advocated an armed intervention to remove Maduro. In 2019, US Republicans backed a failed coup attempt by Juan Guaidó, an opposition leader.
Just two weeks ago, the Biden administration gave Venezuelans in the US temporary protected status. But on Thursday, CBS said, a senior official said Venezuelans in federal custody would soon be deported.
Ocasio-Cortez said: “The US must take examining the root of migration more seriously, re-examine policy towards Latin America, and stop contributing to the destabilisation that drives migration – as [the Florida Republican] senator Marco Rubio’s Venezuela sanctions have done.”
Outside Congress, Murad Awawdeh, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, said: “Deporting individuals back to a country in distress is inhumane and will only serve to put people back in harm’s way.
“The Biden administration needs to stop pandering to rightwing voters by deporting people and building a wall, and should instead do the job they were elected to do: to protect all people regardless of immigration status. We need investments in legal services, not detention and deportations.
“We call on the Biden administration to abandon this cruel plan, and immediately stop any deportation flights to Venezuela.”