Amid hugs, tears of joy and frustration, hundreds of Venezuelan migrants returned to their country on Wednesday after a failed attempt to reach the United States, which would deport them if they crossed the border without papers to request asylum.
Two planes from Panama with some 70 migrants arrived at Simon Bolivar de Maiquetia airport (La Guaira, north), which serves Caracas, AFP reported.
Another, with some 300, arrived shortly before midnight from Mexico. The day before, another hundred returned.
Alejandrina Gonzalez ran to embrace her son Yorvis Carrasquel when she saw him at the terminal.
I emigrated “to look for a better life, looking for a better future, but it didn’t work out”, said the 25 year old, who has a tattoo on his neck that says: “I love you mommy and daddy”.
Now it’s time to “work and move forward. You fall down and get up again,” says a resigned Carrasquel who, like many of these migrants, crossed the dangerous Darien jungle, which separates Colombia and Panama, with the aim of reaching the United States and requesting asylum.
On October 13, after more than 150,000 Venezuelans arrived in the United States through the land border in one year, Washington imposed a new protocol to curb this migratory wave, which also became a political controversy in the run-up to the mid-term elections.
The new regulation provides for the entry of 24,000 Venezuelans through a program that requires entry by air and endorsed by a sponsor. And under an agreement, Washington will be able to expel to Mexico anyone who enters illegally through the land border.
Since Venezuela and the United States have not had diplomatic relations since 2019, they can no longer deport undocumented immigrants back to their country.
The American Dream
The new policy of Joe Biden’s government took Emmanuel Montero by surprise, who decided to return on a flight from Panama after seeing his plans thwarted.
“We had already crossed four countries, we were in Honduras,” explains the 21-year-old. “In the jungle we lasted five days, because we went by the shortest route, which is the most expensive.”
“Everything was going super well,” even though the passage through the Darien “was difficult” because it was raining.
Now he does not have a clear vision of his future. He knows that the economic situation is complex and he used up the last 300 dollars he had left to pay for the ticket to bring him back.
Many of these Venezuelans sold goods to make the trip to the United States. Jorge Luis Piñeda, 39, was a cab driver and sold his car to go after “the American dream that everyone is looking for to be able to get a little more” for his family.
He arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border on Oct. 19 — in the wake of the immigration veto — hoping to be able to turn himself in to authorities and stay in the country. “We said ‘well, let’s see what happens and they sent us back here (to Mexico) again’,” he explained to AFP in Mexico City before boarding a special flight of the Venezuelan state-owned Conviasa for which he paid 210 dollars.
He considers himself “cheated” by the United States and preferred to return to his country, because he has his family “and in some way or another, you work and get back on your feet”. He does not think he will try again.
“We are going to start practically from scratch,” said Ernesto Laitano, 24, from Maracaibo, in the hard-hit state of Zulia (west, bordering Colombia).
He sold his car and house to pay for the trip, which began on September 25. He says he left with some 50 people from his neighborhood.
Other Venezuelans undertook their journey from countries where they were living, such as José Gregorio Guevara, 40, who had been in Ecuador for five years.
His journey was “horrible” because of the long walks, the danger with the mafia and the jungle. He returned at the call of his children. “Dad, no, you couldn’t, go back, it’s time for us to be together”, he says after arriving in Caracas.
Last week about twenty Venezuelans returned from Guatemala. More migrants are expected to return.