© 2024 WLRN
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Haitians, Cubans, Venezuelans and Nicaraguans head to Florida under Biden immigration plan

Illustration by Camila Kerwin

Florida is the top destination for hundreds of thousands of migrants from Haiti, Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua who got accepted into President Biden’s humanitarian parole program, says a new report.

The Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies, citing analysis of the latest U.S. Customs and Border Protection data, reports that some 326,000 migrants from the four countries have arrived at airports in Florida in the past year.

That number far exceeds those who traveled to airports in Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta and other cities, according to the data, which notes 84% headed to Florida. South Florida is home to the largest Haitian, Venezuelan, Nicaraguan and Cuban communities in the U.S.

READ MORE: Tightening U.S. sanctions screws won't loosen Venezuela regime screws

“Public knowledge of where these flights deliver migrants should matter to local, state, and national leaders in cities struggling with migrant influxes, who could use the information to financially plan for their care, or petition the federal government to stop the flights,” writes Todd Bensman, a CIS senior National Security Fellow, who authored the report. The right-leaning think tank advocates for stricter immigration polices.

“The information may also hold implications for litigation by Texas, Florida, and other states that have sued to stop the parole programs on grounds that the administration's illegal abuse of the narrow statutory parole authority has directly harmed them,” he wrote.

Republicans, led by former President Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, have charged that Biden's policies have encouraged migrants to attempt to come to the U.S. and that the border is out of control.

The Biden administration counters by saying Republicans failed to work with Democrats to fund a key border security bill earlier this year, arguing that what is happening on the southern border is part of a worldwide phenomenon of more people fleeing their homes to seek safety.

The administration opened the humanitarian parole program more than a year ago to migrants from Venezuela and then to those from the other three countries to ease the crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Record numbers of migrants seeking asylum or seeking to illegally enter the country have overwhelmed federal immigration authorities and local border communities.

The administration has since allowed 30,000 people a month into the country from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela. The migrants must have a financial sponsor in the U.S. and fly into an American airport. The CBP recently reported that 386,000 people from those four countries have been admitted to the U.S.

Democrats hit back at criticism from Republicans

Republicans have criticized the program, saying it circumvents U.S. immigration laws to admit people who otherwise wouldn't qualify for legal residency.

Among the critics is U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, whose Senate campaign has pounced on the report to blast the administration and his Democratic challenger Debbie Mucarsel-Powell.

READ MORE: WLRN News evaluates a key plank of the Biden administration's immigration agenda — one year later.

"While Joe Biden and Democrats claim the crisis at the southern border is not their fault, they are simultaneously flying unvetted illegal aliens into Florida by the hundreds of thousands as part of a program they themselves created,” said Will Hampson, a spokesman for Scott’s Senate campaign.

Sen. Rick Scott, R-Florida
U.S. Senate
Sen. Rick Scott, R-Florida

“Many of these illegals are flying into Congresswoman Mucarsel-Powell's backyard in Miami, and yet she remains silent, too scared to call out her own party for their disastrous policies.”

Mucarsel-Powell slammed Scott in a Sun-Sentinel op-ed published in February when she wrote that the U.S. Senate “is broken … because of extremists like Rick Scott who put partisan politics before delivering for the people who elected them.”

“Scott had the opportunity to come to the table and work on this bill in December alongside Republicans and Democrats, and he refused,” she wrote. “Instead, he spent months opposing the compromise before the deal was even finalized.”

In early February, senators released a highly anticipated $118 billion package that paired border enforcement policy with wartime aid for Ukraine, Israel and other U.S. allies, but it quickly ran into a wall of opposition from top House Republicans, including Speaker Mike Johnson.

Then U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, D-Fla., speaks during a House Judiciary Committee markup of the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Andrew Harnik
Then U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, D-Fla., in December, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

The proposal would have overhauled the asylum system with faster and tougher enforcement, as well as give presidents new powers to immediately expel migrants if authorities become overwhelmed with the number of people applying for asylum.

The bipartisan proposal was aimed at gaining control of an asylum system inundated by historic numbers of migrants coming to the border.

Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford, who negotiated the bill for Republicans, told reporters in February that GOP critics were missing parts of the bill that would give Republicans wins on issues they have talked about for years.

He said it would have provided border-wall money, expanded deportation flights, increased the number of border officers and created a faster process for deportation.

Sergio Bustos is WLRN's Vice President for News. He's been an editor at the Miami Herald and POLITICO Florida. Most recently, Bustos was Enterprise/Politics Editor for the USA Today Network-Florida’s 18 newsrooms. Reach him at sbustos@wlrnnews.org
More On This Topic