Biden’s CHNV Parole Program — Ripe for Human Exploitation

The illegal initiative to admit people from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela is a perfect template for a ‘Traffickers’ Relief Act’

By Andrew R. Arthur on August 25, 2023

Since taking office, President Biden has ignored congressional mandates that require DHS to detain illegal border migrants and instead has released — at least — 2.2 million of them into the United States. Biden is now completely ignoring Congress’ annual immigration limits by bringing in up to 360,000 Cuban, Haitian, Nicaraguan, and Venezuelan nationals per year who are nowhere near the border under his “CHNV” parole program. Although his administration touts it as a border-security plan, it’s really little more than the perfect template for a “Traffickers’ Relief Act”.

Biden’s Abuses of DHS’s Limited Parole Authority. The migrant releases at the border are pretty straightforward in both their illegality and implementation (though if you are looking for background, you can find it here). The CHNV parole program, on the other hand, requires quite a bit of explanation and analysis, particularly given how the administration has surrounded it with a farrago of misdirection and lies.

Under that program, up to 30,000 nationals of those four countries are allowed to enter the United States per month for two-year periods under DHS’s limited parole authority in section 212(d)(5)(A) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

Why do I call parole a “limited authority”? Because in that provision of the INA, Congress granted DHS power to parole otherwise inadmissible aliens into the United States “only on a case-by-case basis for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit”.

Even though paroled aliens are allowed to enter the United States, those entries don’t constitute formal admissions, and DHS is required to send parolees back once their parole has expired — a key defect of the CHNV parole program.

Notwithstanding those congressional limits on DHS’s parole authority, the Biden administration treats it as a giant blank check it can use to plaster over all the cracks in border security created by its feckless immigration policies.

For example, the president never planned to comply with Congress’ migrant detention mandates, so he simply released hundreds of thousands of illegal entrants on parole until a federal judge told him to cut it out in March (which DHS did for about two months until trying the same thing in May, which the court again shut down).

When the administration didn’t want the public to see hundreds of thousands of migrants pouring over the border each month post-Title 42, it instead funneled them through the ports of entry by allowing more than a thousand would-be illegal entrants daily to pre-schedule their illegal entries there using the CBP One app (originally created to expedite the entry of legal entrants), in what I term the “CBP One app port interview scheme”. (CIS recently hosted a panel discussion on this.)

At least 133,000 migrants who have participated in that scheme had subsequently been paroled through the end of June.

The CHNV Migrant Surge, Title 42, and Mexico’s Response. In that vein, when the administration wanted to hide a massive increase in Cuban, Haitian, and Nicaraguan illegal migrants at the Southwest border, it expanded a parole program implemented in October 2022 in response to a surge in Venezuelan migrants to include nationals of those three countries as well.

By way of background, in FY 2020, Border Patrol agents at the Southwest border apprehended just 1,227 illegal entrants from Venezuela, 9,822 from Cuba, 4,359 from Haiti, and 2,123 from Nicaragua — 17,531 in total.

By FY 2021, Southwest Border Patrol apprehensions from those four countries increased more than ten-fold, to 181,000-plus, before skyrocketing to more than 600,000 in FY 2022.

Why did that massive increase occur, and more importantly, why didn’t the threat of expulsion under Title 42 dissuade those migrants from entering the United States illegally?

As noted, the Biden administration almost categorically refused to detain illegal border migrants, even though the INA requires it to do so. Thus, the only consequence that illegal entrants faced under Biden while Title 42 was in effect was expulsion under those CDC orders.

A key defect in Title 42 is that the Mexican government bears no obligation to accept back any nationals other than its own, and increasingly under Biden it refused to receive returning Venezuelans, Cubans, Nicaraguans, and Haitians. Just 12 percent of apprehended nationals of the four countries were expelled under Title 42 in FY 2021, a figure that dropped to 3.6 percent in FY 2022.

That put the Biden administration in a quandary, as the U.S. government has iffy diplomatic relations with Havana, Caracas, and Managua, and therefore lacks leverage to force those governments to provide the travel documents DHS needs to send nationals of Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua (respectively) back home.

Those migrants knew that once they were here, there was little our government could do to expel them, and that Biden wouldn’t detain them, which is why they came.

As for Haiti, the political situation there has long been shaky in the best of times, and has only gotten worse of late. After receiving political blowback for expelling Haitian nationals back to that country in the wake of a massive surge into the small border town of Del Rio, Texas, in September 2021, the administration apparently lost its appetite for any major returns to the Caribbean nation.

Again, the Biden administration could have — and should have — detained illegal migrants from those four countries pending adjudication of their asylum claims, which would have driven illegal entries down to their pre-Biden levels. Even with border security on the line, however, the Biden administration refuses to detain illegal migrants.

The Carrots and the Sticks. Instead, the administration concocted the CHNV parole program, a Rube Goldberg-like contraption complete with carrots (incentives) and — at least initially — sticks (deterrents).

One key difference between the original Venezuelan parole program and its CHNV successor is that the former was capped at 24,000 parolees total, whereas the new CHNV program offered parole to up to 30,000 nationals of those three countries per month. Those were the carrots, but why 30,000 per month?

Because, as a January 5 White House “fact sheet” announcing the CHNV parole program explained, 30,000 was the monthly number of nationals of those four countries who — if they instead chose to enter illegally and were expelled under Title 42 — the Mexican government had agreed to accept back. The threat posed by those 30,000 monthly Title 42 expulsions was the stick.

Thus, the CHNV parole program only made sense — to the degree it made any sense at all — when Title 42 was in effect. With Title 42 gone, that program is now all carrots.

Not to worry, said the White House in that January 5 fact sheet because:

Effective immediately, individuals who attempt to enter the United States without permission, do not have a legal basis to remain, and cannot be expelled pursuant to Title 42 will be increasingly subject to expedited removal to their country of origin and subject to a five-year ban on reentry.

That would be great, except for two things. First, the whole reason that so many Venezuelans, Cubans, and Nicaraguans entered illegally in the last three fiscal years is that the U.S. government as a practical matter can’t send them back home, and it has shown it won’t remove many Haitians. Once they’re here, they’re here.

Second, like most of the administration’s enforcement promises, DHS has failed to deliver on the White House’s expedited-removal pledge. Of the more than 132,650 illegal entrants Border Patrol agents apprehended at the Southwest border in July, fewer than 18,100 — 7.3 percent of the total — were subject to expedited removal.

By contrast, Border Patrol released more than 69,000 of those illegal migrants last month — more than 52 percent of those apprehended. The number of aliens DHS subjected to expedited removal has actually dropped nearly 30 percent since May.

It’s no wonder that between May and July, more than 55,000 nationals of those four countries were apprehended entering illegally at that Southwest border — three times as many as in all of FY 2020. Apprehensions from those countries may be down from their all-time monthly high of more than 84,000 in December, but the Biden administration is only doing better compared to its own dreadful past.

How CHNV Works. CHNV is a six-step process, which begins when a “supporter” in the United States files an I-134A, “Online Request to be a Supporter and Declaration of Financial Support”, through the USCIS portal agreeing to financially support a given national of one of the four countries.

Once the supporter is confirmed, USCIS sends beneficiaries an e-mail directing them to set up an online account attesting to eligibility (i.e., they are nationals of one of those countries or the spouse, common-law partner, or minor child of a beneficiary) and confirming they’re not inadmissible on medical grounds.

Once that is completed, the beneficiary is then sent to the CBP One app to upload a photo and enter biographic information. At that point, beneficiaries are notified through the online account whether CBP will give the beneficiary permission to fly to the United States to seek parole at a port of entry.

At the airport, the beneficiary is fingerprinted, and a final determination is made whether to grant the alien parole. If alien beneficiaries are not granted parole, it’s up to ICE to remove them (again, no easy feat). Otherwise, they receive parole good for up to two years.

“The Traffickers’ Relief Act”. The administration lauds the CHNV parole program as some sort of panacea, crowing in CBP’s “Monthly Update” for July that: “Through the end of July 2023, over 181,000 Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans had arrived lawfully under the parole processes.”

Whether there’s anything “lawful” about this scheme is the subject of a suit filed by 20 states in Texas v. DHS (which went to hearing on August 24), but when you lump in those 181,000-plus Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans with the 290,000-plus nationals of those four countries agents nabbed between October and July who weren’t expelled under Title 42, you get to more than 471,000 aliens who will be here for a while.

That means DHS is on pace to allow 565,000-plus Cuban, Haitian, Nicaraguan, and Venezuelan nationals to stay in this country this fiscal year — more people than reside in my hometown of Baltimore, which has three congressmen, an NFL franchise, and a major-league baseball team. I love the place, but I believe most Americans agree that one Baltimore is plenty.

In any event, CBP contends that the CHNV parole program has “denied smugglers the opportunity to exploit nearly 160,000 individuals”, and there’s likely some truth to that, given that it allows those aliens to apply from the comfort of their homes (or more likely the third countries they’ve been living in for years), and fly to interior airports in the United States (like BWI, which services Baltimore).

But what about human traffickers, malefactors in the United States who seek to “exploit” those aliens once they’re here to work in debt bondage for subpar wages or in the sex trade? That’s a different story.

The first tell that trafficking is a patent defect of this scheme is on the USCIS website for the CHNV parole program itself, captioned “Processes for Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans”. Drop to the bottom, and you will read the following:

Please note that beneficiaries are not obligated to repay, reimburse, work for, serve, marry, or otherwise compensate their supporter in exchange for filing Form I-134A on their behalf or for providing financial support while they are in the United States.


Beware of any scams or potential exploitation by anyone who asks for money associated with the Form I-134A or participation in these processes.

Note that such warnings don’t appear on the State Department websites that guide foreign nationals through the legitimate visa-application processes. So why would it appear here?

The administration’s whole premise for the CHNV scheme (which smacks of soft bigotry and paternalism) is that those four countries are essentially God-cursed hellholes, and that misery — not its own liberal migrant release policies — is what’s driving record numbers of nationals of those countries here illegally.

The Washington Office on Latin America — hardly a right-wing group — reported in September that smugglers in Managua are charging migrants between $5,000 and $15,000 for transit to the Southwest border, “a journey that takes 15 days to a month”.

If a Nicaraguan national were willing to pay $15,000 to take a month-long trip in the hands of a de facto criminal (and potential murderer or rapist), one could ask, wouldn’t they prefer to pay a similar or greater amount to a “supporter” in the United States to start a process that would allow them to come in by simply boarding an airliner to Miami? It’s a rhetorical question.

Of course, not everyone in one of those four countries has the money to pay the supporter upfront, so it is possible — if not likely — that many of those beneficiaries would agree to work to pay off that money once here. And that’s where the trafficking aspect comes in.

I trust you won’t be surprised to learn that it is not uncommon for such shady employment agreements to devolve quickly into debt bondage. The trafficker provides housing, which ups the amount owed, and then food and clothing, which adds to the tab. Soon, trafficking victims are trapped in a debt spiral from which they cannot escape, and the terms become more onerous.

But you may ask, wouldn’t DHS limit potential supporters to immediate family members, who have the beneficiary’s best interests and care at heart? Nope. Any individual “who holds lawful status in the United States” — including other parolees — can be a supporter.

Worse, as USCIS explains: “Supporters can be individuals filing independently, filing with other individuals, or filing on behalf of organizations, businesses, or other entities”. (Emphasis added.) Own a slaughterhouse in Alabama or a massage parlor in Philadelphia? You, too, can be a "supporter".

USCIS is clear that, “To serve as a supporter, an individual or individual representing an entity must ... [p]ass security and background vetting, including for public safety, national security, human trafficking, and exploitation concerns”. But what sort of “human trafficking vetting” can an already overwhelmed agency perform when it is receiving tens of thousands of such applications per month? Site visits are, I assume, out of the question.

But let’s assume that your slaughterhouse is already on the Department of Labor’s (DOL’s) radar for its employment abuses. Is there a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between DOL and USCIS on information sharing in CHNV cases? From my executive branch experience, MOUs take months, if not years, to hammer out. Even the Venezuelan portion of this scheme is just 10 months old.

Even if there is some information on your business’s shady labor practices, however, what would stop a Philly massage parlor from using one of its employees as a “cut out” who will serve as a supporter under the understanding that the beneficiary will come to work for that business once here — with a possible cut of the illicit take? Nothing that I can see.

The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) at the Department of Health and Human Services has come under fire of late for its failures to track tens of thousands of unaccompanied alien children (UACs) it has placed with sponsors in the United States. More than a few of those kids ended up in sweatshops and other dangerous labor situations, according to a New York Times article captioned “As Migrant Children Were Put to Work, U.S. Ignored Warnings”.

In the month of April, when that article was published, ORR discharged just fewer than 9,000 UACs to individual sponsors in the United States. CHNV is a program that involves the parole of 30,000 nationals of those four countries per month, and USCIS is expected to vet not just the supporter but also the beneficiary — only the latter of whom is in the United States. Is anyone expecting a better performance than ORR has been delivering with those UACs?

I’m not saying the Biden administration’s ad hoc (and illegal) parole program for nationals of Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela will result in thousands of so-called beneficiaries ending up in debt bondage to human and sexual traffickers. But, if you wanted to write a “Trafficker’s Relief Act”, I cannot imagine a better template to follow than CHNV. Consider this tomorrow’s congressional oversight hearing, today.