NBC: ‘Scammers’ Target Would-Be Parolees

What did the White House think would happen?

By Andrew R. Arthur on February 7, 2023

On February 6, NBC News reported: “Since President Joe Biden rolled out a parole program to accept a limited amount of migrants from Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua and Haiti, an underground industry has been brewing that is ripe for fraud.” “Limited” is a subjective term, but the outlet is otherwise correct that Biden’s (illegal) parole program for nationals of those countries “is ripe for fraud”.

Historical Context. In FY 2022, Border Patrol agents apprehended more than 600,000 illegal migrants at the Southwest border from the four countries to whom Biden’s latest parole program, applies: Venezuela, Nicaragua, Haiti, and Cuba.

The illicit surge in migrants from those countries has continued in the first three months of FY 2023 (October through December 2022), as more than 231,000 nationals of the four were stopped by agents at the U.S.-Mexico line.

To put those numbers into context, in all of FY 2020, nationals of those four countries accounted for fewer than 18,000 Southwest border apprehensions.

Of course, Covid-19 pandemic restrictions impacted international travel — legal and otherwise — during the latter half of FY 2020, from roughly March through September. A much more representative year was FY 2019, when illegal immigration at the Southwest border was so bad that the then-Trump administration declared a “border emergency”.

Apprehensions for nationals of those four countries that fiscal year at the Southwest border totaled 29,202. In other words, 19 times more Venezuelans, Nicaraguans, Cubans, and Haitians crossed the southern frontier of the United States in FY 2022 than in FY 2019, and in just three months in FY 2023, nearly seven times as many nationals of those four countries entered illegally than in all of FY 2019.

Why So Many of these Nationals Are Entering Now. Why are so many nationals of those four countries entering the United States illegally now?

All aliens apprehended entering illegally are supposed to be expelled under CDC orders issued pursuant to Title 42 of the U.S. Code in response to the pandemic. Expulsion, in this context, requires the assent of the Mexican government to take third-country nationals back. Mexico City increasingly has refused to accept nationals of those four countries, and the administration hasn’t pushed the issue.

Even though DHS is under a statutory mandate to detain all illegal entrants who aren’t expelled, the Biden administration has largely ignored that directive.

Of the nearly 2.18 million illegal migrants apprehended at the Southwest border under Biden who were processed for removal under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) in lieu of expulsion under Title 42, more than 1.8 million have been released into the United States.

Consequently, increasing numbers of Venezuelans, Nicaraguans, Haitians, and Cubans have been travelling to the Southwest border, more or less safe in the knowledge that they won’t be expelled, but instead will be allowed to enter this country, to live here and work indefinitely.

Biden’s Plan. The administration rolled out its plan to respond to the surge in nationals of those four countries in a White House fact sheet dated January 5.

It announced a two-year “parole” program for up to 30,000 nationals of those four countries monthly. Parole in the immigration context is unlike parole in criminal cases; unlike early release from criminal confinement, immigration parole is a limited authority DHS may use to permit otherwise inadmissible aliens to enter the country without being formally admitted.

Parole for nationals of those four countries will be good for two years under the Biden plan, time that those aliens can use to apply for asylum from USCIS, or not. It will also come with employment authorization, per the White House fact sheet, but whether those parolees will simply be granted work cards when they arrive or will have to apply separately for that benefit is unknown.

It’s a reasonable question, because the January 5 fact sheet asserts that applicants for parole under this program must “have an eligible sponsor” to support them in this country.

Note that the Federal Register postings for this program don’t actually refer to “sponsors”, at all. Rather, as in the case of Nicaraguans, for example, DHS contends that that would-be applicants “must have a supporter in the United States who agrees to provide financial support, such as housing and other needs”. (Emphasis added.)

According to USCIS, supporters can be “a U.S. citizen, national, or lawful permanent resident; hold a lawful status in the United States such as TPS or asylum; or be a parolee or recipient of deferred action or DED”. In other words, today’s parolees can be tomorrow’s parolee supporters.

NBC News. Which brings me back to NBC News, which reports that “many deals are being made quietly through word of mouth and the messaging app WhatsApp” between would-be parolees and their would-be supporters.

Prices for those “deals” — monies to be paid by parolees to supporters according to the outlet — “typically range from $8,000 to $10,000, but many of them are scams.” Color me shocked.

NBC News describes two of those scams:

In one Facebook post, a user named “sponsor” says, “we offer sponsors for 10 thousand dollars per person paid through Zelle from the United States or in cash in Cuba. 5 thousand in advance and 5 thousand when the papers are ready, before leaving Cuba.”

In another post catering to Venezuelans, a person advertises their services with “combo” package deals. There are three options, the most expensive consisting of sponsorship, airport pickup and a month's stay at the supporter's home for $8,200. The post states “tax” included.

In other words, it’s an illicit Kayak, Uber, and VRBO, all rolled into one. The Biden administration was either blind to the fact that such scams would proliferate under its parole plan or foolishly naïve, given the fact that illegal transit to the United States is, by definition, always a criminal enterprise.

As the United Nations has explained: “Migrants smuggled across the border between Mexico and the United States pay about $2,000, while migrants from beyond Mexico (and thus needing to cross multiple borders) could pay as much as $10,000”, all for a journey fraught with danger and peril detailed in that U.N. report.

If, for the same price or a few dollars more, a Venezuelan, Nicaraguan, Haitian, or Cuban could pay a different criminal for parole sponsorship, airport pickup, and housing, all with a pseudo-legal gloss and complete with work authorization, why would they trust their lives to a smuggler?

In much the same way that, thanks to the Biden administration’s release and transport policies for illegal migrants, American taxpayers are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to complete smuggling conspiracies, the federal government through its new parole policies is spending untold amounts to create the conditions under which those scammers can thrive.

Plainly, the administration intended for supporters of parolees to be family members or friends, but notably it did not limit sponsorship to those individuals. Consequently, and seriously — what did the White House think would happen?

Note that 20 states have sued to block the administration’s parole plan (in Texas v. DHS). The states are arguing that DHS lacks the authority to use parole in this matter (which is true), but the court may want to know that criminals are feasting on the Biden plan and that would-be parolees are being exploited even before they get here — a fact relevant to whether this program provides “significant public benefit”, a prerequisite for granting parole.

Rather than play “Whac-A-Mole” with its border policies and bribing the current group of nationals entering illegally to stem the migrant tide, it would be much more efficient, effective, and humane for the administration to simply apply the law Congress has written. Churchill likely never said that “Americans will always do the right thing, only after they have tried everything else”, but in this instance, it’s apt.