(NEW YORK) — Venezuelans who enter the U.S. illegally at ports of entry along the southern border will be returned to Mexico under the authority of Title 42, a public health statute invoked at the start of the pandemic by the Trump administration that allows for the rapid expulsion of migrants, senior Biden administration officials said Wednesday.

The policy went into effect on Wednesday and, consistent with other Title 42 expulsion protocols, is expected to severely limit opportunities for migrants to apply for humanitarian relief and remain in the U.S. for an extended period.

DHS is currently under a court order to enforce Title 42.

The agency also announced it will bring 24,000 Venezuelan nationals to the U.S. as part of a new policy aimed at encouraging lawful entries through airports into the interior of the U.S.

Citing the large increase in Venezuelan nationals attempting to cross the southern border, the DHS says Venezuelans will need a sponsor in the United States to enter the country legally. That can be done online, a senior administration official told reporters on a conference call Wednesday night.

“This program is meant and is intended to address particular acute issues that we’re facing at the border and to provide an opportunity for vulnerable Venezuelans to seek means of entering the United States in a lawful way in the interior without showing up at the southern border,” a senior administration official said.

Venezuelans who are illegally in the United States currently will not be affected by this announcement, only those who are at the southern border after the announcement was made.

They did not go into specifics as to why they capped the program at 24,000.

The department says the actions were done in conjunction with the Mexican government and senior administration officials who said after the migrants are sent back to Mexico, it is up to the Mexican government what happens to them.

“These actions make clear that there is a lawful and orderly way for Venezuelans to enter the United States, and lawful entry is the only way,” said Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas. “Those who attempt to cross the southern border of the United States illegally will be returned to Mexico and will be ineligible for this process in the future. Those who follow the lawful process will have the opportunity to travel safely to the United States and become eligible to work here.”

Advocates for migrants say the policy is “problematic” and “inhumane.”

“First, it creates an application process for ‘up to 24,000’ Venezuelan migrants to enter the United States by air to an interior port of entry. To be approved, an applicant must, among other things, have a financial supporter on U.S. soil,” Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, the executive director of Lawyers for Civil Rights, said in a statement. “Second, any Venezuelan migrant who attempts to enter the United States between ports of entry will now be: (1) returned to Mexico under the Trump-era Title 42 policy; and (2) made ineligible to apply for legal entry through the newly established process.”

A senior administration official did not say whether the policy will apply to other Central American Northern Triangle countries.

That official said Venezuelans will be able to fly from Mexico to the interior of the United States to be processed at an airport, in an effort to alleviate southern border congestion.

DHS is also launching a targeted human smuggling initiative with the government of Mexico.

Chad Wolf, the former acting secretary of Homeland Security under President Donald Trump, said the policy will do little to solve the “crisis along the border.”

“Yesterday’s announcement from DHS is an attempt to solve a problem that has been wholly self-inflicted by the Biden Admin’s open border policies. Venezuelans, as well as over a hundred other nationalities, have taken advantage of the lax border policies of this administration,” Wolf tweeted. “Now, after more than 21 months of ignoring reality, Biden’s DHS now recognizes the importance of implementing deterrence measures put in place by the Trump Admin. Unfortunately, this action applies to only one nationality and will do little to solve the crisis along the border.”

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