The next migration crisis to affect the United States will come from Venezuela. But the United States doesn’t appear to have formulated any plan to respond to a mass exodus originating from this South American nation. And, at present, it is unclear whether Venezuela is even on the Trump administration’s radar as a source of migrants seeking humanitarian relief.
Venezuela has a population of approximately 32 million people. However, following a failed experiment with socialism, 82% of them have been driven into abject poverty. And the Venezuelan government is teetering on the brink of total collapse. It is no longer able to provide basic services (like electricity and clean water) and food and medicine are in short supply.
The majority of Venezuelans seem committed to remaining home and attempting to solve their own political and economic problems. But brutally violent riots are now a daily occurrence in Caracas and other large cities. And the ruling socialist party has begun viciously suppressing all dissent. It is only a matter of time before people begin fleeing Venezuela en masse. When faced with starvation, or violent death at the hands of government enforcers, people will migrate to the nearest zone of relative stability.
For Venezuelans, that stable zone will be the United States. Colombia, Brazil, and Mexico are closer, but none of those three countries are particularly welcoming to migrants. And why flee to another economically and politically challenged state when America is just a stone’s throw farther away?
Flying distance from Caracas to Miami is a relatively short 1,300 miles and cheap flights are abundant. For those who can’t afford to fly, the preferred approach will most likely be via watercraft. Venezuela sits a mere 800 miles off the coast of Puerto Rico – only a three to four day trip, even by sailboat. The coast of Florida is only a day or two further. The U.S. has already seen a 160% jump in the number of asylum applications filed by Venezuelans. Yet no one in the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Public Health Service, or the Department of State seems to be discussing Venezuela’s impending failure, or planning for it.
The U.S. has a history of mismanaging mass migration crises. From the Mariel Boatlift to the recent surge in unaccompanied alien minors, American governments have consistently resolved these events in favor of the migrants, while ignoring the public safety and national security interests of the American public. But this time, with the writing clearly on the wall, team Trump should already be rolling out a plan to deal with a potential mass exodus from Venezuela. Sometimes, the best way to resolve a mass migration crisis is to avoid one altogether.