Biden State Department Announces Visa Restrictions for Transportation Companies Facilitating Illegal Border Crossings

Ryan Morgan
By Ryan Morgan
February 21, 2024Border Security
Biden State Department Announces Visa Restrictions for Transportation Companies Facilitating Illegal Border Crossings
U.S. Border Patrol agents check identification papers of illegal immigrants before they are transported to a Border Patrol processing center in Jacumba Hot Springs, Calif., on Dec. 1, 2023. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The U.S. State Department, under President Joe Biden’s administration, has announced a new visa restriction policy intended to punish the owners and operators of charter companies that organize flights, ground transportation, and maritime vessels to facilitate illegal immigration into the United States.

“The policy targets transportation operations that prey on vulnerable migrants and facilitate irregular migration around the world and to the United States,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said on Wednesday. “Those who come to the United States without a legal basis often pay extortion-level prices and put themselves and accompanying family members at risk, only to be placed into removal proceedings pursuant to U.S. immigration laws.”

The State Department is implementing this visa restrictions policy under powers granted by the Immigration and Nationality Act. The policy could impact owners, executives, and senior officials of charter flight, ground, and maritime transportation companies.

The State Department implemented a similar visa restrictions policy in November, explicitly targeting operators of flight services into Nicaragua to move people along in their journey north across the U.S. southern border. The latest policy appears to include other transportation service providers who facilitate the movement of illegal immigrants into the United States. This includes those who operate at various points along the journey taken by illegal immigrants, either to enter the U.S. or to move deeper into the country after crossing the border undetected.

These visa restrictions could be used to block entry into the United States by individuals deemed to be in violation of the stated policy.

“No one should profit from vulnerable migrants—not smugglers, private companies, public officials, or governments,” Mr. Miller said on Wednesday. “We will continue engaging with governments and the private sector, both within and outside the region, to eliminate this exploitative practice.”

NTD News reached out to the State Department with additional questions about illegal immigration practices they’re hoping to slow with these new visa restrictions, including how prevalent these transportation services are, how they operate, and whether the State Department has identified specific transportation operators for which visa sanctions will be imposed. The State Department declined to provide any additional details or comments.

Border Encounters at Record Highs

While the State Department has expressed a desire to prevent transportation service providers from exploiting those individuals intending to stealthily enter the United States, it’s unclear whether the department hopes these new visa restrictions will lower the overall level of illegal immigration into the country.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection recorded 1.9 million encounters with individuals attempting to enter the United States nationwide in fiscal year 2021, including individuals apprehended while attempting to sneak across the border or otherwise deemed inadmissible when they arrive at the border. Those numbers rose to 2.7 million in fiscal year 2022 and 3.2 million in fiscal year 2023.

At the southwest land border alone, CBP officials recorded more than 1.7 million encounters in fiscal year 2021, 2.3 million in 2022, and 2.4 million in 2024.

Border officials recorded about 371,000 border encounters nationwide in December, marking the largest number on record in a single month. December saw about 302,000 border encounters at the southwest land border alone.

Republicans have frequently criticized President Biden and his administration for doing away with projects and policies they credited with limiting the levels of illegal immigration into the country. President Biden essentially halted the construction of border walls and barriers favored by his predecessor, President Donald Trump.

President Biden also ended the so-called “remain in Mexico” policy, which required pending applicants for U.S. asylum status to wait in Mexico while their asylum claims are adjudicated. The Biden administration has instead favored parole programs that allow asylum applicants and those awaiting removal proceedings to remain in the United States until their cases are adjudicated.

Immigration and border security policy have received heightened attention in recent months after President Biden offered to tie funding to hire more immigration personnel to a $105 billion supplemental spending request that included more than $60 billion in new U.S. foreign aid related to Ukraine.

Republicans countered that offer with calls for the president to resume border wall construction and tighten restrictions on immigrant parole programs. A deal was offered in the U.S. Senate earlier this month that offered some immigration policy changes, but congressional Republicans largely rejected the proposal, arguing it fell far short of the policy changes they were seeking.

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