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Washington — The Biden administration is restarting direct deportations of migrants to Venezuela in an attempt to reduce unlawful crossings along the southern border by Venezuelan migrants, who have journeyed to the U.S. in record numbers in recent weeks, four current and former U.S. officials told CBS News.

For years, the U.S. did not carry out regular deportations to Venezuela due to its strained diplomatic relationship with that country’s socialist government, which faces U.S. sanctions due to its human rights abuses and repressive policies. But officials now plan to resume direct deportations there to send back Venezuelans who enter the U.S. unlawfully and lack a legal basis to remain in the country, according to the current and former officials, who requested anonymity to discuss the move before a formal announcement.

The shift in policy is designed to slow down an unprecedented flow of U.S.-bound migration from crisis-stricken Venezuela and other countries hosting millions of displaced Venezuelans, including Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.

In September, approximately 50,000 Venezuelans crossed the U.S. southern border without authorization, an all-time record that fueled a yearly high in migrant apprehensions that month, according to internal federal data obtained by CBS News. That represented roughly a quarter of all Border Patrol apprehensions in September.

While the resumption of deportations to Venezuela may deter some Venezuelans from trekking to the U.S. border, it’s likely to prompt objections from human rights advocates and progressive Democrats, due to the deteriorating economic and political situation in the South American country.

The economic and societal collapse in Venezuela under its authoritarian socialist government has triggered the largest migrant exodus ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere. More than 7 million people have left the country in recent years, a tally that now eclipses the number of externally displaced refugees from war-torn Syria and Ukraine.

Increasingly, Venezuelans have left countries hosting them in South America or Venezuela itself to embark on a week-long journey to the U.S. that includes crossing Panama’s Darién Gap on foot. More than 400,000 migrants, most of them from Venezuela, have crossed that roadless jungle this year, a record.

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