Biden Seeks to Curb Flow of Migrants From Nicaragua With New Restrictions

Biden Seeks to Curb Flow of Migrants From Nicaragua With New Restrictions

The Biden administration will issue visa restrictions against 250 people and sanctions against three organizations that support the Nicaraguan government, whose authoritarian leader officials say has profited off people trying to reach the United States.

Senior administration officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity on Wednesday to preview the plans, said that the Nicaraguan government, led by President Daniel Ortega, had created a system to profit from large numbers of migrants by charging them visa fees upon arrival in the country’s airports and requiring them to leave the Nicaragua within 96 hours.

The Biden administration will also issue a policy alert to private companies, including airlines, of concerns about irregular immigration patterns and potential human rights abuses stemming from those practices. Officials said no efforts to enforce the policy were underway.

The announcement reflected a growing concern among President Biden and his advisers that a surge of undocumented immigrants into the United States is a growing threat to his re-election campaign. It also showed that the administration has limited options to stem the flow of immigration from troubled countries whose citizens are searching for a better life in the United States.

Nicaragua has become an increasingly popular hub for migrants from Latin America and Africa trying to reach the United States. The visa-selling practice, administration officials say, has led to human rights abuses and created opportunities for traffickers and smugglers, who prey on people rushed through the country with eventual hopes of reaching the southwestern border of the United States.

The State Department will issue visa restrictions to 250 people, a group that includes government workers and family members of people tied to the Ortega administration. The Treasury Department will issue sanctions against three entities financially supporting the Nicaraguan government, including a Russian military training center that one official said “supports repressive activities by the Nicaraguan national police to prosecute political opposition.”

According to a statement from Matthew Miller, a spokesman from the State Department, the United States has issued visa restrictions against at least 1,400 people to date, many of them Nicaraguan officials, “particularly targeting those complicit in human rights violations and corrupt practices.”

Rosario Murillo, the vice president and first lady of Nicaragua who acts as the government’s spokeswoman, did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the visa restrictions.

In November 2021, Mr. Biden issued a presidential proclamation restricting people who “undermine or injure democratic institutions or impede the return to democracy in Nicaragua” from entering the United States. “The repressive and abusive acts of the Ortega government and those who support it compel the United States to act.”

According to a 2023 survey by the AmericasBarometer project by Vanderbilt University, almost half of Nicaraguan citizens are interested in leaving the country. That number has risen steadily under Mr. Ortega, whose government has moved to close universities, confiscate the homes of dissidents forced into exile and stripped political prisoners of their citizenship.

The survey also found that roughly 32 percent of people across 26 Latin American countries surveyed say they want to migrate.

Mr. Biden has tried in recent months to flip the political blame for the surge in immigration back onto Republicans, who blocked a bipartisan bill that contained the strictest border measures in decades. Mr. Biden’s challenger, former President Donald J. Trump, had influenced Republican lawmakers who torpedoed the bill.

On Tuesday evening, Mr. Biden again told a group of supporters that Mr. Trump was to blame for the delay in a new border bill.

“Republicans in Congress must act because it’s the right thing to do,” Mr. Biden said, “and America needs it done.”

Frances Robles contributed reporting.

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