By refusing to grant Venezuelans refugee status and instead opting for limited, ad hoc measures, Latin American governments claim they are preventing a temporary situation from becoming permanent and avoiding costly commitments. It won’t work. Costs are escalating because governments are reluctant to send migrants away, instead preferring to pressure Venezuela to accept humanitarian relief. They know the conditions are unsustainable there. Meanwhile, ambiguity about the status of Venezuelan migrants in host countries is forcing many to huddle in border areas where they are creating problems for themselves and others. This prevents them from integrating into national communities and formal labor markets.
The U.S. should be more welcoming, too. The mostly middle-class Venezuelans who have flown to Miami have largely managed to receive asylum, but they represent only a tiny fraction of those trapped in legal limbo in Latin America. The liberal democracies of the Western Hemisphere should agree to share responsibility for the humanitarian casualties of Venezuela’s tyrant. They would all benefit from the contributions of Venezuelans desperate to live and work in freedom and peace.