Biden’s “parole” program expands immigration powers

When Emilio González headed US Citizenship and Immigration Services, offering immigrants “parole” in the US was a selective and specialized occasion, the kind of thing he talked about with other agency heads before personally approving.

It was reserved, he said, for really complicated situations like allowing a child to have life-saving surgery that is only available in the US.

“It was always used sparingly because it falls outside of normal immigration channels,” González told The Washington Times.

Yet in the hands of the Biden administration, parole has become the backbone of policy toward illegal immigrants, with everyone from Afghans and Ukrainians to illegal border crossers receiving admission under the powers of parole from the Department of Homeland Security.

The administration this month announced the most aggressive expansion to date, saying it has created a new program to proactively parole 30,000 Venezuelans, Haitians, Cubans and Nicaraguans each month, effectively building a clandestine immigration system aimed at trying to convert many current illegal immigrants. in a potentially legal way.

“Lawmakers have definitely put lawyers in a difficult position to try to come up with something that doesn’t get them laughed at outside of court, or disbar them,” said Robert Law, a senior Citizen and Citizenship Services official. Immigration in Trump. management.

It’s hard to get an idea of ​​the total number of parolees, but it’s numbered in the several hundred thousand over the past year.

Under the law, parole is supposed to be reserved for individual cases where there is “significant public benefit” or “urgent humanitarian reasons.” Analysts say the public benefit was meant for cases like when someone was needed to testify in court, while the humanitarian category was meant for cases like the life-saving care cases Mr. Gonzalez described.

The idea was that they would return home after the probation period ended.

In recent years, however, it has become a safety valve for the surge of immigrants at the border who have discovered pressure points in the US immigration system. Under the law, they are supposed to be detained until a decision can be made on their cases, but with limited detention space, the Obama, Trump and Biden administrations have used probation to catch and release people.

Now, the Biden team has gone a step further, creating new programs for people who haven’t arrived yet but are hoping to come, not just for a temporary reason, like a medical procedure, but to immigrate and settle.

Up to 30,000 people each month from Venezuela, Cuba, Haiti and Nicaragua will be admitted for a two-year probation, Biden announced. He has not said what would happen at the end of probation, though few expect the government to try to get them to go.

The same goes for the hundreds of thousands who are caught and paroled at the border.

It is giving potential illegal immigrants exactly what they wanted, Gonzalez said.

“You’re basically taking the universe of people who would normally be turned away, based on that statistic, and legalizing them,” he told The Washington Times. “Because once you parole them, they’re allowed into the US, they’re allowed to work for a period of two years. And everyone knows that the two-year period will be permanent.

He said the real beneficiaries are adversarial governments like Cuba and Venezuela, which will be only too happy to see people coming to the US, where they can work and send money home, shoring up faltering economies with critical cash.

Photos on social media show Cubans lining up at home to obtain the documents they will need to apply for the US parole program.

“It is the militarization of migration. We are playing defense,” Mr. González said. “I guarantee that if we had an avalanche of Peruvians tomorrow, instead of figuring out how to stop it, they would come up with a program to accommodate 200,000 Peruvians.”

The Biden administration has combined the new parole program with a tougher policy, saying it will use Title 42 removal powers promoted by the Trump administration to remove up to 30,000 Cubans, Venezuelans, Nicaraguans and Haitians a month if they are caught entering the US without permission.

That is likely to draw legal action from immigrant rights groups, which are challenging the use of removals. Meanwhile, Republican-led states are already challenging the president’s expansive parole demands.

In a legal filing justifying the parole program, Homeland Security said the new program meets the “urgent humanitarian needs” test in the law by giving people in troubled countries “a safe mechanism” to escape.

Homeland Security said it meets the “public benefit” test because probation turns some entrants into legal participants. That allows authorities to perform at least some checks on people before they show up.

The department also said parole makes life easier for migrants, who won’t have to pay smugglers and make a treacherous journey.

The law requires that parole be granted on a case-by-case basis. The regulatory filing repeatedly claims that’s what the new policy does, but experts said it’s hard to square that claim with the massive numbers the administration is considering.

“It’s not a case-by-case determination,” said Law, who is now director of the America First Policy Institute’s center for homeland security and immigration. “The administration has set the criteria and it appears that every foreigner who can check each of those applicable boxes will get it. That means there’s no critical thinking on that eligibility.”

The Supreme Court flirted with the legality of parole during oral arguments last year in a case involving catch and release and the Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” policy.

The Biden administration was trying to cancel that Trump program and instead use probation powers to make it easier to catch and release newcomers.

Attorney General Elizabeth Prelogar said using probation on ordinary illegal immigrants meant the administration could save space in its detention bed for more serious immigration cases involving significant criminal histories.

“In a world where we don’t have enough beds as everyone recognizes, there is an imperative public interest in ensuring that we apprehend people who might be criminals or who might be on the run or who threaten our national security,” he told the judges. .

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. suggested that might be overstated.

“This is a parole issue: the interpretation of the parole provision and whether, I think, a significant public benefit can be accommodated or not, as far as you want to stretch it,” he said.

He sided with Ms. Prelogar on that case, but a challenge to the new show could present the issue of parole more directly.

Biden could also face scrutiny on Capitol Hill, where Republicans now control the House and have more power to investigate the administration’s actions.

Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., and Sen. JD Vance, R-Ohio, led a letter with nearly three dozen other lawmakers criticizing the new parole program.

“It is unclear where the department gets the legal authority to parole groups of this size and how this policy change improves border security,” Biggs said. “As usual, the department has some explaining to do.”

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