Biden Administration Expands Parole In Place to Spouse’s of US Citizens–Does NOT Extend Immigration Benefits to Any Immigrants Who Were not Already Eligible for a Green Card

What is Parole-in-Place?

Parole-in-Place (PIP) is an immigration policy that grants temporary protected legal status to certain undocumented individuals who are already in the United States that are present without admission or parole. It is a sort of legal fiction in which the person will be “paroled” into the US without actually having to leave and reenter. Once a noncitizen has been paroled into the US they become eligible to adjust status to that of a legal permanent resident, something that cannot be done (in most circumstances) by a noncitizen who entered the US without being admitted or paroled. PIP’s main benefit is not the temporary protection or the temporary employment authorization, rather, it is that it makes a person with an immigrant visa petition from their US citizen spouse eligible to adjust status and become a resident without having to get a waiver or leave the country.

Is Parole-in-Place Something New?

Traditionally, PIP has been available to undocumented family members of U.S. military personnel. It exists through Section 212(d)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act which provides wide discretion to the Department of Homeland Security to parole someone into the US for humanitarian purposes. President Biden’s new policy expands its scope to include spouses of U.S. citizens.

Does This Announcement Make Millions of Immigrants Eligible for Legal Immigration Status?

No. It does not make anyone eligible for legal immigration status if they weren’t already eligible.

You probably saw many headlines parroting the line from the White House’s Press Release stating “the Biden administration estimates the parole in place program will offer amnesty, and a path to legal permanent residency, to 500,000 spouses of U.S. citizens and 50,000 children under 21.” Those numbers seem greatly exaggerated but more importantly, the entire announcement is very misleading.

The extension of parole-in-place for spouses of US citizens that have been in the US for ten years will not “create a path to legal status” for a single person. Every person who is eligible for this parole-in-place already had a path to permanent residency and eventual citizenship. This announcement will not benefit anyone who wasn’t already eligible for a green card. This might shorten the amount of time it takes for them to obtain residency, it will reduce the amount of paperwork they are required to file, and it will eliminate the need for them to depart the country and reenter legally. Since the three and ten year bars on reentry to the US due to unlawful presence were created in 1996 as part of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, there has been “waiver” available for the spouses of US citizens. The Obama administration expanded that waiver to include spouses and children of US citizens and permanent residents (green card holders).

So anyone who qualifies for parole-in-place through Biden’s new program would have been eligible to obtain legal residency already. The majority of the people who are eligible in the US probably have a waiver pending or already approved and are waiting for a visa interview.

It is incredible how the media churns out AI generated articles and copy-paste news alerts that all simply repeat the information in the press release without mentioning the above. Even the articles criticizing this move fail to address this and claim that this move protects a half a million immigrants from deportation.

This announcement comes two weeks after he issued a sweeping executive action that allows US officials to quickly remove migrants entering the US illegally without processing their asylum requests. That resulted in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) that argues that the policy violates US immigration law.

The White House’s claim that this election-year move will protect more than 500,000 people from deportation doesn’t ring true. It saves them from the inconvenience of having to obtain a waiver and attend a consulate interview in their home country. The additional claim that this will benefit “roughly 50,000 noncitizen children of immigrants under the age of 21 whose parent are married to a US citizen” seems to be referencing the minor children who would be considered paroled upon the parole-in-place of their parent, which would allow them to adjust status based on the step-child petition they would likely have from the US citizen spouse of their parent.

People are divided along party lines in their support of this executive order and I see people on both sides incorrectly stating that this is some sort of unprecedented move to extend residency to a tremendous number of immigrants that are in the US without status. It’s basically just political theater. People are debating the merits of an announcement that doesn’t actually expand eligibility to legal immigration status. The media should make an attempt to explain this to people rather than reprinting hundreds of identical articles and blog posts spreading misinformation.

Who is Eligible for Parole In Place?

In order to qualify for parole in place, the spouse of the U.S. Citizen must:

  • Be present in the US without admission or parole
  • Have been continuously present in the US for at least 10 years as of June 17, 2024;
  • Have a legally valid marriage to a US Citizen as of June 17, 2024;
  • Not have any disqualifying criminal history or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety; and
  • Demonstrate that a favorable exercise of discretion is warranted.

Link to the Official Department of Homeland Security Fact Sheet for this topic.

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