By Mimi Nguyen Ly
The Biden administration has launched a new immigration program to allow some nationals of Central America and Colombia to enter the United States.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on July 7 announced it’s implementing “new family reunification parole (FRP) processes” for Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. The program was first announced in April.
The FRP processes allow certain migrants with U.S. relatives to enter and work legally while they await their U.S. immigration visas.
“Specifically, nationals of these four countries can be considered for parole on a case-by-case basis for a period of up to three years while they wait to apply to become a lawful permanent resident,” the DHS stated on July 7.
Potentially eligible migrants are those from the four countries who have family members that are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents in the United States.
The latest initiative, according to the DHS, is part of the comprehensive measures the DHS and State Department announced in April “to further reduce unlawful migration across the Western Hemisphere, significantly expand lawful pathways for protection, and facilitate the safe, orderly, and humane processing of migrants.”
US ‘Intends to Welcome as Many as 100,000’
The U.S. family member must file Form I-30—also referred to as the Petition for Alien Relative—on behalf of their Colombian, Salvadoran, Guatemalan, or Honduran relative, and have the petition approved.
If approved, the State Department would issue an invitation to the petitioning U.S. family member, who can then start the FRP process by filing a request on behalf of their migrant relative, to be considered for advance travel authorization and parole.
The DHS said on July 7 that, if the foreign national is granted parole status, which grants them entry into the United States, they can then request employment authorization while waiting for their immigrant visa to become available. When the immigrant visa is available, they may apply for permanent residency—also referred to as a green card.
The FRP process can be a faster pathway to enter the United States compared to the regular process of U.S. citizens and green-card holders applying and waiting for an immigrant visa for their relatives.
The Biden administration had announced on May 2 that the United States “intends to welcome as many as 100,000 individuals from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador” under the FRP processes. No timeframe has been provided, however, and a numerical cap for Colombian migrants has also not been specified.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement that the new processes “promote family unity and provide lawful pathways consistent with our laws and our values.”
“The Department has proven that the expansion of safe, orderly, and lawful pathways, combined with strong enforcement, is effective in reducing dangerous, irregular migration to the United States,” he added.
According to data from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, in fiscal year 2023 so far, over 126,200 Colombians, 40,700 Salvadorans, 115,100 Guatemalans, and 110,000 Hondurans have been processed at the southwest border.
The DHS points out that the new FRP processes “allow for parole only on a discretionary, case-by-case, and temporary basis upon a demonstration of urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit, as well as a demonstration that the beneficiary warrants a favorable exercise of discretion.”
The above stipulations accord with the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), enacted in 1952. The INA authorizes the Homeland Security Secretary—currently Mr. Mayorkas—to decide whether to parole a foreign national into the United States.
Parole Status Previously Granted Sparingly
An immigration expert previously told The Epoch Times in 2022 that parole should be a “very, very boutique thing,” and should be used in only special cases, such as when a family member needs entry into the United States to donate a kidney to his brother, or if a witness to a criminal case is needed to testify.
Andrew Arthur, resident fellow in law and policy at the Center for Immigration Studies and a retired immigration judge, added that when he was the associate general counsel in the former federal immigration agency, he would see just a handful of parole cases a year.
Besides the FRP processes, the Biden administration has at least two other avenues through which it is granting parole to migrants.
The first is its humanitarian parole processes available to certain migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. The program was launched in October 2022 for Venezuelans, and in January for Cubans, Nicaraguans, and Haitians.
“These processes will allow up to 30,000 qualifying nationals per month from all four of these countries to reside legally in the United States for up to two years and to receive permission to work here, during that period,” the DHS announced in January. This amounts to up to 360,000 people receiving advance travel authorization to enter the United States each year.
Some 20 states in late January filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration’s DHS, seeking to halt the program, saying there had been no authorization from Congress to have created “a new blatantly unlawful program.”
The second way is through the CBP One app; the White House and DHS announced in January that migrants can book appointments at U.S. ports of entry in order to seek asylum.
But also, they could, instead of asylum, seek parole under humanitarian grounds. Humanitarian parole allows people to temporarily enter the United States if there is a “compelling emergency and there is an urgent humanitarian reason or significant public benefit,” according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
A U.S. Border Patrol union leader told The Epoch Times in May that illegal immigrants are being coached to voluntarily withdraw their asylum claims, return to Mexico, and then seek to enter the United States on humanitarian grounds.
Manny Bayon, a National Border Patrol Council union spokesman in San Diego, told The Epoch Times that under CBP One, illegal immigrants are encouraged to abandon their asylum claims and instead apply for “humanitarian parole” to make it “look like they’re entering legally.”
While it appears that “illegal entrant migrants” are being deported to Mexico, they’re actually withdrawing their asylum claims, going to Mexico, and then coming back into the United States legally through a U.S. port of entry by using CBP One, he said.
The Biden administration finalized a new regulation in May that denies asylum to illegal immigrants if they passed through another country without seeking protection there first, or failed to use other legal pathways to the United States. Under Title 8 immigration law—which border authorities transitioned to after Title 42 expired—people who cross the border illegally can be “expeditiously removed” and banned from entering the United States for five years.
“Now, they’re legally being processed through the port of entry instead of under Title 8, which would be illegally entering the United States,” Mr. Bayon noted.
Erin Heeter, a DHS spokesperson, previously told The Epoch Times via email that as of June 1, the DHS increased CBP One appointments from 1,000 to 1,250 a day—this amounts to around 30,000 to 37,500 appointments per month.
Charlotte Cuthbertson, Savannah Pointer, and Brad Jones contributed to this report.