What is Military Parole in Place and why is it ending if it benefits U.S. soldiers and veterans?
Parole in place (PIP) is available to certain undocumented family members of U.S. military personnel (active or veterans). Beneficiaries who are granted PIP are provided authorization to stay and work in the United States. More importantly, PIP beneficiaries are “paroled” for the purposes of applying for a green card inside the U.S. under §245(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
Parole in place is a significant benefit that’s generally not available to family members of civilians. The policy maintains family unity and gives service members peace of mind.
Parole in Place Benefits
The parole in place policy aims to prevent the separation of military families by allowing certain family members to remain in the United States. In addition to being in an authorized stay, the previously undocumented family member(s) may also be eligible for employment authorization. Generally, immediate family members can adjust status to permanent resident (green card holder).
Earlier in the summer, a memo was circulated within the Pentagon indicating that USCIS was looking to get rid of the “Parole in Place” program, according to Margaret Stock, a retired Army Reserve lieutenant colonel and immigration attorney who represents military families.
Since they were made aware of existence of the memo, Stock said lawyers like her have been scrambling to file petitions for the program.
“Right now, immigration lawyers are frantically applying for as many people as they can, because the thinking is if you apply before they get rid of the policy, at least maybe you will be grandfathered, your application will be considered anyway because you already filed it,” she said.
A USCIS official confirmed the agency has not yet made a decision about terminating the program but said it “remains under review.”
According to the official, USCIS, which is in charge of administering benefits for immigrants, refugees and would-be citizens, is “reviewing” all parole programs to ensure they are consistent with existing law and one of President Trump’s first executive orders in January 2017 which called for the end of “the abuse of parole.”
Earlier this month, the agency, now led by immigration hawk Ken Cuccinelli, announced it would terminate two parole programs, one for family members of aging Filipino veterans of World War II and the other for certain people in Haiti with family members who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents.
Deported by your own government
Stock, the immigration lawyer, noted that the problem the “Parole in Place” program was designed to fix for military families stemmed from the Clinton-era Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, which she called the “toughest immigration law in American history.”
Along with bolstering immigration enforcement and expanding the categories of immigrants who could be deported, the law made it much more difficult for undocumented people to adjust their status while in the U.S. Under the 1996 law, unauthorized immigrants seeking green cards, through marriage to U.S. citizens or petitions filed by certain U.S. citizen family members, must leave the country, file an application overseas and likely face a three or 10-year bar from re-entering the U.S.
“It was a literal Catch-22 built into the law,” Stock said, adding that many family members feared going through this process and triggering the multi-year waiting period, which can only be waived by proving extreme hardship. “It didn’t make any sense, but it’s part of the law today.”
Stock, who taught constitutional, military and national security law at West Point for nine years, said the 1996 law was hurting military families and readiness among active duty units, with some troops requesting to leave the armed forces because they couldn’t bear being separated from their family members for a decade.
“You could be a soldier, sailor, airman, Marine, Coast Guard member and you’re told that your wife has to leave the country for 10 years in order to get her green card,” Stock said, noting that the possibility of a family member’s deportation is demoralizing for those serving in uniform.
Stock said the dilemma faced by several family members attracted national attention in 2007, when the U.S. government was trying to deport, a soldier who was missing in action in Iraq. After an outcry and pressure from lawmakers, Michael Chertoff, the secretary of homeland security at the time, stepped in and granted parole in place to Jimenez’s wife. Jimenez’s skeletal remains were found in Iraq in 2008.
After this incident, Stock said the Bush administration started to grant the “Parole in Place” relief to family members of U.S. service members.
In 2010, Janet Napolitano, President Obama’s first homeland security secretary, formally notified Congress that the agency was exercising this discretionary option to “minimize” family separations. Napolitano was responding to a letter signed by a bipartisan group of concerned lawmakers who urged her to “provide some relief” to soldiers and their immigrant families. Among those who signed the letter was then-Congressman Mike Pence, who, in his current role as vice president, has vocally supported Mr. Trump’s immigration agenda.
USCIS officially instituted the program through memos in 2013 and 2016, offering the relief to spouses, parents and children of active-duty soldiers, active reservists and honorably discharged veterans. The program, like other parole options, was derived from the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which allows the government to parole certain people into the country on humanitarian grounds.
“It was designed to prevent family separation and enhance military readiness,” Stock said.
These are soldiers who are incredibly patriotic
Stock said there’s no substantive pretext to end the “Parole in Place” program. For her, a decision to terminate it should spark public uproar.
Along with hindering military readiness and fueling concerns about a family member’s deportation, Stock said the program’s end would also dissuade many from joining the armed forces, as the option is one of many military benefits would-be recruits consider before enlisting. “It’s been good for recruiting, too — which is a sore point right now,” she added.
The Pentagon referred all questions about the program’s potential termination — including those concerning the potential negative effects on troop morale, readiness and recruitment — to USCIS, saying the relief option is not within its purview. USCIS did not address these concerns.
source: CBS News