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Is Parole A Solution For U.S. Citizens With Immigrant Spouses?

– Posted in: Family Immigration

Is parole the answer for U.S. spouses of immigrants who entered the U.S. without permission?

Since changes to permanent residence law made by the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRAIRA) in 1997, U.S. citizens have waited almost three decades for Congress to create a pathway to legalization for their husbands and wives.

To say the least, Congress has been disinterested in their plight.

Now, there’s talk that a new immigrant spouse program, based on parole, is under consideration by the Biden Administration.

The mere mention of such rumors has sparked a backlash by xenophobic opponents of immigration reform.

Parole Is Not A Path To
Permanent Residence

Back to the central question.

Is parole the answer for U.S. spouses of immigrants who entered the U.S. without permission?

In the long term, no.

In the short term, parole could provide mixed-status couples – couples in which one spouse is a U.S. citizen and the other is an undocumented immigrant – with a small semblance of relief.

Immigrant spouses who qualify would be protected from being deported and granted legal permission to work.

But only on a temporary basis.

Immigration Parole Is Not Amnesty

For several decades, U.S. citizens have perhaps been the most neglected constituency in the immigration reform debate.

After all, there are approximately 1.1 million U.S. citizen who are married to immigrants, lacking the legal permission to live in the U.S.

Further, studies have shown there are 4.9 million U.S. citizen children with at least one undocumented parent.

Contrary to popular myth, mere marriage to a U.S. citizen does not entitle an immigrant to a green card.

Given that family unity is the foremost principle underlying immigration law, it would seem compassion for such couples is warranted.

Yet, even before any concrete details about Biden’s parole proposal have been released, immigration naysayers have begun asserting the program smacks of amnesty.

Of course, this is not unexpected.

Die-hard opponents of immigration reform believe all undocumented immigrants, young and old, are undeserving of permanent residency.

For instance, take a recent editorial by the Center For Immigration Studies, an anti-reform organization, which openly articulated such callousness towards mixed-status couples and their children.

The Biden parole proposal, CIS claimed, would clear administrative cobwebs that prevent immigrant spouses from being granted green cards, ultimately leading to citizenship.

Its’ hyperbolic exaggeration does not accurately reflect how green card and citizenship processes work.

Whether the erroneous CIS commentary was deliberate or misinformed, there is no direct  passage from being granted parole to being granted permanent residence.

In short, besides a glaring hostility to immigrants, the article’s central premise was based on a flawed portrayal of U.S. immigration law.

Parole does not provide any shortcuts to legalization.

The Meaning Of Immigration Parole 

To be sure, parole is a legal concept allowing immigrants to be granted entry to the U.S. – or permission to remain here – even though they have not been formally admitted.

The benefits are limited and temporary.

To better understand the meaning of parole in immigration law, it is helpful to contrast it with the concepts of entry and admission.

A person can enter the U.S., and even be living in the U.S., without having been legally admitted.

If a person has made a lawful entry, this means they have been inspected and authorized to come into the country.  This is deemed a lawful entry.

Being admitted means the person has made a legal entry.

Parole, on the other hand,  allows immigrants to enter or live in the U.S., as if they have been admitted, for a temporary period, even though they have not made been admitted.

It is not an amnesty.

Immigrants who have entered with a tourist or school visa are not eligible.  Parole is only available to immigrants who have not been legally admitted.

This means those granted parole, being undocumented, who seek a green card must win a waiver based on hardship to the U.S. citizen spouse – a difficult, difficult endeavor.

No honest and knowledgeable advocate or opponent of immigration reform would assert otherwise.

Three Types Of Parole In Immigration Law

In addition, there are three different types of immigration parole.

  • Humanitarian Parole
  • Advance Parole
  • Parole-In-Place

Although the legal authority for all forms of parole is derived from the same section of immigration law, INA 212(d)(5)(A), the requirements for eligibility differ from each other.

Humanitarian Parole

This allows immigrants, who do not qualify for a visa, to enter the U.S., for compelling humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit.   Such parole is usually given for only a short period of time, most often a maximum of two years (although renewals are often allowed).

Significant public benefits include family reunification, especially for minors, medical care, or emergencies (also usually medical), and important public benefit activities, such as matters pertaining to law enforcement and national security matters.

Examples of past family parole include the Filipino World War II Veterans Program, the Cuban Family Reunification Program, and the Haitian Family Reunification Program.

Advance Parole

Under this mechanism, an immigrant, who entered in the U.S. without a legal entry, is allowed to leave the U.S. and re-enter.  This type of parole often involves persons with pending applications under programs like Temporary Protected Status, U Visas, and DACA (Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals).

These parole requests must be based on certain humanitarian reasons, including personal, educational, and business reasons, as well as family emergencies.  However, applicants must be careful because the reasons for their request may undermine their pending application.


This form of parole enables immigrants, already in the U.S. – who have not been admitted – to remain in the United States.  Generally, this has been reserved for specific family members of a current or past member of the U.S. military.

This is the type of parole the Biden Administration is considering for immigrant spouses of U.S. citizens.

The Biden Parole Proposal

Although no details have been released, past parole measures allow insight into how parole for immigrant spouses might work.

  • If parole is extended to such spouses, benefits will likely be limited to relatively short durations of 1 – 2 years.
  • Renewal applications, as long as the program remains in effect, will likely be allowed.
  • Immigrants, applying for the first time or renewing their parole status, will need to meet all the requirements each time they apply.
  • In particular, a showing of good moral character will be necessary.  Some convictions will cause applications to be denied.
  • Not every mixed-status marriage will qualify.  Parole will likely be limited to immigrant spouses who have been in longer term marriages, such as 5 to 10 years, presumably to the same person.

All-in-all, parole would only be a stop-gap solution for immigrants and their husbands or wives.

Despite its limited benefits, parole, for the time being, would provide temporary relief to families which live in a state of fear and uncertainty.

Moreover, though not a long term solution, it might prompt Congress to reform current rules that harm not simply immigrants, but also U.S. citizens – citizens whom Congress purports to represent.

Ready to take a serious and honest look at the strengths and weaknesses of your immigration case? Let’s get started with a personalized strategy and planning session . . .

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