The Biden administration is applying “humanitarian parole” to fast track would be refugees. Parole is temporary (two years) and assumes the person will return to her country of origin. Refugee status is permanent. However, it is hard to imagine that parole status will not eventually convert to permanent residence. And since the refugees will have family sponsors, the lobbying will be intense.
The first major use of this approach to refugee immigration was for Ukraine (see below). The administration just applied the approach to four other countries. On January 5 DHS announced the use of private sponsorship humanitarian parole for Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela: “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.” See more towards the end.
The normal refugee system of the U.S. has performed miserably in the past two fiscal years: 25,465 in FY 2022, 11,411 in FY 2021. Trump had lowered the ceiling of annual refugee admissions to 15,000, the Biden administration raised the cap to 125,000. The system is severely backlogged. The State Department expected 300,000 new asylum and refugee applications in FY 2012.
First, why the backlog? The Immigration Forum in late 2021 explained the procedure by which refugees around the world are selected, screened, and ultimately admitted and resettled into the U.S. “It is a process that has grown increasingly complicated in recent years, encompassing numerous government agencies, at least five separate information technology systems, and a trove of inscrutable acronyms (FTTTF, RAD, NVGB, to name a few).”
The administration introduced, apparently for the first time in American history, a family, or private, sponsorship program for what in effect is a temporary refugees program. It is country-specific – for Ukraine, yet possibly other countries. In effect, this is in part a privatized program to get around the bureaucracy of refugee admission.
On April 21, 2022, the executive branch announced Uniting for Ukraine. (Go here and here for the government websites.) “Uniting for Ukraine provides a pathway for Ukrainian citizens and their immediate family members who are outside the United States to come to the United States and stay temporarily in a 2 year period of [humanitarian] parole. Ukrainians participating in Uniting for Ukraine must have a supporter in the United States who agrees to provide them with financial support for the duration of their stay in the United States….The U.S. government will then vet the supporter to ensure that they are able to financially support the individual whom they agree to support.”
The Wall Street Journal reported on November 24th that, under the Uniting for Ukraine program, there were 171,000 applications to be sponsors, 121,000 travel authorizations for Ukrainians and roughly 85,000 arriving since April, said a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services spokesman.
In a December 21 article the WSJ raised the number of total admissions to 200,000, of which 94,000 were through the United for Ukraine program of private sponsorships and another 35,000 approved but not yet arrived. “Congress made the Ukrainians eligible for a range of refugee benefits, including Medicaid, housing assistance and food stamps. They are also eligible to work the moment they arrive.”
Venezuela, Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua
Large numbers of persons from these countries have been showing up at the border, crossing illegally to seek asylum — only once one is on American soil does one apply for asylum. (Go here.)
The WSJ writes,” More than 150,000 Venezuelans have crossed the border illegally in the first 11 months of the government’s fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, compared with about 48,000 the entire year before, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data. (Go here for a posting on the Venezuelan refugee crisis.) Late last year, a private sponsorship / parole program was introduced for 24,000 persons a year.
The Biden administration introduced a parole program for Venezuelans modeled after Uniting for Ukraine – that is, private sponsorship — and the volume of Venezuelans at the border dried up. In the January 5 announced program, citizens of these four countries are eligible for private sponsorship, up to 30,000 a year. (USCIS website on this is here.) Those who present themselves illegally at the border will be denied any access to ayslum for five years. The desired effect, of course, is to greatly reduce large volumes of persons from these countries at the border.
Afghans have been admitted through the parole system but without family sponsorship available.