Biden’s new policy regarding unauthorized spouses

The policy announced on June 18 uses a policy tool favored by Biden, “parole,” to legalize temporarily the status of about 5% of the unauthorized population.  The White House is daring Trump and other Republicans to attack and sue.

On June 18 the Biden administration issued protections for two classes of persons legally subject to deportation: unauthorized persons who are married to an American citizen,and a backstop for DACA beneficiaries.

The June 18 policy uses the “parole” provisions of immigration law. Parole provisions authorize the Secretary of Homeland Security to allow persons to stay in the U.S. who otherwise are not allowed in the country. Parole needs to be justified on the grounds of either humanitarianism or “significant public benefit.”  See here for an analysis and below for a brief history of the provision. explains spousal protection and DACA-related protections. This posting addressed the spousal policy.

There are about 11 million unauthorized persons in the U.S. – about the same as 10 years ago.  About 1.1 million (10%) are married to an American citizen. 500,000 of these have been in the U.S. for at least ten years and are legally married on or before June 17, 2024.  Many of them arrived in the 1990s or earlier – the average tenure in the U.S. of these 500,000 is 23 years!

Whom it will benefit:  500,000 authorized persons who are married and their children who are assured their parent will not be deported. This includes children born in the U.S. and who came as children. Some of them today are in their 50s.

Who is excluded:

These 500,000 persons are a small share of the roughly 8 million unauthorized persons who today (June 2024) have been in the U.S. for at least 10 years.  Many of these unauthorized person are in a couple both of whom are unauthorized, either formally married or in common law marriages. Many have children born in the U.S.

There are about six million U.S. born children who have at least one unauthorized parent. It appears likely that a small share of these children will be positively affected by this policy – which affects only children one of whose formally married parents is a citizen, and their unauthorized parent must have been here for ten year.

Those who are legally mixed but not married as of June 17, 2024: Assuredly many unmarried unauthorized persons who have been in the U.S.  will rush to establish evidence that they were legally married. In California the key document proving is a certified copy of the marriage certificate issued by the county where one obtained a marriage license.  (After the 1986 Immigration and Reform Act was passed, which favored naturalization for farm workers, many unauthorized persons rushed to claim farm employment).

Parole – a brief history

Parole was first used in the 1950s to admit refugees into the country. In 1956, President Eisenhower directed the Attorney General to parole 30,000 Hungarian refugees.

Throughout the 1960s-1970s, parole was increasingly used for refugee crises, admitting over 690,000 Cubans and 360,000 refugees from Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Another 130,000 Vietnam War refugees were paroled.  In the 1980s, parole was used to admit groups like Cubans, Haitians, Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Soviets who didn’t qualify as refugees.  The 1996 immigration reform limited parole to case-by-case humanitarian or public benefit reasons, though it continued for groups like Cubans.  The Biden administration has extansively used parole to relieve pressure at the border and the asylum system.


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