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Biden Administration Announces New Protections for Family Unity


By Patricia Elizee, Esq.


United States


On June 18, 2024, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a significant step toward fulfilling President Biden’s commitment to promoting family unity in the immigration system. Traditionally, individuals, despite having strong family ties in the U.S. were required to return to their home countries to process their immigration status, often leading to lengthy separations and considerable emotional and financial strain on families. With the new program, these individuals will be granted a three-year period during which they can apply for permanent residency without having to leave the United States.



The New "Parole in Place" Program


The centerpiece of this policy is the establishment of a discretionary “parole in place” program. This program allows undocumented spouses of U.S. citizens, who entered the U.S illegally to legalize their status while remaining in the United States. The Department of Homeland Security, in coordination with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), will assess applications on a case-by-case basis. Applicants must meet specific criteria, including having been continuously physically present in the U.S. for ten years or more, having no disqualifying criminal convictions, and passing thorough vetting procedures to ensure they do not pose a threat to national security or public safety. In addition to eligible noncitizen spouses, the family unity program will grant relief to stepchildren of the U.S. citizen spouse. 


This significant change enables these individuals to avoid the previously mandatory departure from the U.S. to process their status at a U.S. consulate abroad, which often led to a ten-year penalty before they could return. “These couples have been building their lives here for over a decade, raising their children, participating in their communities through church and school, and paying taxes,” said Biden.


DHS estimates that up to 500,000 noncitizen spouses of U.S. citizens could benefit from this program. On average, these individuals have resided in the United States for 23 years, highlighting their deep-rooted ties to their communities. Additionally, approximately 50,000 noncitizen children of these spouses are also eligible to seek parole under this process. By keeping families together, the administration aims to foster stronger communities and support the social fabric of the nation.


Eligibility and Process for Undocumented Spouses and Children


To be eligible for this program, applicants must:

·      Be physically present in the U.S. without admission or parole.

·      Have been continuously present in the U.S. for at least ten years as of June 17, 2024.

·      Be married to a U.S. citizen as of June 17, 2024.

·      Have no disqualifying criminal convictions.

·      Not pose a threat to national security or public safety and pass vetting.

·      Merit a favorable exercise of discretion.


Individuals will need to file a form with USCIS along with supporting documentation to show they meet the requirements and pay a fee. Note that USCIS will reject any filing received prior to the publication of the Federal Register Notice.



Work Visa Opportunities for DACA Holders


In tandem with the parole in place program, the administration is also enhancing opportunities for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients. DACA, introduced in 2012, provides work authorizations and protection from deportation for eligible immigrant youth. Despite its benefits, the program has faced significant legal and political challenges.


The new policy will streamline the process for DACA recipients with college degrees to obtain work visas, such as H-1B visas for highly skilled professionals. This initiative acknowledges the contributions of DACA recipients to the U.S. economy and aims to retain talented workers who have graduated from U.S. institutions and are qualified for high-skilled labor. President Biden's executive order directs the State Department to issue new guidance, ensuring that DACA recipients are presumed eligible for non-immigrant visas if they leave the U.S. to be interviewed at U.S. embassies and consulates. This clarification will facilitate the visa application process and enable U.S. employers to retain skilled workers who are in high demand. Furthermore, the administration will expedite the issuance of waivers of inadmissibility for certain college-educated DACA recipients applying for temporary visas. This measure aims to remove obstacles for DACA recipients seeking temporary work visa status, potentially leading to employment-based sponsorship of their green cards.


For DACA Holders Seeking Lawful Permanent Residence

To get high-skilled labor visas, DACA recipients must:

·      Education: Have a college degree.

·      Work Qualification: Be qualified for high-skilled labor visas.

·      Status: Be a DACA recipient (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals).



The Biden administration’s new immigration policy represents a significant step forward in addressing the systemic issues faced by undocumented individuals married to U.S. citizens and DACA recipients. By providing a clear and humane path to legal status and work authorization, the policy not only promotes family unity but also strengthens the U.S. economy by retaining talented workers. This approach reflects a commitment to upholding the values of family unity, economic contribution, and humanitarian consideration, marking a pivotal moment in the ongoing efforts to reform the U.S. immigration system.


As these changes take effect, the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will provide further guidance and information on the application process. For families and individuals affected, this policy offers a new hope and a tangible path toward stability and integration within the United States.


If you have any doubts or concerns, it’s advisable to seek legal counsel or consult an immigration attorney for guidance. For more information on how we can assist you, please visit our website at www.elizeelawfirm.com or email us at intro@elizeelawfirm.com.

 

Patricia Elizee is the managing partner of the Elizee Law Firm, an immigration law firm located at 1110 Brickell Avenue, Suite 315, Miami, Florida 33131. Phone 305-371-8846.


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