The Trump Administration to Terminate the Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program

On August 2nd, 2019 the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published a memo stating its intention to end two parole programs: the Haitian Family Reunification Parole program and the Filipino World War II Veterans Parole program.

According to the Trump administration, this action to terminate the Haitian Family Reunification Parole and the Filipino World War II Veterans Parole programs remains consistent with the Executive Order 13767, Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements, signed on January 25, 2017 by Donald J Trump. Section 11 of the Executive Order dictates that, “it is the policy of the executive branch to end the abuse of parole and asylum provisions currently used to prevent the lawful removal of removable aliens.” Due to the change in policy, immigration’s parole authority will now be exercised only on a case-by-case basis.

As stated by the American Immigration Council, parole, under U.S. Immigration law, is granted by the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to temporarily allow noncitizens to enter the United States if they are applying for admission to the United States but do not have a legal reason or are inadmissible. Parole is only granted if the DHS decides that there are urgent humanitarian or significant public benefit reasons for an individual to enter the United States and that the person’s merit, in which their positive factors outweigh the negatives, grants them favorable consideration. Urgent Humanitarian Parole is given based on time sensitivity and the degree of suffering that may follow if parole is not given, such as coming to the United States to seek protection from harm or to receive critical medical treatment. Meanwhile, public benefit parole is typically given to noncitizens in order for them to take part in a criminal or civil proceeding in the United States.

Individuals granted parole are typically expected to depart the United States when their authorized period expires; they are not provided immigration status nor are they formally admitted into the United States under immigration law. Admission occurs when a noncitizen enters the United States pursuant to a visa or another entry document without being limited by parole.

The Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program (HFRP) was created in December 2014 to allow eligible U.S. Citizens and lawful permanent residents to apply for parole for family members in earthquake-ravaged Haiti; giving them the chance to be reunited with family members approximately two years before their immigrant visa (green card) becomes available. To be eligible to apply to the parole program, a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, who received an invitation from the Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC), must file a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, on behalf of a Haitian family member whose immigrant visa was expected to be available approximately within 18-42 months from the date of the invitation, and have it approved on or before December 18, 2014.

The process to apply to the HFRP Program on behalf of a Haitian family member required the petitioners to file a parole application, Form I-131 Application for Travel Document, along with the $360 required fee or fee waiver request Form I-912, and a Form I-134, Affidavit of Support. Petitioners were given 6 months from the date of their invitation from the NVC to submit their applications.

Given the fact that the USCIS grants parole on a case by case basis, for parole to be given to the petitioner’s family member, the beneficiary, an interview was required. Only family members that were interviewed in Haiti and qualified for an immigrant visa were given parole. The interview would be scheduled by the HFRP Program and notifications would be given to both the petitioner and the beneficiary.

Once in the United States, after the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer inspects the beneficiary, reviews their documents, and, assuming everything is in order, paroles the beneficiary into the United States. The beneficiary would then receive an electronic form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record, to document their parole in the United States. Since the program allowed for the lawful permanence of the beneficiary in the United States, they could apply for work authorization by filing the Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, to sustain themselves.

As previously mentioned, parole does not grant any legal immigration status, consequently HFRP beneficiaries were expected to apply for lawful permanent resident status once they had their immigrant visas. The end of this program would mean that individuals will no longer be allowed to wait in the United States for their family-based green card to become available.

According to USCIS, current parolees will keep their current period of parole until it expires, unless it is terminated beforehand, and parolees who have not adjusted status or been admitted may request parole under the non-categorical process by filing out Form I-131, Application for Travel Document. Moreover, USCIS states that all pending cases will be processed to completion.

As the USCIS begins the process to terminate the Haitian Family Reunification Parole program and the Filipino World War II Veterans Parole program it will continue to review all remaining categorical parole programs. No program will be terminated until required administrative changes are completed in the Form I-131 and it is approved for the public. The Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) will notify affected individuals, provide an explanation as to why the USCIS is taking action, and provide public comment periods regarding the termination of these programs.

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