Humanitarian parole program for certain nationalities heads to court this week

Published: Monday, August 21, 2023 - 12:37pm
Updated: Monday, August 21, 2023 - 1:56pm

A Biden administration program that allows people from Nicaragua, Haiti, Venezuela and Cuba to apply to come to the U.S. with the help of a sponsor is going to trial this week. That’s after a coalition of Republican states sued to stop it earlier this year.

The program uses humanitarian parole, an immigration status that allows people who aren't U.S. citizens to live and work in the U.S. on a temporary basis. The trial begins Wednesday in Victoria, Texas. 

Monika Langarica, staff attorney with the Center for Immigration Law and Policy at the UCLA School of Law, is one of the attorneys representing a group of U.S.-based sponsors who joined the case to defend the program.

"These seven individuals in many ways are representative of the wide range of benefits that these programs confer on people," she said.

Langarica said that includes a California woman hoping to reunite with her husband from Nicaragua, and a teacher in Florida applying to sponsor her Haitian brother and nephew.  

Question of case-by-case basis

Humanitarian parole is an executive branch authority that’s been used in dozens of immigration programs over the last 70 years — including recently, for Ukrainians and Afghans.

But the GOP states suing to stop the program in question now argue it constitutes executive overreach because the parole status is supposed to be given on a case-by-case basis. The Biden administration argues that while the program opens up the opportunity to apply for humanitarian parole, the status itself is still given on a case-by-case basis.

Langarica said the program helps local communities in the U.S., by allowing families to be reunited, and local economies, by dealing with labor shortages. She says removing it would would cause more confusion and backlogs along the U.S.-Mexico border.

"Any attempts to restrict or change, you know, for the first time in decades, this longstanding parole authority that the federal government has, would have tremendous effects ... on the lives of people who depend on this authority to seek safety and security," she said. "But it would also would have a huge impact on the federal government's border management and ability to safely process people at the border at different moments."

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