Biden Administration Weighs Immigration Relief for Undocumented Spouses of U.S. Citizens

The Biden administration is expected to announce a new policy as early as this week to grant temporary legal status and a potential path to citizenship for hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants married to U.S. citizens. The proposed policy, which would use the immigration parole authority, aims to provide work permits and deportation protections for these individuals.

PAROLE IN PLACE

The policy under consideration is known as “parole in place.” This would allow undocumented immigrants who have American citizen spouses to receive temporary work permits and legal status. Crucially, it would also enable them to navigate around certain U.S. legal obstacles that currently prevent them from obtaining permanent residency if they entered the country illegally. By obtaining parole in place, these individuals could eventually qualify for green cards and, later, U.S. citizenship without needing to leave the country.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR YOU?

Without knowing all the details of the proposal, the policy will likely involve an adjustment of statusthrough the Parole in Place (PIP) program. This is not the same as directly obtaining a green card. However, once undocumented spouses go through the PIP program, they will receive an I-94 travel record. This record is crucial because it makes them eligible to adjust their status to a marriage-based green card.

The process is expected to be similar to the current military PIP program, although the evidence required might differ. These cases are typically processed quickly, and most beneficiaries can immediately file for the I-485 application to adjust their status to a green card holder after parole is granted.

IMPACT AND SCOPE

While the details of the proposal are still being finalized, sources suggest that it would primarily benefit long-term undocumented residents rather than recent arrivals. According to estimates, around 1.1 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. have American citizen spouses.

Progressive lawmakers and immigrant advocacy groups have praised the policy as a positive step that could energize Latino voters ahead of the upcoming elections. However, the plan is expected to face legal challenges. The Biden administration has previously been hit with lawsuits over its use of the parole authority, and there is precedent for judicial pushback; in 2016, a deadlocked Supreme Court prevented a similar Obama-era initiative.

Despite potential legal hurdles, the Biden administration has used the immigration parole authority extensively, including for resettling refugees from Afghanistan, Haiti, and Ukraine. The new plan would leverage the same authority to provide relief for those already living in the U.S.

HISTORICAL CONTEXT AND PRECEDENTS

The concept of parole in place is not entirely new. Since the Bush administration, a smaller-scale version of this program has existed for immediate relatives of U.S. military members. Congress affirmed this policy in 2020. The proposed expansion would be the most extensive relief for undocumented immigrants since the 1986 amnesty law that legalized 2.7 million people.

For more info, Boundless has put together a guide on immigration parole.

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