Trump Administration Aims to End Parole In Place (PIP) Program and Deportation Protection for United States Armed Forces Family Members Without Legal Status
Pursuant to Immigration and Nationality Act § 245(a), an individual who was “inspected, admitted or paroled” into the United States is eligible to file for adjustment of status to obtain legal status (the “green card”) if they are an immediate relative (spouse, parent or unmarried child) of a United States citizen. “Adjustment of status” means that the individual can receive their green card without having to depart the United States. An individual who entered the United States unlawfully cannot apply for lawful permanent resident status from within the United States through this adjustment of status process. In these particular instances, the undocumented individual must return to their home country for “consular processing,” waiting outside the U.S. while the overseas consulate processes their application for a visa so that they can return to the United States and enter lawfully. Only then can they receive their green cards. However, in these instances, an individual who has illegally overstayed in the United States for an extended period of time will trigger a three- to ten-year bar upon departure from the United States as a penalty for the initial unlawful entry to the United States. This policy has been heavily criticized because it makes it extraordinarily difficult to adjust status in the United States after an unlawful presence and thus separates families for long periods of time. For members of the United States Armed Forces with family members, having no legal status and facing the possibility of being separated from loved ones for extended periods of time, these situations can create stress and anxiety that adversely affects their ability to serve in the United States Armed Forces.
On November 20, 2014, the Obama Administration through executive action, expanded the “Parole in Place” (PIP) program for members of the United States Armed Forces and their spouse, children (under age 21) and parents to alleviate these hardships. The current legal authority for the Department of Homeland Security’s parole power is a provision within the Immigration and Nationality Act § 212(d)(5)(A) which permits the Attorney General, at his or her discretion, to “parole” any noncitizen into the United States “temporarily under such conditions as [she or] he may prescribe only on a case-by-case basis for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit.” Without the status of Parole in Place, many would have to depart the country and consular process, thus triggering the unlawful presence ground of inadmissibility. PIP beneficiaries are “paroled” for the purposes of applying for lawful permanent status inside the United States pursuant to §245(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. More importantly, this extended PIP allows certain undocumented family members of the United States military personnel who are either on active duty or veterans the right to reside and work legally in the United States, as well as provide protection from deportation. The program was designed to alleviate the hardship for military families and ensure that spouses and other close family members will not be removed from the country while their husband, wife, adult child, or parent is deployed. PIP thus far has been one of the only viable options available to undocumented family members of the armed forces and is an important way to protect military families.
On June 27, 2019, according to an NPR report, the Trump administration announced plans to terminate the PIP program, thus putting at risk for deportation many family members of the military. I and other immigration attorneys across the country, who represent military families applying for PIP see this as a catastrophic move on the part of the Trump administration. The repeal of the PIP program is part of the Trump administration attempt to block immigrants from obtaining legal status in the United States through their military service family member. Thousands of PIP applicants will potentially lose the opportunity to obtain legal status in the United States through their military family member who have dedicated their lives to serving our country. Carlos Luna, founder and president of a green card veteran chapter of the League of Latin American Citizens, told NPR that this is just the latest tactic in Trump’s “war against immigrants.” “There are less and less opportunities for these people serving the country and their veteran family to go through the ‘legal channels’ and stay here in the country, which for many is the only place they’ve ever known,” he said.
Margaret Stock, also an immigration attorney who represents recruits and veterans in deportation proceedings stated,“What I’ve learned in the last week or so from multiple military and government attorneys is that the Trump administration plans to roll back the remaining military-related immigration benefits.” I, along with other immigration practitioners, have been advising clients to file an application as soon as possible if they are eligible for PIP.
It is no surprise the Trump administration has been making drastic changes to United States immigration policies and nor are his attacks on immigrants, asylum seekers, refugees and military families. It seems no group of immigrants is safe under this administration. While we continue to see Trump’s cruel and unjust policies at the border as well as an increase in deportations and ICE raids, this administration’s desire to transform legal immigration is unprecedented. As administration officials and conservative commentators have said, “deportations alone may not halt the demographic changes taking place in the country – so the administration is aggressively reshaping the legal immigration system.” The PIP program is one of the tools this administration is using to limit immigrants from obtaining legal status in the United States.
While the administration has not officially announced an end date for the PIP program, sources suggest that it may be repealed imminently, putting thousands of undocumented military family members at risk. If the program is cancelled, immediate relatives of United States citizens or lawful permanent resident military members will not have any protection from deportation or a path toward gaining legal status in the future. Once the PIP program is terminated by the Trump administration, the focus will be on Congress to pass laws and provide protection for military members and their families.