Biden’s ‘Family Reunification Parole Processes’ Are Tailor-Made for Corruption

The ‘invitation-only’ program with opaque criteria

By Andrew R. Arthur on May 8, 2024

While I am a frequent critic of the Biden administration’s (facially abusive) “CHNV” and “CBP One app interview” parole schemes, I’ve been hands-off over a separate program permitting nationals of Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, and Honduras who are beneficiaries of petitions for alien relatives (Form I-130) to also be paroled indefinitely into the United States. Not anymore, because the website for that so-called “Family Reunification Parole Processes” reveals that the program is tailor-made for corruption — likely because and also the reason why Congress has never authorized it.

“DHS Creates Yet Another Parole Program for Aliens to Cut in Line”. Last July, my colleague Elizabeth Jacobs wrote an insightful piece captioned “DHS Creates Yet Another Parole Program for Aliens to Cut in Line”, which details the program and explains why it exceeds DHS’s limited authority to parole inadmissible aliens into the United States.

I’d be gilding the lily to reiterate all the points Jacobs makes therein, but if you want to understand the degree to which the Family Reunification Parole ignores and evades the annual limitations Congress has set on lawful immigration to the United States, she lays it out in detail.

Briefly, however, if you are a United States citizen or lawful permanent resident (“LPR”, i.e., “green card” holder) you can file an I-130 to secure a visa for your alien spouse, parent, or child.

Certain aliens are considered to be “immediate relatives” of U.S. citizens, which means that once that petition is approved, they can complete the consular process and make their way to the United States. These include alien spouses, unmarried children under the age of 21, and parents of such citizens — in the latter case of citizens aged 21 years and older.

Other aliens, however, fall into “family-based preference categories”, which include the adult children of U.S. citizens (“First Preference” or “F1”), spouses and children of LPRs (“Second Preference”, “F2A”), unmarried adult children of LPRs (“Second Preference”, “F2B”), married adult children of U.S. citizens (“Third Preference”, “F3”), and siblings of U.S. citizens aged 21 years and older (“Fourth Preference”, “F4”).

Those family-based immigrants must wait until their visas become “current” before they can immigrate, as Jacobs explains:

Annual green card issuances are subject to a numerical limits (caps) by statute, and therefore many Form I-130 beneficiaries must wait years to enter the United States as a green card holder. The annual limit for family-based categories depends on the previous year’s immigration levels and is set at a minimum of 226,000 visas; under the overall limit there are numerical caps for specific categories, such as siblings of adult U.S. citizens or unmarried adult sons and daughters of permanent residents.

The State Department’s Visa Bulletin for May, for example, shows the F1 category is “oversubscribed”, and thus an F1 beneficiary whose I-130 was filed after September 1, 2017 (or April 1, 2005 for Mexican nationals and April 22, 2015 for nationals of the Philippines), cannot yet come to this country legally.

Given that, as Jacobs explains, there are a minimum of 226,000 such visas available annually, that nearly seven-year delay will give you an idea of how many F1 aliens are patiently waiting their turns abroad.

“Family Reunification Parole Processes”. The Biden administration elbowed its way into this congressionally established process on July 7, 2023, when it announced that it would be expanding on pre-existing parole processes for Cubans and Haitians (both created administratively, also without congressional imprimatur) to create a similar program nationals of Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras who are beneficiaries of approved I-130s to participate, as well.

In that announcement, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas explained the administration was taking this step to “promote family unity and provide lawful pathways consistent with our laws and our values”.

He continued: “The Department has proven that the expansion of safe, orderly, and lawful pathways, combined with strong enforcement, is effective in reducing dangerous, irregular migration to the United States”.

In other words, Mayorkas contends that if it didn’t expand on prior, similarly unauthorized parole programs, foreign nationals who had already agreed to remain outside of the United States for years to come legally would simply give up and enter illegally. No facts — whatsoever — support that contention, whereas everything suggests that’s not the case.

Here’s proof: Section 212(a)(9)(B) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) requires aliens who have been present in the United States illegally for more than 180 days and less than one year to remain outside of the country for three years from their dates of departure from this country before they can immigrate legally. In the case of an alien who has been illegally present for a year or more, that bar is 10 years.

What alien would wait seven years for a visa only to blow it, enter illegally, and then face the prospect of waiting for an additional decade? In other cases, I’m not a big fan of those so-called “three- and 10-year bars”, but in this one, they make a lot of sense.

Jacobs, for her part, believes that the real reason for this program is:

to obscure data underlying the mass illegal immigration crisis in the United States. By paroling aliens into the United States from these countries, which in recent years have accounted for large percentages of border encounters, the Biden administration will be able to further reduce the number of aliens apprehended between ports of entry DHS reports each month, while still allowing large numbers of inadmissible aliens to enter, remain, and work in the United States without a visa.

She’s plainly correct, but I’d take her analysis one step further.

Again, beneficiaries of I-130s must have a loved one in this country who’s waiting for them. That relative likely watches the news and sees Mayorkas and his department allowing thousands of other Colombians, Salvadorans, Guatemalan, and Hondurans monthly to enter illegally and resettle indefinitely here, while their family members must wait years abroad for their turn.

That’s likely to create a certain level of indignity bordering on anger amongst the population of patiently waiting U.S. citizens and LPRs here, making them indisposed (in the case of the citizens) to want to vote for Mayorkas’ boss come election time.

Nobody wants to be a sucker, and as I recently explained, the biggest suckers in the administration’s open-borders carny game are aliens trying to immigrate “the right way”, and their relatives here.

“How Will USCIS Decide Who Is Invited to Participate?” Keep that fact in mind as I discuss what I view as the clear potential for corruption in this program.

USCIS has a website answering “Frequently Asked Questions About the Family Reunification Parole Processes”, and the first question and its answer read as follows:

Q1. How will USCIS decide who is invited to participate in the family reunification parole processes?

We will base our decision on multiple discretionary factors, including the number of requests we can process efficiently and how long a beneficiary may need to wait before an immigrant visa becomes available to them. Invitations will be sent to petitioners on a rolling basis. [Emphasis added.]

Wait — this is an “invitation-only” affair? There must be some objective criteria guiding this, right? Well, not really, which brings me to question 2:

Q2. Who is eligible for consideration for parole under the family reunification parole processes?

To be eligible for the family reunification parole process:

  • You must be a principal beneficiary of an approved Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative;
  • You must be a national of Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, or Honduras or the immediate family member of a national of one of these countries; and
  • Your Form I-130 petitioner must have received an invitation to participate in these processes.

Note that the last highlighted part is in the original, and it’s the last time the word “invitation” is mentioned, except for the following line: “Invitations will identify the principal beneficiary and their immediate family members (derivative beneficiaries).”

So, this is a purely administratively created program, with no basis whatsoever in statute, in which the beneficiary must be invited to participate, and there’s no explanation of how one obtains such an invitation? Yup.

And for what it’s worth, the Federal Register notices for this program aren’t any more enlightening. Here, for example, is what the “Implementation of a Family Reunification Parole Process for Colombians” notice in the Federal Register has to say:

The decision whether to send the invitation is based on multiple discretionary factors. Such factors may include operational capacity considerations, the expected period of time until the beneficiary's immigrant visa becomes available, as well as other measures calibrated to best achieve the policy aims of this process as described in this Notice.

Get that? This process is guided by “multiple discretionary factors”, including “operational capacity considerations” and other things “calibrated to best achieve the policy aims of this process”. That’s not an explanation — it’s some combination of bureaucratic gobbledygook and random mobster threat.

That said, among the “policy aims” listed therein are boosting remittances sent back home by aliens paroled under this scheme who “will be immediately eligible to apply for employment authorization”.

As the notice helpfully explains: “Noncitizens with authorization to work also typically enjoy higher wages than those without employment authorization, providing them with the resources to send additional money to their home country as remittances.”

So, does that mean that aliens abroad who are potential high-wage earners, like doctors and engineers, are more likely to get this Golden Ticket? No idea, but it sure seems that way.

And that’s just the beginning. Respectfully, any ad-hoc immigration-benefit program that requires an invitation “guided” by opaque criteria is itself an invitation — to corruption.

Let’s say that you are awaiting the arrival of your adult child from Colombia. Will a contribution to the Biden-Harris reelection campaign boost the likelihood that your kid will get an invitation? I hope not, and certainly am not suggesting such a thing, but let’s face it — would it hurt?

Or let’s assume you’re the person making the call as to who gets picked for an invite and who doesn’t. Even if you’re above reproach, one could imagine that you could be lured by the prospect of easy money to put somebody on the invitation list.

There are any number of instances in which government employees have accepted “illegal gratuities” in exchange for helping visa and naturalization applicants out in the past, and those all occurred in cases involving statutorily authorized programs with real, set criteria. Without clearly defined eligibility criteria for an invitation, nothing per se would stop this sort of corruption from occurring.

This is the “Wild West” of immigration schemes — premised upon nonsensical rationales and unmoored from statute, in which the winners and losers are picked based upon ambiguous criteria in a process that the administration does not see fit to disclose. What’s the worst that could happen? Plenty, starting with corruption.