What Is ‘CHNV Parole’ — and Why Should You Care?

The ‘obscure’ White House program vulnerable to exploitation which adds a New Orleans-plus population to the country — all by executive fiat

By Andrew R. Arthur on April 1, 2024

Many immigration concepts familiar to experts but otherwise rarely discussed generally have leapt into the popular consciousness in the last few months: apprehensions, “parole”,and “asylum”, just to name a few. Not many Americans, however, are familiar with “CHNV Parole”. It’s likely the most important administration program you’ve never heard of because not only is it is “obscure”, it’s also vulnerable to exploitation by criminals, traffickers, and grifters, and adds a New Orleans-level of population to the country each year — all through executive fiat.

The Surge in Illegal Migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Venezuela, and Nicaragua. In FY 2020, Border Patrol agents at the Southwest border apprehended just 1,227 illegal entrants from Venezuela, 9,822 from Cuba, 4,359 from Haiti, and 2,123 from Nicaragua — 17,531 in total. By FY 2021, Border Patrol apprehensions from those four countries increased more than 10-fold, to 181,000-plus, before skyrocketing to more than 600,000 in FY 2022.

There are a number of reasons why the number of illegal migrants from those four countries rose so rapidly, and more specifically, why the threat of expulsion under Title 42 — which was in effect from March 2020 to May 2023 — didn’t dissuade those migrants from entering the United States illegally.

First, the Biden administration has almost categorically refused to detain illegal border migrants who weren’t expelled under Title 42, even though the INA requires DHS to do so. Thus, the only consequence illegal border-crossers faced under the current administration while Title 42 was in effect was expulsion under those CDC orders.

Second, a key defect in Title 42 was that the Mexican government bears no obligation to accept back any nationals other than its own, and increasingly under Biden it refused to accept returning Venezuelans, Cubans, Nicaraguans, and Haitians. Just 12 percent of apprehended nationals of those four countries were expelled under Title 42 in FY 2021, a figure that dropped to 3.6 percent in FY 2022.

That put the administration in a quandary, as the U.S. government has poor diplomatic relations with Havana, Caracas, and Managua, and therefore lacks leverage to force those governments to provide the travel documents DHS needs to send nationals of Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua (respectively) back home.

Those migrants knew that once they were here, there was little our government could do to expel them, and that Biden’s DHS wouldn’t detain them, which is why they came.

As for Haiti, the political situation there has long been tenuous and only got worse after Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in July 2021.

And after it received domestic political blowback for expelling Haitian nationals who surged into the small border town of Del Rio, Texas, back to that country in September 2021, the administration largely abandoned any major returns to the Caribbean nation.

Again, the Biden administration could have — and should have — detained illegal migrants from those four countries pending adjudication of their asylum claims, which would have driven illegal entries down to their pre-Biden levels. Even with border security on the line, though, the administration largely declined to do so.

Carrots and Sticks to All Carrot, No Stick. In lieu of detention, the administration created the CHNV parole processes, an acronym for its beneficiaries, nationals of Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. CHNV is an executive policy unmoored from any congressional sanction complete with carrots (incentives) and — at least initially — sticks (deterrents).

CHNV started with a much more limited parole program for Venezuelan nationals that the administration implemented beginning in October 2020. As a DHS press release for that program explained, Mexico had then agreed to accept Venezuelan migrants who entered the United States illegally, so if would-be illegal entrants from that country wanted to come to the United States, they had to apply for that parole.

That Venezuelan parole program was capped at 24,000 parolees total, and it did have some short-term impacts: Southwest border apprehensions of migrants from that country dropped from nearly 25,000 in December 2022 to just over 3,000 in January 2023.

Apparently sensing that it had found a winning strategy, in January 2023 the White House announced it would expand Venezuelan parole into CHNV. Unlike the 24,000 total cap on paroles under the earlier program, however, CHNV program would offer parole to up to 30,000 nationals of those four countries per month (360,000 per annum). Those paroles were the carrots.

CHNV made sense — to the degree it made any sense at all — only so long as Title 42 was in effect. Once Title 42 ended, CHNV parole would be all carrot and no stick.

The stick, as the White House explained, was that Mexico had also agreed to accept 30,000 nationals of those four countries monthly who entered illegally and were expelled under Title 42. Given the choice between a two-year period of parole on the one hand and expulsion on the other, the administration reasoned, CHNV nationals would choose the former.

The flaw in that logic, however, was that the CHNV parole program made sense — to the degree it made any sense at all — only so long as Title 42 was in effect. Once Title 42 ended on May 11, 2023, CHNV parole would be all carrot and no stick.

386,000 CHNV Parolees. CHNV Parole has been up and running for nearly 14 months now, and through the end of February, some 79,000 Cubans, 151,000 Haitians, 64,000 Nicaraguans, and 91,000 Venezuelans have entered the United States through those processes and been paroled into the country — roughly 386,000 foreign nationals in total.

That’s 31,000 new arrivals more than the current population of New Orleans, and none had a visa to enter this country, nor a legal right to be here. Needless to say, those paroles were over and above the annual immigration limits Congress has set.

The main reason Congress created annual admission caps was to ensure newly admitted aliens do not adversely impact the wages and working conditions of American workers — both citizens and previous lawfully admitted aliens. Despite that fact, most of those 386,000 CHNV parolees either have work authorization or are in the process of obtaining it.

In an attempt to show it was trying to mitigate the adverse impacts those new arrivals would have on the U.S. economy and public safety, the administration claimed that every CHNV applicant would, among other things, be required to “have a supporter in the United States” and “undergo and clear robust security vetting”.

“This Just Stinks All Over”. I have previously explained in length how that supporter requirement for CHNV parole was vulnerable to exploitation generally and human trafficking in particular, but briefly it’s crucial to understand that to be a supporter of a CHNV applicant, an individual does not have to have any preexisting relationship to the alien.

If sweatshops or massage parlors are seeking cheap and docile workers, all they need to do is identify willing CHNV applicants, file the paperwork, and wait for the soon-to-be trafficking victims to arrive.

In fact, a supporter doesn’t have to be an individual at all — “organizations, businesses, [and] other entities” all qualify, and if sweatshops or massage parlors are seeking cheap and docile workers, all they need to do is identify willing applicants who are nationals of those four countries, file the paperwork, and wait for the soon-to-be trafficking victims to arrive.

As for fraud, Stephen Dinan reported in the Washington Times on March 18 that scammers are charging CHNV applicants $5,000 or more to serve as sponsors in the United States, under a scheme in which those would-be sponsors demand part of the payment to file the necessary paperwork up front and then receive the rest once CHNV is approved.

Those are such significant issues that USCIS warns would-be applicants on its CHNV website: “Beware of any scams or potential exploitation by anyone who asks for money associated with participation in this process.”

Not that this is likely to convince would-be applicants not to play along with the scam. As former USCIS Director Emilio Gonzalez told Dinan: “If there’s a way to monetize this, people will figure it out. ... This just stinks all over.” Congress would never have authorized any program as vulnerable to fraud and exploitation as CHNV, but then, as noted, the administration never sought Congress’ permission.

“Robust Security Vetting”. As problematic as exploitation, trafficking, and fraud are in the CHNV program, the national-security and public-safety implications of the program are likely worse.

Even if DHS had the resources to screen 30,000 foreign nationals living abroad per month for potential threat risks (it doesn’t), would-be CHNV parolees present their own special security challenges.

Even if DHS had the resources to screen 30,000 foreign nationals living abroad per month for potential threat risks (it doesn’t), this particular population of would-be CHNV parolees presents its own special challenges.

Not only does the U.S. government have only limited diplomatic relations with Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, the governments of those three countries are openly hostile to our national interests. They have every incentive to move criminals and other bad actors out of their countries and into ours.

Consequently, you can be assured that they are reticent, at best, to disclose any derogatory or otherwise unsavory information about CHNV applicants that DHS is seeking to obtain. Substitute “North Korea” or “Iran” for Cuba, Haiti, and Venezuela and the law-enforcement issues become apparent.

As for the Haitians, there is no government in Port-au-Prince, and thus no one for DHS to turn from which to seek criminal or other records. For nationals of that country, “vetting” is only as good as what the U.S. government already knows, and generally that isn’t much.

A Possible Poster Boy for CHNV. Both the sponsorship requirement and the promise of “robust security vetting” lead me to the case of Cory Alvarez, who was identified as a Haitian national and CHNV parolee.

Alvarez has been charged in state court in Massachusetts with aggravated rape involving a 15-year-old disabled girl at a state-financed shelter (a Comfort Inn in the town of Rockland). Charges aren’t convictions, and the accused is entitled to the presumption of innocence.

That said, if Alvarez is convicted of this heinous offense, he’d become the poster boy for CHNV parole.

Most criminals are “upward offenders”, which is to say that they start with low-level offenses and then commit more serious ones. In my three decades of law enforcement, I’ve never known any criminal who started out with a crime like the one with which Alvarez has been charged, and if he’s guilty, he likely had some prior record in Haiti or elsewhere.

Further, Alvarez reportedly was sponsored by someone in New Jersey, but not only wasn’t the accused living in the Garden State, he was living on the government dole, not the sponsor’s largesse. Again, if the allegations are true, this case shows that the sponsorship requirement for CHNV is less than worthless.

Three “Recalcitrant Countries” and One Special Case. Even if he’s convicted, good luck to this or any future administration in removing either Alvarez or any of the 386,000 other aliens paroled under CHNV.

As noted, one reason why so many Venezuelans, Cubans, and Nicaraguans have entered illegally in the last three years is that the U.S. government as a practical matter can’t send them back home even if they are ordered deported.

That’s because those three are “recalcitrant countries”, that is they refuse to provide DHS with the travel documents required to send their nationals back.

And, as for Haiti, it currently has no government to issue travel documents and given that the airports in the country are closed, there wouldn’t be any way to return deportees anyway.

The most recent unrest in Haiti aside, the Biden administration knew about these issues when it created the CHNV parole processes in January 2023, but it made no contingencies to force those aliens to leave once their paroles expired. Given that those paroles are valid for two years, removals of CHNV parolees may not even be the current administration’s problem when the time comes anyway.

“Obscure”. The Center has attempted to obtain information about those CHNV arrivals using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Those attempts have been largely, but not completely, successful; the government has provided us with figures on the new arrivals, but not the U.S. airports they arrived at. (See a related piece today trying to impute some of that arrival airport information.)

On March 4, my colleague Todd Bensman published a piece about the Center’s ongoing efforts to identify those airports, in which he noted:

CIS’s litigation has yielded a novel and newsworthy answer from the government: The public can’t know the receiving airports because those hundreds of thousands of CBP-authorized arrivals have created such “operational vulnerabilities” at airports that “bad actors” could undermine law enforcement efforts to “secure the United States border” if they knew the volume of CBP One traffic processed at each port of entry.

That response is concerning enough, but keep in mind that the Center has been discussing the CHNV program since the original Venezuelan parole was announced.

For some reason, however, that piece received particular attention, including from GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, who alluded to those CHNV arrivals at a “Super Tuesday” rally the next day:

Today it was announced that 325,000 people were flown in from parts unknown — migrants were flown in airplane, not going through borders. ... It was unbelievable. I said that must be a mistake. They flew 325,000 migrants. Flew them in over the borders and into our country.

That, and an Elon Musk tweet about those flights focused real attention on the program, including “fact checks” from both AP and CNN and a March 11 article in the Wall Street Journal headlined “What Is Humanitarian Parole? How an Obscure Biden Immigration Policy Became So Controversial”.

The latter stated, under the subhead “Is the Biden administration secretly flying migrants into the country?”:

The claims are referring to the parole program set up for Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans. Under that program, up to 30,000 people a month can enter the U.S. legally so long as they have a U.S.-based financial sponsor to take them in and pass a background check. These people enter the country with a two-year grant of humanitarian parole, meaning they can live and work legally, with many expected to apply for asylum during that time.

The Biden administration isn’t secretly flying them in. Applicants are responsible for the cost of their own airfare. The government also publishes monthly data listing how many people of each nationality entered the country and at which airports. [Emphasis added.]

Respectfully, they couldn’t “fly in” if the administration didn’t let them do so, and if it publishes “monthly data” on the airports at which those aliens are arriving, it’s news to both the Center and the government officials who refuse to give us that data.

And, as the foregoing analysis demonstrates, both the sponsorship part of that program and the background checks aren’t quite as comprehensive or secure as the Journal suggests. Besides, nothing says that sponsors must “take” those parolees “in”; they just have to file sponsorship applications.

All these points go to the obscurity of the program itself. Yes, there’s a CHNV website, and some Federal Register publications that discuss the program, but if the administration wants to allow a massive number of foreign nationals larger than the population of major American cities into the United States through executive fiat, it should be more forthcoming about what it’s doing. And you should know more about it.