The Pernicious Perversion of Parole

A 70-year battle between Congress and the president

By George Fishman on February 16, 2022
  • The Department of Homeland Security may temporarily “parole” aliens into the U.S. only on a case-by-case basis for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit.
  • In 1952, Congress granted the Executive Branch this power, which “should be surrounded with strict limitations ... in emergency cases, such as the case of an alien who requires immediate medical attention ... and a witness or for purposes of prosecution.”
  • Beginning in 1956, both Democrat and Republican presidents have used the parole power “to circumvent Congressionally-established immigration policy”, bringing in hundreds of thousands of aliens over the years. Each succeeding administration (other than the Trump administration) has used the parole power to achieve an illegitimate power grab.
  • Congress has unsuccessfully tried to rein in the abuse of parole, even setting up our current refugee admission program in 1980 to prevent the executive branch from setting refugee policy through abuse of the parole power.
  • The Trump administration tried on a number of occasions to rein in parole abuse, shutting down the Obama administration’s international entrepreneur and Central American Minors (CAM) programs. While a federal court blocked Trump’s termination of the entrepreneur program, another permitted the termination of CAM. The Biden administration has pulled DHS’s proposed regulation terminating the entrepreneur program and has restarted — and greatly expanded — CAM. CAM now allows certain groups of mostly illegal aliens from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, including those who have merely applied for asylum or U visa status, to procure parole for their unmarried minor children living back home.
  • Late last year, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals found that “DHS cannot ... parole aliens en masse; that [is] the whole point of the ‘case-by-case’ requirement” and that “DHS’s pretended power to parole aliens while ignoring the limitations Congress imposed on the parole power [is] ... misenforcement, suspension of the INA, or both.”
  • Texas and other states have recently sued the Biden administration, asking a federal court in Texas to declare the CAM parole program unlawful. Texas’s challenge could shake the very foundations of the executive branch’s edifice of abuse of the parole power.
  • Congress should pass Lamar Smith’s original parole reform provision from 1996, only permitting parole 1) for a medical emergency; 2) for organ donation to a family member; 3) to visit a family member whose death is imminent; 4) for an alien who has assisted U.S. law enforcement and whose presence is needed by the government or whose life is threatened; or 5) for criminal prosecution.

Read the full report here.