Parole: GOP’s current key issue in border discussions

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By Carina

Senate discussions on a border policy tied to Ukraine aid have hit an impasse over the White House’s immigration parole authority. 

This development comes from GOP senators active in the negotiations. Parole, a central aspect of the Biden administration’s border management strategy, has become a contentious topic in the migration debate.

Debate over parole policy in U.S. immigration negotiations

Parole allows the executive to permit foreign nationals to enter the U.S., bypassing standard visa procedures. Republicans have expressed strong reservations about this practice throughout the talks. 

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Senator Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) emphasized the importance of addressing parole concerns: “Not where things need to be. We’ve still got more work to do…we’ve got to deliver a little bit more on the parole front, or we could have real challenges.” 

Similarly, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has been vocal about revising the parole process, stating at a press conference that without changes, there will be no deal.

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Efforts to address parole system misuse amidst concerns over border chaos

Despite these disagreements, there’s an ongoing effort to resolve the issue. Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) acknowledged a potential for changes to the parole system to address misuse. 

He mentioned, “There are some changes that will be made in parole that I think will get at the abuse and misuse of it.”

On the other side, administration officials, Senate Democrats, and various experts argue that reducing parole authority could lead to more chaos at the border. 

A Department of Homeland Security (DHS) spokesperson said, “Working within the constraints of outdated immigration laws…this Administration has implemented a balanced approach that combines the largest expansion of lawful pathways in years with significantly strengthened consequences for those who cross unlawfully.” 

Biden administration’s use of parole for legal migration and its wider applications

The Biden administration has employed parole as a tool to direct migrants towards legal entry methods, including a Customs and Border Protection phone app.

While Republicans criticize parole’s role in border enforcement, its application extends to other critical areas. 

Senator Debbie Stabenow (Mich.) highlighted its importance, especially in humanitarian scenarios: “Humanitarian parole is being used in really important ways…It is a tool for any president that in some way has to be maintained.” 

The program is also crucial for international travel under advanced parole for DACA recipients and certain permanent residency applicants.

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Parole’s role in economy, healthcare, and family unification emphasized

Rebecca Shi, executive director of the American Business Immigration Coalition, stresses parole’s significance for the economy and ethics: “This is a critical tool to allow people that are here and contributing and paying taxes to be able to utilize until our Congress is finally able to get a federal immigration reform done. So it is an absolute critical, moral, and economic tool.”

Parole also plays a vital role in healthcare, allowing foreign nationals to access U.S. medical facilities for emergency or specialized care. 

Moreover, it is a significant tool for family unification, particularly for undocumented immigrants married to U.S. citizens.

Analysis of deportations and parole in U.S. immigration policy

Despite the controversy, an analysis by the Cato Institute found that increased detention during the Trump administration did not lead to more deportations. 

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The Biden administration has been active in deportations, with more than half of border encounters since 2021 leading to removals, returns, or expulsions. 

An administration official reported, “We have removed or returned more noncitizens without a basis to remain in the United States each day than at any time since fiscal year 2010.”

Parole has been a part of U.S. immigration policy since the early 1900s, used by Republican and Democratic administrations. 

History of U.S. parole grants to foreign nationals since 1952

According to the Cato Institute, the U.S. government has granted parole to various foreign national groups 123 times since 1952. 

These instances include Hungarians fleeing the 1956 Red Army invasion, Southeast Asian refugees post-Vietnam War, and, more recently, arrivals from Afghanistan, Ukraine, Haiti, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Colombia. 

The DHS spokesperson emphasized, “The fact remains that, for decades, Republican and Democratic Administrations alike have used parole authority on a case-by-case basis for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit.”

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