June 3, 2023

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US to admit 100,000 Latinos for “family reunification”

Applicable only to certain nationalities More details are expected in June.

As President Joe Biden’s administration prepares to end asylum restrictions related to the Covid-19 pandemic, it is offering new legal opportunities for people, especially families, to come to the United States.

The government has said at least 100,000 Latin Americans want to join their families in the United States, but has released almost no details.

The plan was announced as restrictions tied to the public health law known as Title 42 expire Thursday.

Here’s a new legal path for Latin Americans to reunify with family members in the United States:

During a recent visit to the Texas border town of Brownsville, US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas said people should apply for permits at regional processing centers along with their families in the US.

The government plans to open a hundred such centers in the Western Hemisphere, the first of which will be in Guatemala and Colombia.

The centers will handle applications for humanitarian family reunification paroles, as well as applications for the U.S. refugee program and humanitarian paroles for those deemed particularly vulnerable, Mayorkas said.

A new family reunification program is accepting applications to bring U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents and immediate family members who immigrated from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Colombia.

Eligible individuals will receive an invitation to participate, the US government said.

The government will issue travel authorization to approved individuals and individuals are eligible to apply for permission to work in the United States while they await their immigrant visas.

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The government said it would release more information in mid-June.

It is not clear if there will be age limits. Generally, immigrants and refugees in the United States are only allowed to apply for entry permits for immediate family members such as spouses or children.

To be considered a child, the person must be unmarried and under 21 years of age. All other relatives such as siblings, cousins ​​and adult children are not eligible for family reunification.

Immigration lawyers say some immigrants wait years to be reunited with their spouses and children.

It is not clear why the government said it would receive up to 100,000 people from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador under the humanitarian permit process for family reunification.

According to U.S. State Department data, at least 284,000 Latin Americans have filed family sponsorship applications, said Julia Gelat of the Center for Migration Policy. That includes 78,000 Salvadorans, up to 57,000 Hondurans, 58,000 Guatemalans and 56,000 Colombians.

But it’s unclear whether those waiting have already found other options, he said.

Sarah Gavigan, an immigration attorney who works at the Central American Resource Center, or Caresen, in San Francisco also wondered if the 100,000 represented the true number of backlogged family reunification applications from those countries.

Gavigan praised the creation of a new family reunification program, but also criticized other Biden administration rules that punish people who flee danger and reach the border to seek asylum.

  • Is it similar to other programs?

Immigration advocates believe the new parole program for family reunification is the latest attempt at a model that began in 2022 when the U.S. took in 100,000 Ukrainians after Russia invaded their country.

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The program required Ukrainians to apply online, have someone sponsor them, and enter through an airport, while Ukrainians arriving on foot at the U.S. border were turned away.

Following the program’s success, the administration in January extended humanitarian paroles to other people who have fled their home countries and arrived at the U.S. border in record numbers.

In January, the government announced that up to 30,000 people would be admitted each month from four countries: Nicaragua, Venezuela, Cuba and Haiti.

Mayorkas said that after implementing these legal options, the number of encounters between border officials and migrants of those four nationalities dropped by 95%.

Most parole programs allow people to enter for a limited period of time, but advocates say those who come to the U.S. for family reunification can apply for permanent residency.

  • Will they help more families?

Yes. The Department of Homeland Security announced that it will resume and expand family reunification permit programs for Haitians and Cubans, on a case-by-case basis, so that vets with these types of pre-approved applications can enter the United States.

The government indicated that the program is for immediate family members of Haitian and Cuban immigrants in the United States. The government will invite people to participate.

It is unclear whether the government plans to remove the consular interview requirement. Alan Orr Jr., who has worked extensively with Haitians applying for humanitarian parole, said this is important because most Haitians cannot be interviewed at a U.S. embassy because of widespread instability and violence in the Caribbean nation.

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Orr called the new measures an important step in the right direction. But he said comprehensive immigration reform by Congress is ultimately necessary to fix the problem.

“It’s wonderful, but it’s basically using a bucket to empty the ocean,” he said. “It’s not something drastic that’s going to change the number of people coming to the border. It gives the government another lever, but it’s not going to change the immigration system in general.”

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