NOI 33: Parole in Place for Family of Military and Bernie Sanders Immigration Plan

Today we're going to tackle two immigration headlines dealing with law and policy in the U.S.

Jacob Tingen: Hello and welcome to another episode of Nation of Immigrants. It’s that time again. If you’ve been watching the last couple of days live, I apologize. We’ve been having some technical difficulties, so this is actually take two, but right now we’re going to talk about the current headlines that are up. Bernie Sanders just dropped his immigration plan, so we’ll take a look at that, but I’m actually going to spend the bulk of my time talking about parole in place for family of the military. A very interesting topic and one that I think you will like as well. So that’s what we’re going to be doing here on Nation of Immigrants. Thanks again for coming and thanks as always for listening.

Announcer: You’re listening to Nation of Immigrants.

President Obama: America is a nation of immigrants.

Announcer: A podcast about US immigration law with your host, Jacob Tingen.

Jacob Tingen: Okay, well, as I mentioned, the first thing we’ll be talking about today is parole in place. It’s an interesting policy and it is coming up in a current headline and it’s super relevant to what’s going on in the current immigration debate. But before we get into parole in place, why it’s necessary and how it prevents what I view as just kind of really not well thought out results, let’s talk about how a person gets a green card generally, okay? So when an immigrant is going to get a green card, there are two primary processes or procedures that a person might go through. So the first one is going to be what’s known as the consular process and that’s this idea, I’m a U S citizen, maybe I’m abroad, a student at study abroad and I fall in love and get married, whirlwind marriage, and then I want to petition my spouse to come over to the United States and live with me here, right?

Jacob Tingen: So that’s just one random scenario, right? So the process that might take place in that scenario is I petition for my spouse, and then when that petition is approved, the National Visa Center gets notified, we fill out some online applications, an interview is scheduled at my local consulate or at the immigrant’s local consulate. She goes to the interview, gets approved, and then comes into the United States, the consular process. The green card is then mailed to her at her address in the United States.

Jacob Tingen: So that’s how the consular process is supposed to work. The other process for getting a green card is something known as adjustment of status. So what it literally means is that your status is adjusted. So let’s do the reverse. Instead of me going on study abroad, an immigrant comes from overseas, gets a student visa and is studying at college here in the US. Whirlwind romance again, gets married, and then the US citizen spouse petitions for the immigrant. Their petition is approved and then also at the same time that person can apply for adjustment of status because their status is being adjusted from student visa to immigrant visa, to the green card, to the lawful permanent residence. And so that’s called an adjustment of status.

Jacob Tingen: Now, the law, because of inadmissibility and different policies and we want to incentivize coming legally and those kinds of things, has a lot of requirements for who specifically can adjust status and when you’re not eligible to adjust status. So let’s talk about that and then we’ll talk about where parole in place fits into all of this. So in order to be eligible to adjust status, an immigrant needs a number of things. First, they need to have a lawful entry to the United States. So INA 245(a) says that they have to have been admitted, inspected, or paroled. They have to be currently maintaining lawful status and they have to have a basis for their lawful permanent resident application, their LPR application. So lawful entry, not be out of status, and have that petitioner basis, whether it be an employer or a family member or that kind of thing.

Jacob Tingen: Now, there are some exceptions to those rules and one of the exceptions is, okay, you’ve come in lawfully, but you came in on a visitor’s visa and you’ve overstayed. You’ve now been present unlawfully for many, many years. If you happen to be the immediate relative of a US citizen, then it doesn’t matter that you overstayed your visa, you’re good. Now, immediate relative has a very narrow definition in the INA and it means the spouse, minor child, or parent of a US citizen. If you can get a green card through any other family relationship, but you’re not considered an immediate relative, then you can’t adjust status. You would have to go through the consular process and this is where we get to some results that really don’t make sense.

Jacob Tingen: So let’s say I’m the spouse of a lawful permanent resident. I entered lawfully, I came in on a visa, but I overstayed. Well, I’ve got to leave the country and go through the consular process. And you might at first glance be saying, “So what? Big deal. Leave the country, get it right.” The problem comes then, once I leave the country and get interviewed at the consulate, they’re going to look at the lists of reasons we keep people out of the country, the 10 grounds of inadmissibility, and they’re going to say, “Well, you were present in the United States for more than six months, more than a year. You’re subject to a three or ten year bar. You can’t get a green card.” Boom. Not let in, denied.

Jacob Tingen: And so that’s the problem. This leads to some results that are just kind of frankly dumb, right? Are we not in favor of keeping families together? Do we have to inspect you at the border? Can’t you go to a service center, have your fingerprints taken, let us take a picture and just inspect you here? Don’t you have to submit essentially the same paperwork to make sure you don’t have a disease that’s going to kill everybody here in the United States, to make sure that you’re not a drug abuser? It’s not like we don’t have procedures for checking out all of this stuff once you’re here, so why can’t we do it when you’re here?

Jacob Tingen: Well, it turns out we can. There is a device called parole in place that essentially allows the government to grant an immigrant parole or permission to be here once you’re inside the United States, but it’s used sparingly and it’s been reserved for use primarily for family members of military. But as you know, the Trump administration, who claims they’re in love with legal immigration, but not really, has been looking at lots of different ways that they can close what they view as loopholes and it turns out that attorneys for the Trump administration and Ken Cuccinelli, who’s been leading USCIS since the summer, they’ve been taking a really close look at ending parole in place for family members of people who are serving in our nation’s military. This is not a great idea.

Jacob Tingen: I want to read this quote because I thought it was interesting. There’s a group of democratic senators led by US army veteran Tammy Duckworth, senator out of Illinois, and she says this, which I thought was interesting. “Can you imagine being one of those Delta force operators going into kill the leader of ISIS and finding out just before you go on this operation that, by the way, the country that you defend is now going to deport your wife and leave your kids at home by themselves.” Duckworth told CBS News on Wednesday, “Not only is this inhumane and un-American, it’s just stupid.”

Jacob Tingen: I couldn’t agree more, it’s kind of dumb. But it’s dumb not just for the military, the whole process of requiring people to leave the country and go through the consular process and then denying them after they’ve left and creating kind of this complex rigmarole is inefficient, it doesn’t work well, it’s complicated. I’m sure it wastes time, money, and resources. I know it wastes time, money, and resources. Why can’t we just let people adjust status in the United States and grant parole on a more liberal basis generally? But in particular, this news article entitled Senators Move to Protect Program for Immigrant Military Families that Trump May End at CBS News, these senators are introducing a bill called the Military Family Parole In Place Act to ensure that parole in place sticks around for families of military. And I hope that it does, at a minimum for members of the military, that parole in place becomes a normal thing and that it remains preserved in particular for members of our military and their families.

Jacob Tingen: So parole in place, what it does is, if I didn’t enter the United States lawfully and I get married to a US citizen who’s a member of the military, I don’t have to leave and go through the consular process even though I am not currently eligible to adjust status. If I can get parole in place, well, then I become admitted, inspected, or paroled, which is one of the requirements to adjust status. So now that I’m paroled, then I can adjust status even if I entered unlawfully to the US. That’s what parole in place does. It allows someone who would otherwise be ineligible to adjust status to become eligible to adjust status by paroling them. That’s important for family of the military, but frankly it’s just important for family of anybody who has a family basis for getting a green card. Either we are supporting family unity and US citizens and lawful permanent residents or we’re not. This law doesn’t make sense and it creates lots of inefficiencies, lots of inequities, and it should be allowed to just kind of die out with whatever new immigration reform eventually comes out.

Jacob Tingen: So talking about immigration reforms, now seems like a good time to look at the Bernie Sanders immigration plan. The headlines are interesting. “Bernie just dropped his immigration plan, abolish ICE and make DACA recipients legal.” Not surprising. And then another headline says, “Bernie Sanders’ immigration plan puts the rights of workers into focus.” For people who are really into immigration, some have mentioned that Bernie and his concern for protecting American workers hasn’t been the immigrant advocates’ favored candidate of choice, although widely acknowledging that virtually any candidate would be better than what we have now on the immigration issue.

Jacob Tingen: So what’s interesting here is that this plan does try to … His plan, from what I can tell, does try to protect workers and empower even immigrant workers to make sure that they can report unsafe conditions. I do know, I mean, it’s a fact that people exploit immigrant workers to this country and they shouldn’t. And it’s not the immigrant workers that depress wages, it’s the employers that employ them and seek to cut corners and not comply with the law. So let’s put that blame where it belongs. Most immigrants are, again, as we’ve talked about on this program before, trying to survive and that’s what’s important for them and it’s not unreasonable for them to want to get a fair shake.

Jacob Tingen: So I do appreciate that Bernie also would like to do those things. Depending on the headline that you read though, different articles focus more on the more sensational aspects of the plan, abolishing ICE and making DACA recipients legal. It’s interesting when I talk to even people who are I guess staunch conservatives, everybody knows what needs to be done when it comes to DACA, when it comes to even the parents of DACA recipients. There’s no way we’re going to round up and deport millions upon millions of people. It’s never going to happen. So the thing that needs to happen is we need to come up with a path to at least allow these people to get social security numbers and enter the workforce in a better way. So Bernie’s plan is essentially to give DACA to everybody and then provide a path to citizenship, which, big surprise there.

Jacob Tingen: What I don’t like about Bernie’s plan is that it doesn’t really talk about legislation. One of the big problems that I currently take with immigration is that the executive branch exerts too much power and control over this issue. So immigrants can’t plan on our immigration system, but also US citizens can’t plan on our immigration system. We can’t depend on our immigration system. Businesses can’t depend on our immigration system because every four to eight years it could change completely. That’s what’s happened over the last three years. Immigration attorneys are scratching their heads saying, “Well, I don’t know how to advise this client because who knows what the law will be next week or what the policy will be next week or the posture of the administration.” So many things can change so quickly in this field of law that you have to stay on top of things.

Jacob Tingen: So again, my problem with Bernie Sanders’ immigration plan is that it has a strong focus on using the power of executive actions, ideally to force legislation. Trump is using executive action all the time and it’s not forcing legislation, so that’s not what I would consider a plan. Now, again, with the purpose of what he plans to do, I’m in agreement with a lot of it, but I think it’s time to take power over immigration away from the executive and then just set up a system of laws and let the laws do their work. And of course I would advocate for a much more liberal view of immigration. People say open borders. Whatever, I wouldn’t go that far. But actually I do plan to comment in an episode real soon about an article by an economist I read talking about open borders actually being a trillion dollar idea and not that radical. But we can get into that on another episode.

Jacob Tingen: My point here is any plan by a presidential candidate for immigration that focuses or relies extensively on the power of executive action to get things done is not the plan we need. So I’m not necessarily criticizing outright Bernie Sanders’ plan. Maybe he would do an excellent job on immigration and there’s a lot that he includes in his plan that isn’t executive action, but we can’t count on that because what happens with the president after you, Bernie? And so everything that you’ve done, DACA, sure, it can get tied up in courts, but it can also be erased. We’ll see what the Supreme Court does with DACA. So executive action isn’t a great longterm solution and so we really need to have a public debate in this country about what immigration reforms we want and what kind of country we are and want to be.

Jacob Tingen: So that’s it for Nation of Immigrants today. Parole in place and plans to preserve that for families of military. Hopefully plans to expand it sometime soon so that we don’t have to go through the inefficient process of taking people already in the country and sending them out, but that’s a whole other issue. And then Bernie Sanders’ immigration plan. Well wishes to you on your campaign. I hope that things go well and that people vote for good leaders. So that’s it for Nation of Immigrants today. Don’t forget to support the podcast. Find me at, subscribe here on YouTube, follow us on Facebook and Twitter. We’re trying to get out there and be everywhere so that you can find us easily and get this information. Also be on the lookout for a new podcast and video series we’re looking at creating that should cover legal issues kind of across the spectrum of what consumers need. And so we’ll be back with more from Nation of Immigrants. Thank you again for listening. Thanks for coming.

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President Obama: America is a nation of immigrants.

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