By:  Attorney Richard T. Herman

Introduction

On June 18, 2024, President Joe Biden announced a landmark initiative aimed at preserving family unity among mixed-status families in the United States. This initiative aims to protect undocumented immigrants, particularly those who are part of mixed-status families. This initiative includes provisions for undocumented spouses and children of U.S. citizens through a process known as Parole in Place (PIP). This comprehensive article will delve into the specifics of this announcement, its implications, challenges, and the broader context within U.S. immigration policy.

Background and Context

Since assuming office, President Biden has prioritized addressing the broken U.S. immigration system. Despite ongoing partisan deadlock in Congress, the Biden administration has taken significant steps to secure the border and provide more lawful pathways for immigrants. This includes barring migrants crossing unlawfully from seeking asylum, deploying extensive resources to the Southern border, and dismantling human smuggling networks.

The latest initiative, building on previous efforts such as the DACA policy, Affordable Care Act coverage for DACA recipients, and family reunification programs, aims to further integrate long-term undocumented residents into the social and economic fabric of the nation by expanding lawful pathways. This policy is designed to protect undocumented spouses of American citizens from deportation, provide work permits, and offer a path to U.S. citizenship for eligible undocumented immigrants.

Details of the Biden Administration’s Announcement

Key Provisions

  1. Parole in Place (PIP) for Family Unity
  • The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will implement a new process to allow noncitizen spouses and children of U.S. citizens to apply for lawful permanent residence without leaving the country.
  • Eligibility criteria include having resided in the U.S. for at least 10 years as of June 17, 2024, being legally married to a U.S. citizen, and satisfying all applicable legal requirements. This initiative specifically targets undocumented spouses of U.S. citizens, providing them with a pathway to legal status.
  • Those approved will receive a three-year period to apply for permanent residency and will be eligible for work authorization during this period, allowing them to obtain work permits and seek legal permanent status while living and working in the U.S.
  1. Impact and Scope
  • The initiative is expected to benefit approximately 500,000 noncitizen spouses and 50,000 noncitizen children.
  • On average, eligible individuals have resided in the U.S. for 23 years.
  1. Employment Visas for College Graduates
  • Facilitating work visas for DACA recipients and other Dreamers who have graduated from U.S. institutions and have job offers related to their degrees.
  • This action aims to utilize the skills and education of these individuals for the benefit of the U.S. economy.

Application Process and Fees

To participate in this program, eligible noncitizens will need to file a specific form with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to apply for legal status, along with supporting documentation. The exact application fee has yet to be determined, and additional details will be provided in an upcoming Federal Register notice.

On June 18, 2024, the White House introduced President Joe Biden’s comprehensive immigration initiative, the “Keep Families Together” plan. This policy aims to address significant gaps in the U.S. immigration system by providing new protections for undocumented spouses and children of U.S. citizens through Parole in Place (PIP) and offering work visa opportunities for DACA holders with college degrees. This article delves into the plan’s details, broader implications, and nuances that aren’t typically covered in mainstream media.

Key Components of the “Keep Families Together” Plan

Parole in Place for Undocumented Family Members

One of the most humane and impactful aspects of the “Keep Families Together” plan is the provision of Parole in Place (PIP) for undocumented spouses and children of U.S. citizens. This policy shift is designed to reduce the fear of deportation and ensure family unity.

  1. Understanding Parole in Place: PIP allows certain undocumented family members of U.S. citizens to remain in the United States without fear of deportation. It grants temporary lawful status, enabling them to work legally and apply for permanent residency without leaving the country. This provision, previously available mainly to military families, is now expanded to include all U.S. citizen families under Biden’s plan.
  2. Eligibility and Application Process: To qualify for PIP, applicants must be the spouse or child of a U.S. citizen, pass a background check, and demonstrate good moral character. The application process involves submitting documentation proving family relationships, identity, and other relevant details. This aims to be inclusive and straightforward, ensuring families can navigate it with ease.
  3. Impact on Families: PIP provides immediate relief from the fear of deportation, allowing families to stay together and build their lives without constant anxiety. It also opens pathways to work and legal residency, giving undocumented family members the chance to contribute fully to society and plan for a stable future.

Work Visa Opportunities for DACA Holders

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has long been a lifeline for individuals brought to the U.S. as children. Biden’s new plan enhances this by offering specialized work visas for DACA holders with college degrees.

  1. Specialized Work Visas: The plan introduces new work visas specifically for DACA recipients who have obtained a college degree. These visas are designed to leverage the skills and education of DACA holders, allowing them to work in their fields of expertise and contribute significantly to the U.S. economy.
  2. Path to Citizenship: Beyond work authorization, the plan includes a pathway to citizenship for DACA holders who meet specific criteria, such as continuous residence in the U.S., a clean criminal record, and active community involvement. This pathway provides long-term stability and a sense of belonging for DACA recipients who have known the U.S. as their only home.

Nuances and Unspoken Realities

While the primary elements of the “Keep Families Together” plan are clear, several nuances and unspoken realities deserve closer examination.

Political and Social Implications

Implementing such an ambitious plan comes with political challenges. Immigration remains a deeply polarizing issue in the United States, and Biden’s plan is likely to face significant opposition from those advocating for stricter immigration controls. Balancing the humanitarian aspects of the plan with concerns about border security and illegal immigration will be a delicate task.

Moreover, the success of the plan will depend heavily on collaboration with various stakeholders, including state and local governments, non-governmental organizations, and international partners. Building these partnerships and ensuring alignment with the plan’s goals will be crucial for its effective implementation.

Cultural Shift in Immigration Policy

Biden’s plan represents a fundamental shift in the philosophy underpinning the U.S. immigration system. Moving away from punitive measures towards a more humane and supportive approach could set a new standard for global immigration policies. However, this shift will require significant changes in the culture and operations of immigration agencies, which may face resistance from within.

The focus on digitalization and automation, while promising, also presents challenges. Ensuring that these technologies are implemented effectively and do not inadvertently create new barriers for immigrants will be vital. Additionally, there will need to be safeguards to protect the privacy and security of immigrants’ data.

Legal and Political Challenges for Undocumented Immigrants

Court challenges to Biden's Keep Families Together are likely

Potential Court Challenges

President Biden’s use of executive authority to implement Parole in Place is expected to face legal challenges. Critics may argue that this action exceeds presidential authority and constitutes de facto amnesty. Legal scholars and opponents will likely scrutinize whether the President has the power to unilaterally grant such protections without Congressional approval.

Several key legal arguments are likely to be raised in lawsuits challenging the plan:

  1. Separation of Powers: Opponents may argue that the plan oversteps the executive branch’s authority, infringing on powers reserved for Congress. This argument will hinge on the interpretation of the executive branch’s discretion in enforcing immigration laws.
  2. Equal Protection: Legal challenges may also focus on whether the plan provides equal protection under the law. This includes potential claims that the plan unfairly benefits certain groups (e.g., DACA holders with college degrees) over others.
  3. Due Process: Ensuring that the plan’s implementation does not violate the due process rights of individuals affected by it will be a critical point of contention. This includes ensuring fair and transparent procedures for those seeking relief under the plan.
  4. Federal vs. State Authority: The plan’s reliance on state and local cooperation could lead to disputes over the division of authority between federal and state governments. States that oppose the plan may challenge the federal government’s ability to mandate participation in its initiatives.

Historical Precedents

The authority to grant Parole in Place is not novel. Previous administrations, including those of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, have used similar executive actions to grant PIP to family members of military personnel. This historical precedent may play a crucial role in defending the legality of Biden’s initiative.

Broader Implications and Benefits

Family Stability and Economic Contributions for Mixed Status Families

By allowing noncitizen spouses and children to remain in the U.S., the initiative aims to alleviate the fears and uncertainties faced by mixed-status families. These families often live in constant fear of separation, which can lead to significant emotional and financial hardships. By promoting family unity, the initiative is expected to enhance the well-being of affected families and enable them to contribute more effectively to their communities and the economy.

Workforce Integration through Work Permits

Easing the visa process for high-skilled immigrants, including DACA recipients, will help address labor shortages in various sectors and ensure that the U.S. economy benefits from the talents and skills of individuals educated in American institutions.

Unintended Consequences and Criticisms

Potential for Fraud and Abuse

The initiative includes stringent measures to prevent fraud, including thorough background checks and vetting processes. However, the potential for fraudulent applications remains a concern, and USCIS will need robust enforcement mechanisms to maintain the integrity of the program.

Political Opposition

The announcement has already sparked significant political debate. While many advocates praise the move for its humanitarian and economic benefits, opponents argue that it undermines immigration enforcement and could encourage further illegal immigration. The administration will need to navigate these political challenges while implementing and defending the initiative.

Conclusion

President Biden’s announcement on June 18, 2024, represents a significant step toward reforming the U.S. immigration system by prioritizing family unity and integrating long-term undocumented residents into American society. While the initiative is poised to bring substantial benefits to many families, it also faces considerable legal and political hurdles. As the administration moves forward with these actions, ongoing dialogue and collaboration with Congress and stakeholders will be essential to ensure the program’s success and sustainability.

Contact the Herman Legal Group at 18008084013 for more information.

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