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President Obama recently leaked plans to exercise his executive action in revising immigration policy and procedure.  One of his “ten points” involves extending the application of “parole in place” (PIP) to assist people in lawfully immigrating to the United States.

To understand PIP you need to understand that immigration law treats people who entered the U.S. legally differently than people who entered the country illegally.  Specifically, if a person enters the U.S. states with a tourist visa, remains in the U.S. after the visa expires and later marries a U.S. citizen, that person would be allowed to apply for their green card while remaining in the U.S. and without having to risk indefinite separation from their families or pay fines.

On the other hand, a person who entered the U.S. illegally and later marries a U.S. citizen is not able to apply for a green card in the U.S., but instead must leave the U.S. and wait outside the country anywhere from seven days to ten years to return to the country depending on how immigration decides to process the case.

Setting aside the fact that it is silly to treat someone who is unlawfully in the U.S. because their visa expired differently from someone who is unlawfully in the U.S. because they entered the country without documentation to begin with, Obama’s potential extension of PIP to people who entered the U.S. unlawfully and are either married to U.S. citizens or have U.S. citizen children older than 21 is HUGE. 

Now, what is PIP?  PIP is where immigration, in its congressionally authorized discretion, grants permission to treat a case as if an intending immigrant originally entered the U.S. with inspection, or with a visa.  In essence, immigration waves its magic wand and says: “It is now as if you entered with a visa and you can now apply for your green card in the U.S. without risking prolonged separation from your family.”  PIP is not however, something new.  Immigration has used its discretion to grant PIP to family members of people serving in the U.S. military for many years.  This is important to note because it underlines the fact that President Obama is not making new law, he is simply authorizing immigration to use the discretion congress gave it to a broader range of people.

Currently it is estimated that there are about 3,000,000 people who are in the U.S. unlawfully, having entered the U.S. without documentation, are married to a U.S. citizen or have a U.S. citizen child older than 21, who simply are not immigrating under the current system because they would likely be separated from their families for an indefinite period of time while the complicated, expensive, and lengthy immigration process is pending.  Extending PIP to this category of people would make it possible for 3,000,000 people to come out of the shadows and immigrate to the U.S. lawfully without fear of prolonged separation from family, thus it would be HUGE for these people, and a huge step in bringing sense to an immigration system that currently lacks common sense.  


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