In another abuse of presidential authority, Joe Biden has snapped his fingers and created an immigration program out of thin air that grants 24,000 Venezuelans entry into the United States. Amid the turmoil and lawlessness that this administration has caused at the southern border, too little attention is being paid to the White House’s abuse of the obscure legal authority known as “humanitarian parole.”
Under the law, the president’s authority to admit foreigners into the country is strictly controlled by the visa process and is set in consultation with Congress, along with the number of refugees the country will accept. Like the spending of federal funds, it is a process regulated by the rule of law.
But there is a dangerous policy loophole Biden is abusing. Buried in the basic U.S. immigration statute known as the Immigration and Nationality Act is Section 212(d)(5)(A), which authorizes the president to admit individual foreigners who would not otherwise qualify for a visa on a case-by-case basis for “urgent humanitarian reasons,” such as their receiving medical treatment, or for “significant public benefit” (to the U.S.) such as participation in a judicial hearing.
This humanitarian parole exceptional authority (“parole” is the lawyer’s term to describe legal, short-term admission into the U.S.) was designed for a very limited number of irregular cases. It was never designed to allow the White House to launch massive immigration programs, admitting tens of thousands for what is almost certainly permanent settlement in the U.S., but this is what it has regrettably become.
If the president can simply say “voila” and bypass the legal system with a new special program for Venezuelans, why does Congress even bother with setting quotas and refugee numbers?
And why did Biden arbitrarily set the number at 24,000? Neither the White House nor the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has offered any rationale for this number. It’s likely that either Biden or DHS Secretary Mayorkas pulled the number out of thin air. Similarly, back in April, Biden looked into his crystal ball while inventing the “United for Ukrainians” humanitarian parole program and decided the U.S. would grant humanitarian parole to 100,000 Ukrainians. Again, there was no justification for that figure.
But then — to no one’s surprise — it turns out there really is no limit for Ukrainians. We have now learned that the announced 100,000 figure was “never a cap.” Since April, when “United for Ukrainians” was launched, well over 100,000 Ukrainians have already been admitted into the U.S., and the entries continue. Whoever qualifies can come after fulfilling a flimsy process that consists of completing a modicum of sponsorship paperwork. Ultimately, all these Ukrainians will be entitled to benefits reserved for American citizens under this program. Very few are likely to return to their country after the war.
That’s why nobody inside or outside the government seriously believes that the 24,000 figure is fixed for Venezuelans. The president announced in March 2021 that he would grant temporary legal protected status to more than 320,000 Venezuelans already in the U.S. Since then, hundreds of thousands have continued moving north to cross our southern border. The total numbers of Venezuelan fleeing Nicolás Maduro’s dictatorship are massive, as some 25 percent of the 28 million population has already departed that broken-down communist country. Currently, some 15,000 Venezuelans cross our southern frontier each month.
There is, of course, much White House smoke and mirrors around the new policy, which comes with a supposed deal with Mexico whereby Venezuelans who cannot qualify for parolee status will be returned or excluded at the southern border. The Maduro government does not accept deportees from the U.S. back to Venezuela, so, in theory, those excluded at the U.S. border stay in Mexico.
However, nobody is convinced by the idea that Secretaries Blinken and Mayorkas have an authentic deal with President Lopez Obrador to permanently keep in Northern Mexico all of the Venezuelan migrants who cannot be admitted under the 24,000 quota. No Venezuelan hoping to enter the U.S. believes that the Biden White House seriously intends to keep them out.
They will just have to bide their time until this administration comes up with more flimflam to admit them. Presumably, that will be after the Nov. 8 election, when Mayorkas will announce the 24,000 figure “was never a cap.” After all, if you simply invent the number in the first place, you can always invent a new number.
The legal abuse of humanitarian parole did not start with the Biden administration, but this White House has made it the go-to legal tool in allowing immigration admissions to balloon. The historical record shows that humanitarian parole has become institutionalized in our maze of immigration procedures, giving permanent annual quotas to special groups — as happened with Cubans, Haitians, and Central Americans — to migrate to the U.S. outside the official quotas set by Congress. Now Ukrainians and Venezuelans can be added to the list, and as the geopolitical situation worsens, Biden will likely add more.
Whether by design or incompetence, this administration is indeed remaking America’s population as Biden-Mayorkas-Blinken have irresponsibly sent out the word that U.S. borders are always open. The quota of 24,000 Venezuelans is just the latest artful deception from Team Biden for U.S. public consumption to give the phony impression that they are doing something about the border.
No American wishes ill to people fleeing dictators or war, but there are limits to how many migrants this country can accept, a point that even Bill Clinton is now making. Our immigration system is dysfunctional, in part because it is being run in an arbitrary, opaque manner by an administration that disregards our country’s legitimate interests.
It is time for a new Congress to make clear the intended limits of the Immigration and Nationality Act’s Section 212(d)(5)(A) and end the lawless abuse of “humanitarian parole.”