A last sticking point in border security negotiations is humanitarian parole. Here’s what that means

Jan 18, 2024, 7:32 AM | Updated: 12:00 pm

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is pushing for a deal on aine funding, and one of the last major sticking points is whether to preserve the president’s authority to allow migrants into the U.S. for special cases during emergencies or global unrest.

Republicans deride the authority, known as humanitarian parole, as a Biden administration end run around Congress that allows into the U.S. large numbers of migrants who further tax an already overextended immigration system.

But that power to allow in certain immigrants at certain times is not new or particularly novel. It has been used across political lines for decades to admit people from Hungary in the 1950s, Vietnam in the 1970s and Iraqi Kurds over the 1990s. For recipients, it can be a lifeline.

“The parole gave me this opportunity, it has made me realize my dreams, my life,” said Emilia Ferrer Triay, who came from Cuba in 1980 as a young girl. “Everything changed from the first day I arrived, I saw that I had a future … that there were no restrictions.”

Ferrer was plucked from the Atlantic Ocean between Key West, Florida, and Cuba, along with her uncles and younger brother who had been trying to reach the U.S. via fishing boat. They were part of a massive influx of more than 125,000 Cubans who traveled from Cuba’s Mariel Harbor to the United States that year.

Ferrer, now 57, said that since the beginning, she had the opportunity to go to school and learn English, then went to college. She works full time, and is married with three U.S.-born children. She became a citizen herself eight years after arriving.

“I would be very unhappy if I had to stay in Cuba,” she said. “You have no future, you can’t dream. Here I have been able to do everything.”

Republican senators have refused to approve any further aid for Ukraine or Israel without U.S. border policy changes. The negotiations have been drawn out for weeks, but both sides say they are nearing a deal and the Senate could consider the legislation as soon as next week.

“I think they’re they’re definitely closing in on parole language issue that has to be addressed,” Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said Thursday. “And in a way that limits the abuse the authority. We’ll wait and see when the text comes out and how it is, but I think there’ll be a lot of these questions hopefully to get answered.”

In recent days, negotiators have discussed potential compromises, including caps on the number of migrants eligible for parole, according to two people familiar with the discussions who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to describe the private talks.

“Let’s find a way that we can get clear definition and figure out how to be able to resolve this,” said Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford, the chief Republican negotiator.

Voters are increasingly preoccupied with immigration, and it’s expected to be a major driver in the 2024 election. The Democratic administration has been heavily criticized by Republicans who say its policies have only encouraged more migrants to illegally cross the U.S.-Mexico border.

“To the American people, what the Biden administration is doing is illegal. It is incentivizing illegal immigration,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. He said parole was the administration’s “tool of choice” that has allowed too many people into the U.S.

But the U.S. immigration system has been increasingly strained for years, with each presidential administration testing executive power limits while Congress all along has refused to act on immigration policy. The Biden administration’s approach — to crack down on illegal crossings while opening up new ways for those who come by air with sponsors — is only the latest in a long string of attempts to bring the nation’s immigration system under control.

The authority employed by the administration is known as “parole” because migrants would otherwise be placed in detention as their immigration cases were heard. Instead they are “paroled” or allowed into the U.S. But the authority isn’t related to the criminal justice idea of a person who has been paroled from prison after serving time following a conviction.

Under Biden, the U.S. has relied heavily on humanitarian parole. The U.S. airlifted nearly 80,000 Afghans from Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, and brought them to the U.S. after the Taliban takeover. The U.S. has admitted tens of thousands of Ukrainians who fled after the Russian invasion.

In January 2023, the administration announced a plan to admit 30,000 people a month from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela, provided those migrants had a financial sponsor and flew to the U.S. instead of going to the U.S.-Mexico border for entry. The U.S. has created a mobile app for people to apply online where they are, instead of traveling to the U.S.

Texas sued the administration to stop the allowances, arguing in part that the plan was drawing too many people to the border. Republican senators are also targeting the program.

Democrats in the Senate and immigrant advocates say parole is a valuable tool that provides urgent relief for people fleeing unrest and helps manage the border. Before the plan, migrants from those nations were the vast majority of people entering the U.S. illegally. Afterward, arrests for those nationalities dropped dramatically.

“That is a great model for the future that we have also seen reduce congestion at the border,” said Andrea Flores, who worked as a policy adviser in the Obama and Biden administrations and is now a vice president at FWD.us, an immigration advocacy organization.

Over the years, parole has been used to offer quick safe haven. Administration officials are reluctant to cut off the ability to use the authority not just now, but into the future.

“It is very important to understand that it is used today as a way that the administration is able to better manage the flow, in a planful way, of individuals to the border,” said Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, the lead Democrat in Senate negotiations.

Political journalist Marcelo Conde fled Nicaragua last year after he received death threats because he was not in favor of President Daniel Ortega. Conde feared that if he left Nicaragua legally, he would be detained and imprisoned when authorities saw his name on his passport.

“The parole became an opportunity, but also a dichotomy because it was not approved quickly,” Conde, 34, said in a recent telephone interview from his home in Las Vegas. “I waited for more than 100 days,” he said.

After he finally arrived in the U.S., he received an authorization to work. In Nevada, he is waiting tables. Conde speaks Spanish, French and English and hopes soon to work as a journalist in the U.S.


Salomon reported from Miami.

United States News

Associated Press

Body parts of 2 people found in Long Island park and police are trying to identify them

BABYLON, N.Y. (AP) — Police on New York’s Long Island were trying to identify human remains found in a popular suburban park that appear to be from a man and a woman. A girl walking to school Thursday morning found a severed arm on the side of the road at Southards Pond Park, about 25 […]

16 minutes ago

Associated Press

Train derailment leaves cars on riverbank or in water; no injuries, hazardous materials reported

BETHLEHEM, Pa. (AP) — Authorities say a train derailment in eastern Pennsylvania has left some railroad cars along a riverbank Saturday morning and at least one partially in the river itself. Dispatchers in Northampton County said the derailment was reported at 7:14 a.m. in Lower Saucon Township. Authorities said it was unclear how many cars […]

27 minutes ago

Associated Press

An arrest has been made and charges filed in Pennsylvania slaying of pregnant Amish woman

SPARTANSBURG, Pa. (AP) — A Pennsylvania man was arrested Saturday and charged with the slaying of a pregnant Amish woman whose body was found last week. Shawn C. Cranston, 52, of Corry, has been charged with criminal homicide, criminal homicide of an unborn child, burglary and criminal trespass, Pennsylvania State Police said. He was denied […]

2 hours ago

FILE - Alexander Smirnov, second from right, leaves the courthouse on Feb. 20, 2024, in Las Vegas. ...

Associated Press

How clean is the dirt on Hunter Biden? A key Republican source is charged with lying to the FBI

WASHINGTON (AP) — Alexander Smirnov was cast by Republicans as one of the FBI’s most trusted informants, offering a “highly credible” account of brazen public corruption by Joe Biden that formed a pillar of the House impeachment investigation of the Democratic president. Then, last month, the script changed dramatically. charged with lying to the FBI, […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Powerful storm in California and Nevada shuts interstate and dumps snow on mountains

RENO, Nev. (AP) — A powerful blizzard raged overnight into Saturday in the Sierra Nevada as the biggest storm of the season shut down a long stretch of Interstate-80 in California and gusty winds and heavy rain hit lower elevations, leaving tens of thousands of customers without power. Up to 10 feet (3 meters) of […]

8 hours ago

Musher Dutch Johnson, a kennel manager at The August Foundation for Alaska Racing Dogs, runs a dog ...

Associated Press

Alaska’s Iditarod dogs get neon visibility harnesses after 5 were fatally hit while training

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The Iditarod, the annual sled dog race celebrating Alaska’s official state sport, is set to get underway Saturday with a new focus on safety after five dogs died and eight were injured in collisions with snowmobiles while training on shared, multi-use trails. For the first time, mushers who line up for […]

10 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.


Fiesta Bowl Foundation

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade is excitingly upon us

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe is upon us! The attraction honors Arizona and the history of the game.


Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Valley residents should be mindful of plumbing ahead of holidays

With Halloween in the rear-view and more holidays coming up, Day & Night recommends that Valley residents prepare accordingly.

A last sticking point in border security negotiations is humanitarian parole. Here’s what that means