In January, Texas and other states sued the Biden administration for implementing a parole process that allowed certain Americans and legal residents to sponsor Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans or Venezuelans to enter the United States under some conditions. This month, the plaintiff states agreed to delay the decision on their own lawsuit. If their goal is to reduce illegal immigration — or even to reduce the total number of foreigners in the United States — the group of attorneys general led by Texas would be smart to drop their lawsuit altogether.
The debate over the now-expired Title 42 policy and the country’s border crisis overlooks the most remarkable immigration policy success story we’ve witnessed in decades: the parole process for Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans (CHNV).
The Department of Homeland Security launched the Venezuelan parole process in October; in January, it expanded it for nationals of the other three nations. The effectiveness of CHNV is evident. In a report I recently published with the Manhattan Institute, I estimate that the CHNV process has reduced illegal immigration by more than 380,000 people, simultaneously depriving cartels of hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, and has increased legal immigration by 102,000 individuals.
In essence, the CHNV parole process has served as a powerful tool for curbing illegal immigration by bolstering legal immigration to a smaller degree. This was achieved by compelling immigrants to stay in their home countries and comply with certain requirements before immigrating, resulting in safer, more cost-effective and more efficient immigration.
The simplicity of the CHNV process is a large part of its appeal. Instead of braving the harsh conditions of the Darien Jungle or falling prey to cartels along the U.S.-Mexico border and paying the high cost in time and money of reaching America by land, immigrants can travel cheaply and safely by air. To qualify, they must have a willing U.S. sponsor, and both migrant and sponsor must be vetted to ensure that those who make it to the U.S. are law-abiding and healthy, thereby enhancing public safety and public health.
Despite this evident success, 20 Republican states sued the Biden administration for executive overreach. They argue that parole authority can be used “only on a case by case basis” and that this program doesn’t meet that standard. The Department of Homeland Security argues that not all applications are accepted and many parole programs have existed for decades for specified populations that the secretary deems to meet the legal standard. Indeed, if the CHNV program is found to be illegal, it would establish a precedent banning most parole programs of the past, including the policies that allowed almost every Cuban immigrant in Florida to come to the United States since the 1960s.
Whether legal or not, the CHNV parole process is achieving the goal the Republican states claim they want: reducing illegal immigration. In many ways, the CHNV parole process is the dream of an immigration restrictionist, reducing both illegal and total net migration and ensuring that those who do come are vetted and unlikely to fall into government dependency because they have a sponsor waiting for them.
Some may worry about what will happen to parolees when their two-year parole expires. The answer is that they may apply for asylum or other immigration channels — more options than if they had arrived through the Southern border. And unlike those who sneak in through the border, parolees are easier to find because both they and their sponsors are registered with the U.S. government, making deportation easier if it’s merited.
America must build on the success of the CHNV parole process. To do so, we need to have a program that’s dynamic and responsive to immigration trends. While the initial focus was on Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela, the program should be modified over time to keep its focus on nations originating the largest numbers of illegal immigrants.
To achieve this, the Department of Homeland Security should track changes in border crossings by country of origin, adding a country to the parole list when border crossings from that country increase consistently and exceed a certain threshold. As an inverse example, border crossings from Haitians are low and the program has admitted more Haitians on parole than it has deterred illegal crossings, so the Biden administration should drop Haitians from the eligible nationalities. However, Colombians and Ecuadorians seem to be showing up at the border at increasing rates.
The Biden administration is showing signs of understanding this. They recently announced that they would begin implementing a parole program for family members of Americans in Colombia and Central America. But to be eligible for this program, migrants must have an approved family petition from a parent or sibling who is a U.S. citizen, and most illegal immigrants who show up at the border are not in this category. While this program may be worth implementing in its own right, it won’t reduce illegal immigration like the CHNV process has. Instead, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) should just add the countries it wants to target to the existing CHNV process.
The key to addressing our immigration challenges lies in constructive solutions like the CHNV parole process. If we can build on the success of parole programs, we can turn our immigration system into one that is both stricter and more orderly but also fairer and more humane. This is what Republican states should be calling for, not suing to block.
Daniel Di Martino (@DanielDiMartino) is a graduate fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a Ph.D. student in economics at Columbia University and the founder of the Dissident Project, a speakers’ bureau for young immigrants from socialist countries.
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