Marianas Variety

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    Saturday, May 25, 2019-8:53:53A.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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USCIS: Congress should address immigration status of parolees

AS part of its mission to properly administer the nation’s immigration system, U.S. Citizenship Immigration Services has discontinued the humanitarian parole program for the CNMI, USCIS spokesman Michael Bars said  on Sunday.

The U.S. Congress should now address the immigration status of the parolees, he added.

The program’s termination affects more than 1,500 parolees in the Commonwealth. These include spouses and parents of U.S. citizens, immediate relatives of citizens of the Freely Associated State, certain stateless individuals and persons with permanent resident status, and in-home caregivers.

But the affected individuals “will be given a transitional parole period to seek any other immigration status or relief for which they may be eligible,” Bars told Variety.

“USCIS will continue to consider individual applications for parole fairly and efficiently on a case-by-case basis in accordance with all applicable laws, policies and regulations.”

President Donald Trump’s Executive Order 13767, which was issued on Jan. 25, 2017,  instructed DHS to “take appropriate action to ensure that parole authority…is exercised only on a case-by-case basis in accordance with the plain language of the statute, and in all circumstances only when an individual demonstrates urgent humanitarian reasons or a significant public benefit derived from such parole.”

 In accordance with the executive order, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, including USCIS, reviewed the use of parole,  based on that review, USCIS has decided to end the CNMI categorical parole programs, USCIS said.

In a statement on Sunday, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres said:

“This announcement by USCIS regarding the termination of humanitarian parole for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens is unfortunate and underscores the need for a legislative fix by Congress.

“In October, I wrote to Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen emphasizing the importance of these programs not just for our economy, but also for community as a whole. These are our friends, neighbors and family. We understood that there would be difficulties dealing with saving this program, but we did our very best to advocate for people who have called these islands home and who have contributed tremendously to our progress. 

“Last Friday, we were in a call with USCIS about this new transitional policy, and they have given us their support in working with us and Congressman Sablan toward a legislative fix. We stand ready to support our delegate in making sure this moves forward.”

Outgoing Rep. Angel Demapan, who introduced a House resolution to support the governor’s request to extend the parole program, said in an interview said that he was saddened by the USCIS decision.

He said he is hoping that the U.S. Congress would pass legislation “for those people working under the parole program.”

He added, “For now, it’s a very difficult decision to swallow especially for the workers under the program who  have been taking care of the elderly and the disabled in our community.”

He said the transition period will “give some breathing room to the families and workers affected, and hopefully within that period, something can happen to provide more certainty to those affected so they can properly plan for what is to come after the transition period.”

In a separate statement, Saipan   Chamber of Commerce president Velma Palacios said the USCIS decision will affect families.

 “We were hoping that the humanitarian parole would be extended again,” she said. “But we are thankful that those affected will have a 180-day transition period to look for some other immigration status or make other arrangements.  At least those affected have an answer rather than continue to wonder.  This will definitely have an impact on the community.  Families will be separated. Those who require the assistance of in-home caregivers will have to make other arrangements, and employers will have to find workers to fill the positions that will be vacated….  The timing of this is not that great as we, the community, are still  recovering from Super Typhoon Yutu.”

Palacios said they are hoping that U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan “would be able to introduce legislation, as he had indicated, once the new Congress takes office, to help protect these affected and provide them with a more permanent immigration status.”

In a statement on Friday, Kilili said USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna offered “to provide technical assistance in drafting legislation that would give those now on parole some permanent status.”

Kilili said they agreed to get to work immediately. “Permanent status for immediate relatives and other groups, who were not accounted for when the Consolidated Natural Resources Act extended federal immigration to the Marianas, is a long-standing goal for Congressman Sablan,” his media release stated. Kilili “also has introduced legislation that provides a pathway to permanent status for long-term workers and investors.”

Kilili noted that the parole extension for the transition period must be applied for. “And the [USCS] director said, so far, they have only received about 500 applications. So, I encourage anyone who has parole now to move quickly to get an extension.”

Instructions for applying for parole during the 180-day transition period are available on the USCIS website: https://www.uscis.gov/news/alerts/termination-categorical-parole-programs-certain-individuals-present-commonwealth-northern-mariana-islands-cnmi