Posted on May 27, 2023

1.5 Million Apply for U.S. Migrant Sponsorship Program With 30,000 Monthly Cap

Camilo Montoya-Galvez, CBS News, May 22, 2023

In just a few months, the U.S. received more than 1.5 million requests from individuals hoping to sponsor the entry of migrants from four countries, an extraordinary number that could jeopardize the Biden administration’s objective of reducing border crossings, internal documents obtained by CBS News show.

The flurry of hundreds of thousands of sponsorship applications on behalf of would-be migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela has overwhelmed caseworkers at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which can approve no more than 30,000 arrivals under the program each month.

American citizens, residents and others in the U.S. with a legal immigration status are eligible to sponsor migrants from these four countries, as long as they agree to financially support them. Migrants who arrive under the program are granted two-year work permits under the humanitarian parole authority.

Due to the massive and rapidly mounting backlog of unresolved applications, USCIS recently altered the way it processes these cases, selecting half of the requests it reviews each month through a lottery system. The other half will continue to be adjudicated on a first come, first serve basis.

The internal Department of Homeland Security documents obtained by CBS News indicated that as of the end of last month, the agency was receiving an average of nearly 12,000 applications per day from those seeking to sponsor Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans, calling the number “overwhelming.” The documents noted that less than three days’ worth of applications were processed per month due to the 30,000 monthly cap.

More than 100,000 migrants have arrived in the U.S. under the sponsorship initiative. But the government was overseeing more than 580,000 pending cases for Haitians, more than 380,000 for Cubans, nearly 120,000 for Venezuelans and more than 20,000 for Nicaraguans at the end of April. Other cases were being reviewed or had been approved.


The sponsor program has been paired with a policy of returning Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans who cross the southern border illegally to Mexico, which agreed to take back these nationalities {snip}


Top White House officials have boasted about the strategy’s success. But the soaring number of applications for the sponsorship program, far above its 30,000 monthly cap, threatens to derail the policy’s main objective: encouraging would-be migrants to refrain from crossing the southern border illegally by offering them a meaningful chance to enter the U.S. legally.

The internal DHS documents say the hundreds of thousands of pending cases have caused “significant” wait times for applicants. If the monthly cap is not raised, the documents acknowledged, the program’s effectiveness could diminish.


“This Administration has led the largest expansion of legal pathways in decades, and the parole processes for individuals from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela is just one of those many pathways now available to individuals seeking to enter the United States lawfully,” DHS said Monday in a statement to CBS News.


The sponsorship policy is also being challenged in federal court by a coalition of Republican-led states that argue the Biden administration does not have the legal authority to use parole to admit up to 360,000 migrants each year outside of the regular visa system.

Blas Nuñez Neto, the top DHS official for border and immigration policy, said last week that Mexico was “unlikely” to continue accepting returns of Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans if the sponsorship program was blocked in court.