Posted on July 19, 2023

U.S. Has Welcomed More Than 500,000 Migrants as Part of Historic Expansion of Legal Immigration Under Biden

Camilo Montoya-Galvez, CBS News, July 18, 2023

The Biden administration has welcomed over half a million migrants under programs designed to reduce illegal border entries or offer a safe haven to refugees, using a 1950s law to launch the largest expansion of legal immigration in modern U.S. history, unpublished government data obtained by CBS News show.

In less than two years, the administration has allowed at least 541,000 migrants to enter the U.S. through the immigration parole authority, which gives federal officials the power to authorize the entry of foreigners who lack visas, according to internal government statistics, court records and public reports.

The unprecedented use of the parole authority has allowed officials to divert migration away from the southern border by offering would-be migrants a legal and safe alternative to journeying to the U.S. with the help of smugglers and entering the country unlawfully. It has also given the administration a faster way to resettle refugees as it attempts to rebuild a resettlement system gutted by drastic Trump-era cuts.

Officials have invoked the parole authority to welcome roughly 168,400 Latin American and Caribbean migrants with U.S. sponsors; 141,200 Ukrainian refugees sponsored by Americans; 133,000 asylum-seekers who waited for an appointment in Mexico; 77,000 Afghan evacuees; and 22,000 Ukrainians processed at the U.S. southern border, the data show.

Taken together, the immigration parole programs created by the Biden administration amount to the most significant expansion of legal immigration in three decades. And to the dismay of Republican critics, the administration has done so unilaterally, without explicit consent from Congress, which has not expanded legal immigration levels since 1990 amid decades of partisan gridlock.


To come live and work in the U.S. legally, immigrants generally must have a visa or approved refugee status. But a law dating back to 1952 allows officials to use the parole authority to admit those who don’t have visas if doing so furthers an “urgent humanitarian” cause or “significant public benefit.” While it does not make migrants eligible for permanent status or citizenship, parole gives them the ability to live and work in the U.S. legally {snip}

Doris Meissner, a top U.S. immigration official during the Reagan and Clinton administrations, said there’s precedent for using parole to resettle refugees. During the Cold War, Republican and Democratic administrations paroled hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing communism in Cuba, Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia. But Meissner said the Biden administration’s use of parole is historic.

“At this scale, in this time period, it is unprecedented,” said Meissner {snip}


The Biden administration’s first large-scale use of parole occurred in the summer of 2021, when it invoked the law to resettle tens of thousands of Afghans after a massive airlift from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

Then, in early 2022, the administration used the parole authority to process thousands of Ukrainians who had flown to the U.S.-Mexico border in the early days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. To discourage future Ukrainian arrivals along the southern border, officials created a program, known as Uniting for Ukraine, to allow Ukrainians to fly directly to the U.S. to receive parole if they have American sponsors.

In October 2022, the administration created another sponsorship-based parole program, based on the Ukrainian model, for Venezuelan migrants, who were crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in record numbers. That program was expanded in January to include migrants from Cuba, Haiti and Nicaragua and deter illegal border crossings by citizens of those crisis-stricken countries.

That same month, the U.S. started allowing migrants in Mexico to use a mobile app, known as CBP One, to request an opportunity to enter the country at a legal port of entry. Those allowed into the U.S. under the process are generally paroled for one or two years and given a hearing in immigration court, where they can request asylum, government officials and lawyers confirmed.

The Biden administration has also used parole on a smaller scale to welcome deported U.S. military veterans, migrant families separated under the Trump administration, at-risk Central American minors with family members in the U.S. and Cubans and Haitians with American relatives.

The number of migrants paroled into the U.S. is expected to increase even further. The program powered by the CBP One app currently allows up to 529,250 migrants to be processed each year, while the sponsorship program for Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans has an annual ceiling of 360,000 arrivals. The Uniting for Ukraine policy has no numerical cap.

Moreover, the Biden administration is also operationalizing another program that will allow migrants from Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to enter the U.S. under the parole authority if the government has approved visa petitions filed by their U.S. citizen or resident relatives.


In an ongoing lawsuit challenging the policy for Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans with U.S. sponsors, Republican-led states called the initiative an “illegal program” that imposes a financial burden on American communities due to social and medical services costs.