126 Parole Orders over 7 Decades: A Historical Review of Immigration Parole Orders

  • July 17, 2023
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David J. Bier

President Biden has used the immigration authority known as “parole” to permit many immigrants to enter the country or remain in the country legally. But his actions have deep historical precedent. Under section 212(d)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1182(d)(5)), the Attorney General and later the Secretary of Homeland Security has had the authority to waive the normal restrictions on entry and allow certain noncitizens to enter the United States since 1952.

Table 1 provides a list of 126 programmatic or categorical parole orders, meaning orders that were nationalized policies intended to permit the entry of certain defined types of noncitizens. This list is certainly not exhaustive. Until recently, programmatic or categorical uses of parole were often not publicized in any formal, consistent, or even public way. The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) would simply create internal guidance that would only become public if stakeholders or the media publicized it.

For example, one instance in Table 1 is an INS official in 1990 listing six separate categories for parole in operation at the time that no other document refers to before or since. That is an exceptional case. In many cases, however, Congress acknowledged these uses of parole through subsequent or previous congressional actions, allowing for parolees to adjust to legal permanent residence or receive refugee benefits. In some cases, it just acknowledged that these procedures were in effect or expressed support for them.

This list helps dispel some myths. Since the creation of the parole power in the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952—which codified executive powers already in use—Congress has substantively amended the parole authority twice: in the Refugee Act of 1980 (P.L. 96–212, March 17, 1980), barring refugees from being paroled into the United States, and in the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (Public Law 104–208), which made two statutory changes. First, the standard for paroling someone changed from “emergent” or “public interest” reasons to “urgent humanitarian” or “significant public benefit” reasons. Second, each determination had to be made on a case‐​by‐​case basis.

Few at the time thought these changes were substantive, and the categorical parole regulations then in effect were reenacted verbatim. Moreover, the case‐​by‐​case basis requirement was in effect for decades, including for large‐​scale programmatic uses of parole, such as for Cubans and Vietnamese. Case‐​by‐​case determinations always meant an individual determination, even if someone’s categorization created a presumption that they met the “emergent/​humanitarian” or “public interest/​significant public benefit” requirement.

In many cases, these parole programs have received almost no attention in many years but contain precedents that the current administration should consider reimplementing. For example, parole used to be available in 1990 for children aging out of eligibility for green cards. In the 1950s, it was used for the employment‐​based first preference category (skilled immigrants) when immigrant visas were unavailable under the cap. These two issues are particularly relevant now, with the employment‐​based cap being exhausted even for Nobel laureates and their children.

Unfortunately, there is no comprehensive set of statistics for the number of people paroled since 1952. Figure 1 shows the data that the INS published from 1982 to 2003. Table 2 shows the programmatic grants under various programs from the 1950s through the year 2000.

Humanitarian and public interest parole categories (1952—present): This type of parole has evolved over time in the types of categories that fall under it. In 1964, the INS associate commissioner listed several categories of immigrants who would be granted parole: to “either attend to sickness or burial or some close family affair,” “accompany servicemen, members of the Armed Forces where the wife or some child would have been technically inadmissible,” reunite a mentally handicapped child who would otherwise be excludable with their family, or deal with medical emergencies. Since 1982, at least some of these reasons have been included in regulations. In 1980, the INS provided examples of parole, including children coming for medical treatment, people coming to donate a kidney, and a Chinese woman who was allowed to visit her 81‐​year‐​old adoptive mother, who had been expelled by the communists from China. In 1990, the INS described a “small sampling” of the kinds of humanitarian and public interest categories of parole available at the time: 1) Someone’s immediate family member just died or is dying, and consular officers lack time to process a visa or deny the visa; 2) People coming for organ, blood, or tissue donation; 3) Extradited criminals, informants, witnesses; and 4) National security assets (e.g., Soviet dissidents and foreign U.S. spies). In September 2008, ICE, USCIS, and CBP signed a memorandum of agreement on the use of parole by the agencies. This document listed, among other programs described below, parole categories for 1) registered sources of the U.S. intelligence community, 2) transiters through the United States to legal proceedings in a third country, 3) trainees, 4) individuals necessary for prosecutions or investigations, 5) confidential informants, 6) extraditions, 7) civil court participants, and 8) international organization event participants.
Parole from detention (1954—1980): On November 12, 1954, Ellis Island and several other INS detention centers were closed, and detainees were paroled into the United States. The number of detained immigrants fell from a monthly average of 225 to less than 40. Paroles were carried out under section 212(d)(5) of the INA. The INS promulgated a regulation on January 8, 1958, authorizing this practice of parole from ports of entry rather than detention. From 1954 until 1981, “most undocumented aliens detained at the border were paroled into the United States.” Even after 1982, when the use of parole was narrowed, its use continued “when detention is impossible or impractical.” The INS associate commissioner testified in 1964 that the closing of the detention facilities met the requirement of the parole statute because “it created a better image of the American Government and American public.”
Orphan parole (1956): The Refugee Relief Act of 1953 created 4,000 slots for orphans adopted by U.S. citizens, but when the slots were filled, the attorney general authorized the entry of additional orphans under his parole authority on October 30, 1956. A total of 925 orphans were paroled.
Adjustment of status: On September 11, 1957, Congress enacted Public Law 85–316, which authorized the adjustment of status to legal permanent residence of any eligible orphaned paroled into the United States.
Hungarian parole (1956): On November 13, 1956, President Eisenhower ordered that 5,000 Hungarians be paroled into the United States. On December 1, 1956, he revised the limit to 15,000 Hungarians before eliminating the limit on January 2, 1957. By June 30, 1957, 27,435 parolees had entered, and the total reached 31,915 by 1958. For context, only 109 immigrants were admitted from Hungary in 1956, and only 321,625 immigrants were admitted worldwide. The Justice Department said in 1957 that this was “the first time that the parole provision has been applied to relatively large numbers of people.” Several U.S. charitable organizations helped prepare their parole applications and to find housing and jobs for them.
Adjustment of status: On July 25, 1958, Congress enacted legislation (P.L. 85–559) that allowed Hungarians to adjust their status to legal permanent residence if they were “paroled into the United States” at any point after October 23, 1956 (including after the enactment of the act) if they had been in the United States for at least two years. Ultimately, 30,491 received legal permanent residence in this way. This set a precedent for handling adjustments of later parolees.
Pre‐​Examination Parole (1957—1959): Regulations of December 6, 1957 provided that someone who was subjected to pre‐​examination in the United States prior to requesting an immigrant visa in Canada who was found inadmissible in Canada “shall be paroled” into the United States. This regulation was revoked in 1959.
Crew Members Parole (1957—present): Regulations of December 6, 1957 provided for the parole of noncitizen crewmembers under certain circumstances and stated that shipwrecked or castaway crew members “shall be paroled.” On December 8, 1961 and March 22, 1967, expanded the grounds for parole to asylum seekers from communist countries. On July 27, 1990, this parole was expanded to crewmen facing persecution in any country. On March 6, 1997, this provision was updated and reenacted, and it was revised and reenacted again on February 19, 1999. On April 4, 2004, the parole of lightering crews that were not eligible for D‑1 visas for technical reasons was authorized. The parole of crew members was recognized in Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (Public Law 104–208, 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(13)(A)).
Cuban parole (1959—1965): Starting about January 1, 1959, following the communist revolution, the Eisenhower administration used parole to allow a “small percentage” of Cubans who had left the island and entered illegally into the United States (INS 1960). By June 1961, there were 4,000 paroled Cubans in the United States (INS 1961). By December 31, 1961, there were 12,200 in parole status. In 1962, Cuban illegal entrants ceased to be referred for deportation hearings and were instead paroled into the United States (INS 1962). By June 1962, the number of Cubans on parole rose to 62,500 (INS 1962). Commercial travel between the U.S. and Cuba was suspended in 1962, and only a few thousand more Cubans made it off the island through the Red Cross (INS 1963). Altogether, about 107,116 Cubans were paroled into the United States from 1959 to 1965.
Adjustment of status: The Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966 (P.L. 89–732, November 2, 1966) made it possible for Cuban parolees, including future parolees, to adjust their status to legal permanent residence after two years in the United States if they entered after 1959.
Guam parole (1959—1974): Starting in April 1959, the INS began to parole into the United States some Filipinos to work with the Defense Department and the Government of Guam on the island under the Parolee Defense program. At least 16 orders establishing and renewing Guam parole programs went out between 1960 and 1969, and an INS internal memo of January 27, 1960 established the initial rules for the program. Workers received INS Form I‑94 stamped, “Paroled into Guam under section 212(d)(5) I&N Act until the purpose of parole has been served not exceeding—–.” Parolees could enter for up to a year and could be extended at least twice. On November 15, 1962, the INS created the Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Parole Program to parole workers from the Philippines and the Trust Islands into Guam to help with emergency repairs to homes and defense installations following a storm (INS 1963). From FY 1963 to FY 1974, 26,501 workers received parole to enter Guam temporarily. The Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Parole Program ended in 1970, and the Parolee Defense program was eliminated in 1975 in favor of admitting workers under the H‑2 nonimmigrant work visa program.
Refugee‐​escapee parole (1960—1965): On July 14, 1960, Congress passed the Fair Share Law (Public Law 86–648), a joint resolution to “enable the United States to participate in the resettlement of certain refugees.” The law directed the INS to parole into the United States any refugee who fled from a communist or Middle Eastern country in an amount not to exceed 25 percent of the total number of such refugees accepted by other countries in the world, and it allowed any of those paroled to receive legal permanent residence after two years. During fiscal year 1961, 2,942 refugees entered as parolees (INS 1961), the largest portion of which were from Yugoslavia. In 1962, the total reached 8,260 (INS 1962). By 1966, the total had reached 19,705 (INS 1966). Public Law 86–648 included a sunset date for this use of parole of July 1, 1962, but authorization to continue to parole was extended indefinitely by section 6 of the Migration and Refugee Assistance Act Public Law 87–510 (July 1, 1962). Section 16 of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 ended this parole program, and the law introduced a new capped category of immigrant visas for refugees.
Adjustment of status: Public Law 86–648 of 1960 (the original statute establishing the refugee‐​escapee parolees) allowed parolees to adjust their status to legal permanent residence after two years in the United States. Section 16 of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 terminated this provision.
First Preference parole (1961): In January 1962, the INS reported that “recent changes in regulations” allowed for the parole of two groups of first preference skilled workers who could not receive green cards or immigrant visas as a result of the annual caps: 1) those who were abroad if they will be coming to work in defense industries; and 2) anyone in the United States. It’s not clear exactly what change in regulation made this possible, but in 1964, the INS associate commissioner testified that this was the policy for “many years.” He testified, “The basis for this policy was this incompatible situation that seemed to exist in that, with one hand, the Service was in effect making a finding that the alien’s services were urgently needed and, at the same time, in contradiction, we were seeking to expel him.” Congress revised the caps in 1965, which may have ended this practice.
Hong Kong Chinese parole (1962—1965): On May 23, 1962, Attorney General Robert Kennedy ordered the INS to parole into the United States Chinese who had fled to Hong Kong so long as they were “relatives of United States citizens and resident aliens” or “Chinese persons possessing special skills needed in the United States” (INS 1962). By the end of FY 1963, the total number reached 7,047 (INS 1963). Processing continued into 1964, during which the total reached 10,617 (INS 1964). The number reached 13,619 in 1965 (INS 1965). By 1966, the total reached 14,757 (INS 1965, Table 14B). A few stragglers were approved in 1966 but did not arrive until later, bringing the total to 15,111 (INS 1966). The program ended in June 1965.
Adjustment of status: The INA was amended in 1960 to allow parolees to adjust their status to legal permanent residence for the first time—which many were eligible to do since parolees generally had to meet the standards for an immigrant visa except for a cap spot being available—but no law provided any special category for Hong Kong parolees. Nonetheless, when Congress created a new general refugee category in December 1965, the administration used it to enable most other Hong Kong Chinese refugees to adjust their status. On October 5, 1978, P.L. 95–412 authorized adjustment of status for “any refugee, not otherwise eligible for retroactive adjustment of status, who was or is paroled into the United States by the Attorney General pursuant to section 212(d)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act before September 30, 1980.”

Russian Orthodox Old Believer parole (1963): The Russian Orthodox Old Believer church was being forced out of Turkey to the Soviet Union, where they would be persecuted. In response, the INS authorized the parole of 210 church members on May 10, 1963.
Adjustment of Status: On October 5, 1978, P.L. 95–412 authorized adjustment of status for “any refugee, not otherwise eligible for retroactive adjustment of status, who was or is paroled into the United States by the Attorney General pursuant to section 212(d)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act before September 30, 1980.”

Cuban airlift parole (1965—1973): Starting on December 1, 1965, based on a November 6, 1965 memorandum of understanding with the Cuban government, the Johnson administration operated daily “Freedom Flights” from Cuba to Miami. During its operation, 281,317 Cubans were paroled into the United States. At its peak year, 46,670 Cubans arrived via parole in 1971. This compares to 361,972 total immigrants that year. The airlifts were funded by congressional appropriations. In May 1972, the flights were suspended by the Cuban government before being terminated permanently on April 6, 1973.
Adjustment of status: The Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966 made it possible for Cuban parolees entering after 1959, including future parolees, to adjust their status to legal permanent residence after two years in the United States.
Czechoslovak parole (1970): Following the failed uprising against the Soviets in Czechoslovakia on September 4, 1968, Secretary of State David Rusk asked the president to authorize the attorney general to parole for Czechoslovaks fleeing the fallout of the failed anti‐​communist uprising. When the refugee numbers permitted under the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 ran out, every member of the House Judiciary Committee wrote in November 1969 to the administration to request that it parole Czechoslovakian refugees. On January 2, 1970, the attorney general authorized the use of parole. Nearly 5,000 were processed from February to November 1970, with 6,500 total. These parolees were given I‑94 documents that stated that the period of admission was “indefinite” and the purpose of the parole was “refugee.” This type of indefinite parole document was still available throughout the 1980s for other parole types.
Adjustment of Status: On October 5, 1978, Public Law 95–412 authorized adjustment of status for “any refugee, not otherwise eligible for retroactive adjustment of status, who was or is paroled into the United States by the Attorney General pursuant to section 212(d)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act before September 30, 1980.”

Soviet Union minority religious groups (1971): Following a letter from Rep. Peter Rodino of the House Judiciary Committee, on October 1, 1971, Attorney General John Mitchell announced that the United States would parole Soviet religious minorities who secured exit permits from the Soviet Union. The first four arrived on January 7, 1972, and in FY 1973, 200 were processed this way (INS 1973).
Adjustment of Status: On October 5, 1978, Public Law 95–412 authorized adjustment of status for “any refugee, not otherwise eligible for retroactive adjustment of status, who was or is paroled into the United States by the Attorney General pursuant to section 212(d)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act before September 30, 1980.”

Advance Parole (1971): Advance parole appears to date to 1971 when the INS implemented a regulation in 1971 deeming an adjustment of status application abandoned if a person left the country while it was still pending unless “he had previously been granted permission by the Service for such absence.” If someone had entered with a nonimmigrant visa and tried to adjust status, they would have had to prove “nonimmigrant intent” (i.e., intention to leave) upon reentry, which would be impossible with a pending adjustment of status application, and the only alternative to a visa is parole. Advance parole would not have helped prior to the effective date of the 1960 act, which authorized parolees to adjust their status (under a normal immigrant visa category) for the first time. The first advance parole regulation from 1982 stated that “parole [may be] authorized for an alien who will travel to the United States without a visa.” Since then, advance parole has often been the top reason for granting parole. In several acts since then (1986, 1990, and 1996), Congress specifically mentioned how “advance parole” can be granted to people already paroled into the United States (8 U.S.C. 1151(c)(4)(A)).
Ugandan Asian parole (1972): The Ugandan government ordered Ugandan Asians to leave the country in 1972, and Attorney General Mitchell responded by initially ordering the INS to parole 1,000 Ugandan Asians. It ended up paroling almost 1,200 into the United States in FY 1973 (INS 1973). Another roughly 1,300 came thereafter.
Adjustment of Status: On October 5, 1978, P.L. 95–412 authorized adjustment of status for “any refugee, not otherwise eligible for retroactive adjustment of status, who was or is paroled into the United States by the Attorney General pursuant to section 212(d)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act before September 30, 1980.”

Asylum parole (1972—1980): Following the United States acceding to the Protocol to the U.N. Convention on the Status of Refugees in 1968, the INS had no uniform process or status providing to asylum recipients because Congress had not created a specific status for them, but some were granted “individual parole.” The April 10, 1979 regulations specifically provided for immigration judges to “grant asylum by parole under section 212(d)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.”
Adjustment of Status: The Refugee Act of 1980 (P.L. 96–212, March 17, 1980) provided the opportunity for those granted asylum to adjust their status to receive legal permanent residence.

Cuban third country parole (1973—1978): On October 26, 1973, the INS created a parole program for Cubans outside of Cuba who had family in the United States (INS 1975). A total of 11,577 were paroled in FY 1974, 6,940 in FY 1975, 2,341 in FY 1976, 413 in FY 1977, and 580 in FY 1978.
Adjustment of status: The Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966 made it possible for Cuban parolees entering after 1959, including future parolees, to adjust their status to legal permanent residence after two years in the United States.

South American/​Chilean parole (1975—1979): On June 12, 1975, the INS permitted 400 detained Chilean dissidents (and their families) to be paroled into the United States. A total of 1,600 people were ultimately paroled from 1975 to 1977. On October 27, 1976, the INS again authorized parole of 200 households, representing 800 people in FY 1977, and included some Uruguayans and Bolivians. On June 14, 1978, the parole of 500 households was authorized, and 2,000 people were admitted, including some Brazilians and Argentinians. More would have come if the government of Argentina had allowed more of them to leave.
Adjustment of Status: On October 5, 1978, Public Law 95–412 authorized adjustment of status for “any refugee, not otherwise eligible for retroactive adjustment of status, who was or is paroled into the United States by the Attorney General pursuant to section 212(d)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act before September 30, 1980.”

Vietnamese, Cambodian, and Laotian parole (1975—1980): In late March 1975, a parole program was authorized for Vietnamese orphans, and the first 2,279 Vietnamese orphans were flown out on April 2, 1975 (INS 1975), and on April 18, 1975, the president authorized a large‐​scale evacuation to Guam using parole. In FY 1975 alone, about 135,000 received parole. Congress funded (partially retroactively) the processing under the Indochina Migration and Refugee Assistance Act (Public Law 94–23, May 23, 1975). In August 1975, the program was expanded to Cambodians and Vietnamese with special connections to the United States, and on May 6, 1977, 11,000 more were authorized from Vietnam, Cambodia, or Laos. The three countries were grouped together in expansive programs starting August 11, 1977, January 25, 1978, June 14, 1978, December 5, 1978, April 13, 1979, October 16, 1979, and December 15, 1979. From 1975 to the middle of 1980—when the Refugee Act was enacted and replaced the parole programs—more than 330,000 Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Laotians were paroled into the United States. These refugees were all assessed on a case‐​by‐​case basis.
Adjustment of status: In 1977, Congress passed Public Law 95–145 (October 1977) that authorized adjustment of status to anyone from Vietnam, Laos, or Cambodia who was paroled as a refugee before March 31, 1979—that is, about two years in the future. On October 5, 1978, Public Law 95–412 extended the date to September 30, 1980 and allowed any refugee to adjust from any country.
Soviet and Eastern European parole (1977—1980): On January 13, 1977, the attorney general created a Special Parole Program for 4,000 Soviet Jewish refugees (INS 1977). In December 1978, another program was initiated for 5,000 Soviet Jews and Romanians (INS 1978). On June 14, 1978, the INS launched another parole program for Eastern European refugees, with 3,260 processed in FY 1978 and 8,740 processed in FY 1979 (INS 1978). On April 12, 1979, 25,000 additional entries were authorized and occurred under parole in 1979. On October 16 and December 15, 1979, 3,000 additional entries were authorized per month until the enactment of the Refugee Act in March 1980.
Adjustment of Status: On October 5, 1978, Public Law 95–412 authorized adjustment of status for “any refugee, not otherwise eligible for retroactive adjustment of status, who was or is paroled into the United States by the Attorney General pursuant to section 212(d)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act before September 30, 1980.”

Lebanese parole (1978): On December 6, 1978, the attorney general announced the creation of a new parole program for 1,000 victims of civil strife in Lebanon, and by 1980, 349 had been used, and 107 were pending.
Adjustment of Status: On October 5, 1978, Public Law 95–412 authorized adjustment of status for “any refugee, not otherwise eligible for retroactive adjustment of status, who was or is paroled into the United States by the Attorney General pursuant to section 212(d)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act before September 30, 1980.”

Cuban prisoner parole (1978, 1985): On December 6, 1978, following an invitation by the Castro regime to take them, the attorney general announced the creation of a new parole program for 3,500 political prisoners who were then imprisoned or released since August 1978 plus their family. Ultimately, 12,000 Cubans were paroled in FY 1979. On December 14, 1984, Cuba and the United States signed an agreement under which the United States would take 3,000 Cuban political prisoners through parole and the refugee program. In fiscal year 1988, the State Department and INS approved 2,040 prisoners for entry to the United States, and 928 entered the United States.
Adjustment of status: The Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966 made it possible for Cuban parolees entering after 1959, including future parolees, to adjust their status to legal permanent residence after two years in the United States.

Iranian parole (1979—1982): On April 16, 1979, following the Islamic revolution in Iran, the INS granted “extended voluntary departure” to Iranians in the United States and began paroling others into the country. Precise parole figures were not kept, but “a large number” (“thousands”) were paroled. Part of this parole effort was a program under which—as the State Department put it—“not too many questions were asked” about B‑2 visa applicants from Iran, and those clearly not qualified were often paroled anyway. In 1983, Iranians were included under the Refugee Act cap for the first time, which—the administration said—replaced “the practice of the past several years of admitting them through the Attorney General’s parole authority.”
Adjustment of Status: On October 5, 1978, authorized adjustment of status for “any refugee, not otherwise eligible for retroactive adjustment of status, who was or is paroled into the United States by the Attorney General pursuant to section 212(d)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act before September 30, 1980.”

Cuban/​Haitian entrant parole (1980): In April 1980, thousands of Cubans began arriving in Florida from Mariel, Cuba, by boat. Initially, these Cubans were granted parole for 60 days and allowed to seek asylum under the procedures of the newly‐​passed Refugee Act of 1980 (P.L. 96–212, March 1980). As the crisis escalated, INS declared on June 20, 1980 that it would extend 6‑month parole documents to Cubans and Haitians who had already arrived. On October 21, 1980, these 6‑month paroles were then authorized to be extended again to those who arrived before October 10, 1980. More than 125,000 Cubans and 25,000 Haitians were paroled. Congress passed a statute that recognized the existence of the Cuban and Haitian “entrant status” parole in 1981. Congress specifically authorized benefits for both past and future Cuban and Haitian parolees in The Refugee Education Assistance Act of 1980 (P.L. 96–422, October 10, 1980). On December 28, 1987, INS finalized a special regulation on the parole of Mariel boatlift Cubans detained since the boatlift ended, which resulted in about 7,000 additional paroles (or re‐​paroles).
Adjustment of Status: The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1980 (P.L. 99–603, November 6, 1986) allowed any Cuban or Haitian who entered before 1982 and either received Cuban/​Haitian entrant status or had a “record created” with the INS.

Parole from detention (1982—present): In 1981, the INS reversed its prior practice of not detaining people unless they were deemed a flight risk or a danger to the community. A court enjoined the policy, and the INS issued an interim regulation on July 9, 1982 that detailed the grounds under which it would issue parole from detention. On October 19, 1982, it finalized the regulation. This included the following categories of people eligible for parole from detention: people needing medical care, pregnant women, young children and teenagers whose processing will take longer than 30 days and who cannot be held with an accompanying adult; people with U.S. family eligible to petition for an immigrant visa for them; witnesses going to testify; people subject to prosecution; any other person whose “continued detention is not in the public interest.” On March 6, 1997, INS reiterated its categories for those eligible for parole under the language of the new parole statute. On December 21, 2000, the INS revised its procedures for the parole of people ordered removed who could not be removed.
Khmer border parole (1986): In May 1986, the attorney general created a parole program for Cambodians who fled the Khmer government to Thailand, had approved immigrant petitions filed by U.S. citizen family in the United States, and had no visa available to them because of the caps. A total of 53 approvals were made in 1986, and only 418 were made as of March 1988. In 1991, 1,123 received parole. This program ended in FY 1992. About 3,500 total paroles were issued.
Adjustment of Status: The Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs Appropriations Act of 1989 (P.L. 101–167, November 21, 1989) allowed any Cambodian paroled into the United States between 1988 and September 30, 1990 (about ten months in the future) to adjust to legal permanent residence after one year if they had been denied refugee status.

Parole for U.S. expats (1987): On December 12, 1987, the United States announced that it would parole former‑U.S. citizens who renounced their U.S. citizenship and then were ordered deported by their new state of nationality.
Soviet/​Moscow Refugee Parole (1988—present): In August 1988, the attorney general overturned the presumption that Soviet Jews qualified as refugees. On December 8, 1988, he created a “public interest” parole program for 2,000 Soviets per month who were denied refugee status. Parolees needed to have sponsors in the United States and were not eligible for refugee benefits. A total of 7,652 were paroled in FY 1989. Congress reinstated the presumption of refugee status for Jews and Evangelical Christians from the Soviet Union in 1989 (P.L. 101–167, November 21, 1989). Parole continued after this change in part because Jews had a plausible offer of alternative resettlement in Israel and continued after the Soviet Union dissolved under the label of the Moscow Refugee Parole Program. About 17,000 Soviets were paroled from 1992 to 1998 (INS 1996, 1998). On August 6, 2007, responsibility for the Moscow Refugee Parole Program was transferred to USCIS. In July 2011, it was canceled.
Adjustment of Status: The Foreign Operations Appropriations Act of 1989 (P.L. 101–167, November 21, 1989) allowed any Soviet paroled into the United States between 1988 and September 30, 1990 (about ten months in the future) to adjust to legal permanent residence after one year if they had been denied refugee status. In 1992, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania were added explicitly. This provision was then repeatedly reauthorized.

Orderly Departure Vietnam parole (1989—1999): In February 1989, the attorney general created a parole program to supplement the Orderly Departure refugee program from Vietnam, which was offered only to those denied refugee status. About 770 entered in 1989. Parole was also used for Vietnamese with immigrant visa petitions approved but who could not immigrate due to the caps. Some Laotians and Cambodians also were paroled. This program was created after the attorney general overturned the presumption that Vietnamese (and others) in refugee camps qualified as refugees under the Refugee Act of 1980. Parolees had to prepay their travel expenses. The program was closed at the end of fiscal year 1999 after about 32,000 paroles.
Adjustment of Status: The Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs Appropriations Act of 1990 (P.L. 101–167, November 21, 1989) allowed any Vietnamese paroled into the United States between 1988 and September 30, 1990 (about ten months in the future) to adjust to legal permanent residence after one year if they had been denied refugee status. On November 6, 2000, Congress enacted the Foreign Operations Appropriations Act of 2001 (Public Law 106–429), which authorized adjustment of status for citizens or natives of Vietnam, Cambodia, or Laos paroled before October 1, 1997, even if they had not been denied refugee status.

Hungarian and Polish parole (1989): In the middle of 1989, Hungary and Poland’s communist governments fell, meaning that refugees from those countries no longer feared persecution on political grounds. On November 21, 1989, the INS began denying them refugee status and paroled some 832 people who were already in the process, had been interviewed, and had family in the United States.
Adjustment of Status: Section 646 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (Public Law 104–208, September 30, 1996) granted legal permanent residence to these parolees.

Undated 1990s parole categories: In 1990, the INS described the following grounds for parole at the time without giving a date for when they started being used:
Spouses of U.S. military members who cannot qualify for visas because of the caps;
Aged‐​out children of immigrant visa applicants who had waited for years for a visa;
Children of immigrant visa recipients who failed to immigrate soon after visa receipt and for whom a visa number is not immediately available;
Someone who was trying to legalize their status by getting an immigrant visa, but the State Department erred in scheduling an appointment because there were no visa numbers available for them and is attempting to return to their U.S. residence.
Adopted children of U.S. citizens who do not qualify as orphans; and
Unaccompanied children in refugee camps with family in the United States.

Chinese parole (1990): On April 11, 1990, the president ordered the attorney general to defer the removal of unauthorized Chinese until January 1, 1994. The INS determined that parole for detained Chinese should be considered in the public interest.
Adjustment of Status: Congress enacted the Chinese Student Protection Act of 1992 (Public Law 102–404, October 9, 1992) that provided permanent residence to Chinese who were covered by the president’s order and in the United States on April 11, 1990, if they were inspected and admitted or paroled.

Parole of asylum seekers (1990—present): Paroling asylum seekers is a subset of parole under the 1982 regulations, the final category of which (public interest) was amenable to several interpretations. On May 1, 1990, INS launched a “pilot parole program” for detained asylum seekers with a limit of 200. The pilot was expanded and made permanent everywhere on April 20, 1992. From 1993 to 1996, there were about 3,800 to 4,500 asylum paroles. On October 7, 1998, the INS made having established a “credible fear” of persecution a presumptive category of eligibility for parole. On November 6, 2007, DHS eliminated this presumption. On December 8, 2009, DHS reinstated the presumption to parole those establishing a credible fear of persecution. Despite a memorandum from the DHS secretary in 2017 that stated parole should be used “sparingly,” the 2009 directive remained in force, though widely flouted during the Trump administration years. On March 29, 2022, DHS lowered the standard to parole someone who had not yet established credible fear.
Haitian Guantanamo parole (1991): A 1991 coup led to refugee flows by sea from Haiti to the United States. The U.S. government intercepted the boats and relocated Haitians to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for processing. In September 1991, the INS announced a new parole program for Haitians at Guantanamo Bay who demonstrated a “credible fear” of persecution. The program continued until May 1992 when it was suspended. A small number of Haitians continued to be paroled thereafter, but they faced a strong presumption that they should be returned to Haiti. They received one‐​year parole authorizations. About 13,000 Haitians received parole from 1992 to 1996 (INS 1996, 1998; INS Parole Report 1999).
Adjustment of Status: The Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act (P.L. 105–277, October 21, 1998) provided for the adjustment of status to legal permanent residence for any Haitian in the United States as of December 31, 1995 who applied for asylum or was paroled into the United States after a finding of credible fear.

ABC Settlement Parole (1991): On January 31, 1991, the INS settled a lawsuit that challenged its asylum adjudication policies for certain Salvadorans and Guatemalans. As part of the agreement, certain Salvadorans and Guatemalans were permitted to reapply for asylum. Among these were 20,000 who were paroled into the United States to reapply in fiscal years 1993 and 1994.
Adjustment of Status: Section 203 of the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (P.L. 105–100, November 2019) permitted these Guatemalans and Hondurans subject to the settlement agreement to apply for suspension of deportation (which provides legal permanent residence) under the lower pre‐​1996 standards.

Adoptee parole (1994): On November 25, 1994, the INS created a new parole program for children adopted by U.S. citizens who did not fall into the “orphan” category required to receive an immigrant visa.
Adjustment of Status: Congress passed Public Law 104–51 (November 15, 1995) to amend the definition of “child” to create green card eligibility for these children and other adoptees moving forward.

Cuban Migration Accord paroles (1994—present): On September 9, 1994, the United States and Cuba signed an agreement to pursue policies designed to reduce illegal immigration, including the United States maintaining a minimum level of 20,000 legal admissions of Cubans per year. The U.S. Coast Guard interdicted Cubans and moved them to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. On October 14, 1994, the White House announced that the INS would parole unaccompanied children, people over age 70, and chronically ill people at Guantanamo Bay. On December 2, 1994, it announced it would consider paroling family units if children would be adversely affected by staying in Guantanamo Bay on a case‐​by‐​case basis. On May 2, 1995, the United States agreed to accept all 18,500 Cubans currently detained at Guantanamo Bay detention facility through parole, but end the practice of taking Cubans there and simply return them to Cuba. In order to meet the 20,000 immigration quota, the United States created the Special Cuban Migration Program to grant parole to about 5,000 Cubans per year through a lottery (which was restricted to those who met at least two of the following criteria: 1) having any relatives living in the United States, 2) 3 years of work experience, and 3) a high school or college degree). In 1995, 1,898 were granted parole through the lottery out of 189,000 applicants. On March 15, 1996, the second parole lottery registration was opened. There were 433,000 applicants. On June 15, 1998, the final registration period was opened for the lottery, and 541,00 applied by July 15, 1998. Those qualifying under the 1998 registration continued to be paroled thereafter. Since 1998, the Cuban government has refused to allow another registration to occur in the country. Around 75,000 Cubans were paroled under these programs from 1994 to 2003 (the last year that statistics were available).
Adjustment of Status: All Cubans paroled after 1959 are eligible to adjust to legal permanent residence after one year in the United States under the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966.

Cuban Wet Foot, Dry Foot parole (1995—2017): On May 2, 1995, the U.S. government announced that it would not parole any Cubans intercepted at sea, even if in U.S. waters, but it would parole anyone on U.S. soil or arriving at a port of entry. The Customs and Border Protection field manual provided that Cuban asylum seekers “may be paroled directly from the port of entry” except for those who “pose a criminal or terrorist threat.” Subsequently, the number of Cubans paroled at ports of entry (mainly along the southwest border) increased significantly. From 2004 to 2016, 226,000 Cubans were paroled at U.S. land borders. On January 12, 2017, DHS canceled the wet foot, dry foot parole process.
Adjustment of Status: All Cubans paroled after 1959 are eligible to adjust to legal permanent residence after one year in the United States under the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966.

Iraqi parole (1996): On September 17, 1996, the United States began airlifting some Iraqi Kurds to Guam, where they were granted parole. A total of 6,550 Iraqi Kurds who worked with the United States and 650 opposition activists were granted parole starting in September 1996.
Adjustment of Status: The FY 1999 Omnibus Appropriations Act (Public Law 105–277, October 21, 1998) waived the cap on green cards for those adjusting after receiving asylum for Iraqis evacuated via parole but did not create a special green card category.

Cuban Medical Professional Parole (CMPP) Program (2006—2017): On August 11, 2006, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) created a new parole program for Cuban doctors in third countries conscripted by the government of Cuba. In fiscal year 2007, 480 of 28,000 Cuban physicians applied for parole. As of December 2010, 1,574 physicians were paroled. On January 12, 2017, DHS canceled the program except for dependents of the physicians already in the program.
Adjustment of Status: All Cubans paroled after 1959 are eligible to adjust to legal permanent residence after one year in the United States under the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966.

Parole in Place for family of U.S. veterans (2007—present): On June 21, 2007, DHS announced that it would grant parole to a spouse of a U.S. active duty soldier, enabling the spouse to adjust to a green card. This policy continued for the next six years. On November 15, 2013, DHS issued a memorandum that provided clearer guidance on this program and expanded it to include veterans of the armed forces. On November 23, 2016, DHS expanded the program to cover family of deceased veterans and adult or married children of veterans. The National Defense Authorization Act of 2020 (P.L. 116–92) expressed congressional support for an ongoing parole program for relatives of U.S. military members.
Adjustment of Status: Spouses of U.S. citizens have an uncapped opportunity to apply for a green card, but parole enables them to apply for a green card by allowing them to meet the requirement that they were “admitted or paroled” prior to applying.

Cuban Family Reunification Parole (2007—2017, 2021—present): On November 21, 2007, the DHS created a new parole program for any Cuban with an approved family‐​based petition for legal permanent residence. In December 2017, USCIS shut down its field office in Cuba and suspended the program. In 2014, DHS started requiring a fee for the parole program. On May 16, 2022, DHS announced that it would resume processing Cuban Family Reunification Parole cases.
Adjustment of Status: All Cubans paroled after 1959 are eligible to adjust to legal permanent residence after one year in the United States under the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966.

Haitian Orphan Parole Program (2010): Following a 2010 Earthquake, on January 18, 2010, DHS announced that it would parole Haitian orphans in the process of being adopted by U.S. citizens. It accepted applications through April 2010.
Adjustment of Status: Help Haitian Adoptees Immediately to Integrate Act of 2010 (Help HAITI Act, Public Law 111–293, December 2010) authorized DHS to adjust the status of adoptees to legal permanent residence even if the formal adoption process was not complete in Haiti as a result of the Earthquake.

Haitian Earthquake paroles (2010—2016): Following a 2010 Earthquake, on January 13, 2010, ICE suspended deportations to Haiti, and ICE began to generally parole detained Haitians. CBP at ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border likewise began to parole Haitians rather than detain them for transfer to ICE. On January 25, 2010, DHS authorized an automatic extension of advance parole documents through March 12, 2010 for Haitians who had traveled outside the United States prior to the Earthquake after receiving advance parole. From 2010 to 2016, about 16,000 Haitians were paroled after being deemed inadmissible at ports of entry.
Central American Minors (CAM) parole (2014—2017, 2021—present): On November 14, 2014, DHS and the State Department announced a combination refugee and parole program for Salvadoran, Guatemalan, and Honduran children with U.S. family sponsors in legal status in the United States (and the minor children of the child and in‐​country parent of the child if married to the sponsoring U.S. parent). On July 26, 2016, DHS expanded the program to include other relatives, including siblings and any in‐​country biological parent of the child. On August 16, 2017, DHS announced it would be canceling the parole program. On March 10, 2021, DHS and the State Department announced it would be restarting the program for those who previously applied before the termination in 2017. On June 15, 2021, they announced the program would reopen to new applicants, including children whose parents were in the United States with pending asylum applications. The parole is indefinite. On April 11, 2023, it expanded the program to allow sponsorship by parents of children who have pending T visa applications. As of December 2016, there were 10,758 applicants for the CAM program. Of these applicants, 873 had received refugee status, and 2,086 had received parole. In 2017, another 2,700 were permitted to enter.
Haitian Family Reunification Parole (2014—present): On December 18, 2014, DHS created a new parole program for any Haitian with an approved family‐​based immigrant visa petition if they have a priority date within two years of being current. On August 2, 2019, DHS announced it would terminate the program but would extend the parole of current participants. On October 12, 2021, it reversed its decision and continued the program.
Filipino World War II Veterans Parole (FWVP) program (2016—present): On May 9, 2016, DHS created a new parole program for Filipino World War II veterans who have approved family‐​based immigrant visa petitions. On August 2, 2019, DHS announced its plans to terminate the program but would extend the parole of current participants. On December 28, 2020, it proposed a regulation to finalize this change. On October 12, 2021, it reversed its earlier decision and continued the program.
International Entrepreneur Parole (2017): On January 17, 2017, DHS created a parole program for certain entrepreneurs. On July 11, 2017, DHS published a rule delaying the effective date of the program. In December 2017, the rule delaying the rule was vacated by a court and was forced to implement the rule. From 2017 to 2019, 30 people applied, and only one approval was granted.
Parole + Alternatives to Detention program (2021): On July 31, 2021, Border Patrol created a policy of paroling detained immigrants at the border when ICE cannot accept custody of the person, there isn’t a risk to national security or public safety, processing capacity exceeds 75%, and arrivals exceed discharges, the average processing time exceeds two days, and arrivals will likely exceed discharges the following day. On November 2, 2021, the Border Patrol chief formalized this policy with respect to family units. On July 18, 2022, Customs and Border Protection expanded this policy to cover both families and single adults. On March 8, 2023, the policy was blocked by a federal district court judge after about 700,000 paroles.
Afghan evacuation parole (2021): After the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan on August 15, 2021, the U.S. military began to fly thousands of Afghans to U.S. military bases in the region. On August 23, 2021, DHS launched a new parole operation under Operation Allies Welcome (OAW). In the next few weeks, it paroled more than 75,898 Afghans into the United States. After the initial evacuation, DHS received 50,000 parole requests from Afghans, adjudicated about 9,500, and denied all but about 500. In September 2022, DHS stated that Afghans abroad would generally no longer be considered for parole at all. On June 8, 2023, DHS announced it would extend the parole of Afghan parolees in the United States. The Extending Government Funding and Delivering Emergency Assistance Act of 2021 (P.L. 117–43, May 2022) provided refugee benefits to Afghan parolees, explicitly appropriating money for those benefits, and directing the creation of a plan to process pending Afghan parole applications between July 31, 2021, and September 30, 2022 or paroled into the United States after September 30, 2022 if a spouse or child of an Afghan parolee or parent or legal guardian of an unaccompanied Afghan child.
Uniting for Ukraine (2022): After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, DHS decided to parole Ukrainians arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border ports of entry, formally announcing the policy on March 11, 2022, and about 23,000 were paroled with 1‑year admissions. On April 27, 2022, DHS created a new parole program for Ukrainians with U.S. sponsors. As of May 2022, DHS had paroled about 125,000 Ukrainians under the Uniting for Ukraine sponsorship program with 2‑year admissions. The Additional Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2022 (P.L. 117–128, May 2022) provided refugee benefits to Ukrainians paroled between February 24, 2022 and September 30, 2023 or paroled into the United States after September 30, 2022 if a spouse or child of a Ukrainian parolee or parent or legal guardian of an unaccompanied Ukrainian child. On March 13, 2022, DHS extended the parole of the 23,000 paroled at ports of entry.
Adjustment of Status: A Ukrainian Adjustment Act (H.R.3911) was introduced in 2023.

Cuban, Haitian, Nicaraguan, and Venezuelan parole sponsorship processes (2022—2023): On October 19, 2022, DHS created a parole program for Venezuelans with U.S. sponsors modeled on Uniting for Ukraine with a cap of 24,000. On January 9, 2023, DHS replaced this cap with a combined 30,000 per month cap for Venezuela, Haiti, Cuba, and Nicaragua (each of which received its own parole sponsorship programs the same day). 1.5 million applicants had applied by May 2023, and about 131,000 had been admitted.
Adjustment of Status: All Cubans paroled after 1959 are eligible to adjust to legal permanent residence after one year in the United States under the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966. A Venezuelan Adjustment Act (H.R. 7854) was introduced in 2022.

Family Reunification Parole Processes (2023): On July 10, 2023, DHS created family reunification parole programs for Colombians, Salvadorans, Guatemalans, and Hondurans who have approved immigrant visa petitions. Parole applicants had to be invited by the U.S. government. This announcement followed up on the May 2023 announcement that the United States wanted to accept as many as 100,000 individuals from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras through the family reunification pathway. As of May 2023, there were 73,500 eligible for the program, but many more were waiting for their immigrant visas to be approved.

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