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Indochinese Parolees
by John T. Combs, Esq.

Section 586 of Public Law 106-429, the Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2001, signed by President Clinton on November 6, 2000 provides new opportunities for parolees from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos to adjust their status and have their permanent residency back dated as of the date of entry into the U.S. The primary beneficiaries will be from among the approximate 20,000 Public Interest Parolees (PIP) from Vietnam who have still not been able to adjust their status.

These parolees are generally brothers and sisters of Vietnamese "boat people." The "boat people," who had escaped from Vietnam after the collapse of South Vietnam in 1975 and were admitted to the United States as refugees, were becoming U.S. citizens in the late 1980's. As citizens, they began to file petitions under our immigration laws for their parents and siblings. After an examination of the then current refugee/immigration policies in both Southeast Asia and the former Soviet Union in late 1988 and early 1989, the refugee "pipeline" was closed. The parents of these "boat people" could be admitted to the U.S. as immediate relatives, but there was no such option for the brothers and sisters so most of the brothers and sisters who would have previously been admitted as refugees began to be "paroled" into the U.S., a status that many of them still find themselves in today.

The "Lautenberg Amendment" was passed in late 1989 (Sec. 599D and E of the Foreign Operations Appropriations Act, Public Law 101 - 167, codified as 8 USC 1255). It provided for the adjustment of status to lawful permanent residence for nationals of Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and the former Soviet Union if they were paroled in to the U.S. during the period August 15, 1988 through September 30, 2000 (as extended), after being denied refugee status.

Originally, the INS policy announced in September, 1990, held that all parolees processed in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), were presumed eligible for adjustment of status under the Amendment. However, a later INS policy memo dated March, 1993, eliminated most of these individuals' ability to adjust status and obtain permanent residency under the Amendment by requiring that for those individuals paroled after April 1, 1991, a denied INS Form I-590 (Registration for Classification as Refugee) be in the file to demonstrate that they had been denied refugee status. Most of the parolees from Vietnam have since been waiting for fourth preference petitions to become current, facing a wait of ten years or more before being eligible to apply for adjustment of status and then five years as a resident before becoming eligible to apply for naturalization.

From the conference report:

The purpose of this provision is to address an anomaly in current law, which requires that such persons have first been denied refugee status in order to be eligible to adjust status. Since these individuals were paroled into the United States as part of U.S. government programs at a time when their eligibility for refugee status was never considered, the managers believe that this provision is both necessary and appropriate. The provision is limited in scope to apply only to parolees who are natives or citizens of Vietnam, Laos or Cambodia, who were inspected and paroled into the United States prior to October 1, 1997, and who are otherwise eligible to receive an immigrant visa. The managers note that the potential beneficiaries of this provision are a fixed number of individuals who were lawfully admitted into the United States. While the conference agreement includes a ceiling on the number of aliens who may benefit from this provision, the managers recognize that it is difficult to determine precisely the number of potential beneficiaries and that such number may need to be revised in the future to ensure that no eligible alien is arbitrarily denied adjustment of status.

About The Author
John T. Combs
Stern & Elkind
950 S. Cherry Street, Suite 1650
Denver, CO 80246
(303) 692-0111 Phone
(303) 692-0505 Fax



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