Immigration Heart On ICE: Why Does ICE Decide All, And Deny Most, Humanitarian Parole Requests?
An October 14 New York Times article by Nina Bernstein “A Contest of Suffering, With the U.S. as a Prize” sheds light on humanitarian parole, the authority vested in the Secretary of Homeland Security, to grant foreign citizens entry to the United States for “urgent humanitarian reasons.” The article reports that since January, 2000 only about 20% of the 6,718 requests received for humanitarian parole were approved. According to Michael W. Gilhooley, a spokesperson for the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the agency deciding requests for humanitarian parole, each request is considered independently by two ICE officers and then their (presumably collective) decision is reviewed by an ICE supervisor.
The USCIS website describes the procedure for requesting humanitarian parole, and provides a USCIS form (Form I-131) whose instructions direct the applicant to send the request to:
So why does DHS give the public the impression that USCIS will adjudicate the application when ICE’s Office of International Affairs, a police agency, in fact makes the decision? The delegation of humanitarian parole decision-making power is particularly strange in light of the legislative history of the HSA. In enacting the HSA, Congress intentionally divided the former INS into separate enforcement and benefits branches in order to avoid the inherent conflict of interest that would otherwise arise when cops must choose between border protection and applications for immigration benefits. The conflict involved in the enforcement-minded ICE being tasked with exercising humanitarian compassion is readily seen in the mission statement for ICE’s Office of International Affairs (OIA):
This fox-in-the-henhouse conflict of interest is also apparent from a look at OIA’s positioning on ICE’s organizational chart as a unit of the Office of Investigations. Yet elsewhere on the pages of the ICE site, OIA meekly acknowledges its humanitarian parole authority in text nestled within its power to issue entry documents to snitches and criminals:
Is this blogger’s concern about the power to decide humanitarian parole applications just a bureaucratic tempest in a teapot? No. When a dying U.S. citizen wants to have a final few days with a foreign relative from abroad, and the U.S. Consular Officer in the relative’s home country has denied a visitor’s visa, humanitarian parole is the only avenue. The Times article offers other heart-rending examples of initially denied applications for humanitarian parole:
Why should it take Congressional intervention to grant humanitarian parole? Why should the requests of deserving citizens for governmental compassion be denied by police officials when the legislature, in enacting the HSA, clearly intended that USCIS, the agency with benefits-adjudication expertise, make the call? On October 18, Michael Chertoff, the Secretary of DHS is slated to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on immigration reform. Before focusing on immigration reforms, perhaps the senators can ask Mr. Chertoff why his agency flouts the law as written and tasks police officers to exercise humanitarian compassion. Or perhaps the better question is whether ICEd compassion can ever be truly humanitarian.This article originally appeared on http://www.nationofimmigrators.com, a public policy blog on our dysfunctional immigration system maintained by blogger Angelo A. Paparelli.
Angelo A. Paparelli is a California Certified Specialist in Immigration and Nationality Law and Managing Partner of the California-based Paparelli & Partners LLP, an Irvine, California firm practicing exclusively in the field of U.S. immigration and nationality law.
The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.