USCIS Amends Rules to Avoid Removal of Military Family Members

According to the White House, more than 30,000 noncitizens were serving in our armed forces, as of May 2013, and thousands more have done so in recent memory, serving their adopted country with honor and distinction. [See Honoring the Legacy of Immigrants Serving in the Armed Forces, by Tanya Bradsher, The White House Blog, 11.Nov.2013.] Given the reality of mixed-status families, many of these service members have faced the prospect that their undocumented immediate relatives could be deported, even in the midst of the service member’s deployment overseas.

Shortly after Veteran’s Day, the Obama administration released a new policy memorandum designed to prevent the removal (commonly referred to as deportation) of undocumented spouses, children, and parents of active duty and veteran service members. [See USCIS Policy Memorandum PM-602-0091, Parole of Spouses, Children and Parents of Active Duty Members of the U.S. Armed Forces, etc., 15.Nov.2013.] Among the justifications for the new policy: “Military preparedness can potentially be adversely affected if active members of the U.S. Armed Forces and individuals serving in the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve, who can quickly be called into active duty, worry about the immigration status of their spouses, parents, and children.”

Under the new policy, the USCIS will more readily grant “parole in place” to the spouses, children, and parents of active duty members of the U.S. armed forces – and of certain reservists and veterans – in cases where those family members originally entered the United States without inspection or admission. The memo states, “absent a criminal conviction or other serious adverse factors, parole in place would generally be an appropriate exercise of discretion for such an individual.”

This is the latest in a series of measures designed to provide immigration benefits to military service members and their families. As a recent White House background paper notes, President George W. Bush signed an Executive Order in 2002 that made active-duty U.S. military service members – as well as those recently discharged – eligible for immediate naturalization. The Obama administration has built on this initiative, the White House says, and has worked to make the immigration system more user friendly for service members and their families. [See The Benefits of Commonsense Immigration Reform: Recognizing the Contributions of Immigrants in the Armed Forces, The White House, 11.Nov.2013.]

For example: a toll-free help line at the USCIS can assist U.S. military service members and their families with a variety of immigration services, providing basic information about naturalization, bringing a spouse, fiancé/e, or adopted child to the United States, and other issues. For details, see the USCIS Military Help Line page.

We are pleased to see that the USCIS is taking steps to accommodate the families of our men and women in uniform. Military life is already stressful, and U.S. service members worry enough about their families without the added concerned that their undocumented parents, spouses, or children might be deported!

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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.