Maria Esperanza Diaz Ruiz had expected to pay a smuggler to get across the U.S.-Mexico border. Then she learned the Biden administration’s new program would let her walk in for free, as long as she had a tale of woe from back home.
She’s one of the migrants who’s taking advantage of a new Biden policy that’s converting illegal immigrants into legal “parolees,” giving them a work permit and a foothold in America, according to the Center for Immigration Studies, which observed Ms. Diaz Ruiz and others coming across.
“This is real,” she told the center’s Todd Bensman. “This is not a magic trick.”
Her justification for gaining parole into the U.S. is that she says she worked for a Nicaraguan government official who was homosexual. Her ex-husband threatened both her and her boss, she told Mr. Bensman.
“I had to leave because I would be killed,” she said.
Armed with documents and a criminal background check, she joined a group of roughly two-dozen migrants who were entered into America’s border authorities’ system, driven to the border crossing between Mexicali and Calexico, California, and turned over to U.S. authorities.
Mr. Bensman got unfettered access to Mexico’s side of the processing and published his findings Monday.
He said it’s not just at ports of entry along the border. Some migrants are being flown from Cancun or Monterrey directly into U.S. airports.
“This looks to be part of a purposeful strategy to create workarounds to court-ordered expulsion policies but also to reduce politically painful illegal crossing statistics by channeling ever more people through these legalized crossings,” he said. “While neither DHS nor the White House has publicized this legalized entrance program, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has repeatedly telegraphed it in his oft-stated intentions to create ‘legal pathways’ as part of the administration’s overarching ‘safe, orderly, and humane’ vision for southern border immigration.”
The program relies on Mr. Mayorkas’ power of “humanitarian parole.” He can admit people to the U.S. outside of the usual system of temporary or immigrant visas.
This administration isn’t the first to rely on parole, but it is the most wide-ranging in its application, having flexed the power to bring in Afghan evacuees, Ukrainians who want to avoid the war in their country, and hundreds of thousands of migrants from myriad countries who are showing up at the southern border right now.
Parole grants a one-year permission to be in the U.S. Mr. Mayorkas can choose to renew it, but those on parole can also apply for asylum or try to find some other more permanent legal status.
And even if they don’t, there’s little chance they’ll be ousted at the end of the year, given U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s limited resources and Mr. Mayorkas’ orders to limit deportation targets.
Some legal experts say parole has been bent far beyond its intent, which was to welcome, on a case-by-case basis, those for whom there is an urgent humanitarian need or a “significant public benefit.”
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. hinted at that during an oral argument earlier this year on the Biden team’s push to end the Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” policy.
“It gets to a question of the interpretation of the parole provision and whether or not, I think, significant public benefit can accommodate as — as far as you want to stretch it,” he told the government’s lawyer.
During the same argument, though, Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh said the court has given wide latitude to administrations to determine what is in the public interest on something like parole.
Judging by the numbers streaming north, the Biden administration is going to need that latitude.
The Mexican operation in Mexicali is tripling its size to handle the number of people.
But Mr. Bensman said there’s reason to be skeptical of the worthiness of the cases.
The U.S. requires evidence of difficulties back home to substantiate tales of woe. But that can be created after the fact. He said university law professors and students help migrants file police reports by phone with authorities back in their home countries, then use that as evidence for their claims.
One local pastor told Mr. Bensman the law students coach the migrants to beef up their claims.
The pastor said in Tijuana, to the west of Mexicali, he’s heard that city officials demand bribes to get migrants on their lists.