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Biden gives reprieve to some undocumented spouses of US citizens


June 20th, 2024

Biden gives reprieve to some undocumented spouses of US citizens

Washington DC- The Biden administration has announced two policy changes that will help certain undocumented spouses of US citizens and documented DACA recipients to avoid being separated from their families and communities. As it currently stands, some undocumented spouses are granted “parole in place,” which means they are not deportable but are also without status. To change their status, they have to leave the US. However, this new program will allow them to adjust their status while in the US, make them eligible for a work permit, and to apply for a green card, allowing them to be permanent residents. This program is not expected to start before the end of this summer.  

While the news is welcome, this is not the creation of a new pathway. Biden is only tweaking the policy to allow some undocumented spouses of US citizens to make their adjustment applications in the US rather than from their home country as normally required.  Similarly, the tweak in the employment visa policy will allow certain migrants including DACA recipients to apply for employment visas like “H1B1” from the US instead of having to do so from their home countries. 

However, these tweaks to the policies do not address the needs of millions of people who are struggling to remain together with their families and communities. For example, where the Biden admin believes these policies will benefit approximately 500,000 spouses, reports indicate that nearly 1.1 million U.S. citizens are married to an undocumented person.

More broadly, the policy adds additional scrutiny to exclude people for national security and public safety threat allegations. National security and criminal history are always a consideration with respect to the adjustment of status for those seeking protections from deportation. However, when the administration specifically names the exclusion of the feared and criminalized, it disproportionately excludes Black migrants.  The case-to-case review of the application does nothing to address the disproportionate harm to undocumented Black spouses seeking to avail themselves of this policy’s benefits. The exclusions are categorical, but the inclusions are individual. 

BAJI continues to fight for permanent protections for all undocumented migrants in the US and the return of those who have been separated by deportation without regard to criminalization.

Please read the White House fact sheet that has details of the Biden’s administration policy change.

This CBS news article “Biden immigration program offers legal status to 500,000 spouses of U.S. citizens. Here’s how it works’ further articulates the policy change.

Read here for a summary and a spotlight on data on mixed-status families.