Commentary

USCIS Ends Obama-Era Attack on Numerical Limits, But Does Not Say So

By David North | August 7, 2019 | 3:20pm EDT
(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

USCIS has taken appropriate action to terminate a couple of Obama-era attempts to avoid numerical limits on immigration, but you could not tell that from reading either the current or the past USCIS press releases on the subject. These are small steps, but in the right direction.

The 2016 press release was headed: "USCIS to Implement Filipino World War II Veterans Parole Program."

The beneficiaries of that program were primarily relatives of these veterans, not the vets themselves, as WWII had ended 71 years earlier. What the program did was to give those aliens whose applications were likely to become ripe in the next two years paroles to come to this country to wait here for their green cards, rather than waiting outside the nation for them.

This allowed these aliens to enter the country despite the numerical limits that have been part of our immigration laws for the last 98 years and thus, in fact, increased the number of arriving immigrants in a way not authorized by Congress. But the press releases were written in such a way that only those deeply involved in immigration would recognize that this was an end-run around numerical ceilings or limits; maybe this was an accident, happening in both administrations, or maybe the agency does not want to discuss numerical ceilings.

Usually when the government opens a program like this it will estimate the number of beneficiaries; in this case, so many of the applications were so old that DHS used the range of 2,000 to 6,000 in its discussion of who would use the program.

The other program that DHS has just shut down was the somewhat similar Haitian Family Reunification Parole, which was said to have 5,000 beneficiaries. (The government's press people continue to think about "family reunification" as something that can happen only in America, whereas it can take place in the home country as well).

In each of these programs, mass (or categorical) paroles were set in motion and the aliens only had to show that they were members of the class in question to get their two-year jump-starts on American life. The lack of one-on-one screening in the program was what dominated the most recent press release rather than the successful effort to avoid numerical ceilings.

Speaking of island-specific migration programs, like these two, an alert reader reminded my colleague Jessica Vaughan that while these two have been closed, another remains open and feeds the birth citizenship business in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. territory in the western Pacific just north of Guam.

As we reported six years ago, well-to-do Chinese flock to the Marianas to give birth to little U.S. citizens, and spend a significant amount of money in the process; once the baby is born, and the parents have a brand-new U.S. passport for the child, they leave CNMI never to see it again. The impact of the birth citizenship will be felt on the Mainland many years hence, but none of the associated costs (and benefits) will be felt in the islands.

So from the point of view of the islands, what's not to like?

The program that allows these births is a very specialized version of the broader Visa Waiver Program (which does not cover the Chinese). That program allows Chinese nationals and some others to visit Guam and CNMI without visas, but they cannot move on to the rest of the United States.

The local tourist industry, and thus the islands' two Republican governors, like the visa-waiver program, and there has been no discussion I have noticed about ending it.

David North, a fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies, has over 40 years of immigration policy experience.

Editor's Note: This piece was originally published by the Center for Immigration Studies.

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