U.S. has admitted more than 1 million migrants using parole under Biden

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More than 1 million people have been allowed to enter the U.S. under Biden administration programs based on the immigration parole authority that Congress is considering restricting at the request of Republican lawmakers, according to internal government data obtained by CBS News.

Since President Biden took office in 2021, his administration has used immigration parole at a historic scale, invoking the decades-old law to welcome hundreds of thousands of foreigners fleeing armed conflicts in Afghanistan and Ukraine, or political and economic crises in countries like Haiti and Venezuela.

Since 1952, parole has empowered federal officials to welcome migrants who don't have the visas that are typically required to enter the U.S. The law allows these entries if they further a humanitarian cause or public benefit, but it does not give beneficiaries permanent legal status. Instead, migrants paroled into the country are permitted to live and work in the U.S. for a period of time, typically one or two years.

The Biden administration has argued its use of parole has allowed it to respond to emergency situations, such as the Taliban's reconquest of Afghanistan and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and to reduce illegal crossings at the southern border by offering would-be migrants legal channels to come to the U.S. Biden administration officials have said they've acted unilaterally since Congress has not expanded legal immigration pathways since 1990.

Talks in Congress

But Republican leaders in Washington and several states have accused the Biden administration of abusing the parole law, which they argue is intended to be used only in limited cases. In recent weeks, GOP lawmakers in Congress have demanded significant restrictions on parole and asylum in exchange for supporting Mr. Biden's request for border security funds and foreign military aid, including to Ukraine.

While the White House and a small bipartisan group of senators have agreed to enact drastic limits on asylum and broader expulsion authorities as part of a potential border policy compromise, changing parole has remained a sticking point. Still, both sides have indicated they could have a deal this week.

The proposals discussed by White House and Senate negotiators include putting numerical caps on parole grants and barring migrants paroled into the country from asylum to try to ensure they leave the U.S. once their parole period expires, two people briefed on the closed-door talks told CBS News.

In a statement to CBS News, Department of Homeland Security spokesman Luis Miranda said the Biden administration's use of parole is part of a "balanced approach" that also includes penalties for illegal border crossings, such as a regulation that restricts asylum for those who don't seek refuge in other countries before entering the U.S.

"As a result of these efforts, hundreds of thousands of noncitizens have followed lawful pathways and orderly processes instead of crossing illegally between ports of entry," Miranda said. "The fact remains that, for decades, Republican and Democratic Administrations alike have used parole authority on a case-by-case basis for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit."

The parole authority

Changes to the parole law could force the Biden administration to alter a key pillar of its immigration strategy. While Republican and Democratic administrations have used parole since the 1950s — including to resettle large groups of refugees fleeing communist regimes during the Cold War — the Biden administration's use of the policy has been unprecedented by any measure.

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