Immigrant Rosa Villasenor from Culiacan, Mexico, and her U.S.-born daughter, Sasha, 4, joinedi an immigrant rights protest this past summer (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes) (I)

Deportations on hold for spouses, children of military, veterans

Children and spouses of active duty military, veterans and some reservists are eligible to stay in the United States under an action taken Friday by the Department of Homeland Security.

The department issued a memo and posted it on the Citizenship and Immigration Services website Friday explaining the opportunities for the spouses and children to “parole in place,” meaning they are not subject to deportation if they get the parole.

“In order to reduce the uncertainty our active duty and retired military personnel face because of the immigration status of their family members, we have decided to clarify existing policies,” DHS spokesman Peter Boogaard said.

The memo said parole would be granted on a case-by-case basis. The family members would be vetted for such things as criminal convictions before being allowed to remain.

“Generally, parole in place is to be granted only sparingly. The fact that the individual is a spouse, child, or parent of an active duty member of the U.S. Armed Forces, an individual in the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve, however, ordinarily weighs heavily in favor of parole in place,” the memo states.

The move to draw attention and increase the use of the option comes as Congress appears headed for the end of another year without a new immigration law addressing the presence of more than 11 million people in the country illegally, children who were came with their parents and have grown up in the country yet have no legal status, the need for temporary workers, the hiring of people not legally in the country and a long list of other immigration issues that have been festering for more than a decade.

Some people have badgered President Barack Obama to suspend all deportations until an immigration reform bill is approved.

Marisa Franco, organizer for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, applauded the move, but also said it  underscored the need for the president to take executive action to stop deportations. The group has been holding a number of protests of deportations, including obstructing buses leaving immigrant detention centers to take people out of the U.S.

“The anxiety experienced by military families being separated is a trauma that no family should go through,” Franco said in a statement. “… the president can and should do more for all families.”

Officals said in the memo that they have worked with the Department of Defense to help members of the military, veterans and their families to navigate the difficult immigration system and the “parole” policy builds on those efforts.

Former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, now University of California president,  had informed Congress of the “parole” option for family of U.S. military in 2010, in response to concerns congressional members had raised.

The Homeland Security secretary has long had the authority to use “parole” for urgent humanitarian reasons or for significant public benefit, the memo said. Although usually used to allow someone to enter the country, it has previously been used to allow someone in the U.S. illegally to remain.

Brent Wilkes, executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens, said ultimately lawmakers have to deal with immigration reform although he was glad to see some reprieve for the families of military and veterans. LULAC had just waged a postcard campaign focused on the families of veterans. They delivered thousands of postcards to members of Congress that pleaded, “Honor those who fought for our country by helping those who they fight for.”

“We salute the White House and the department, but we recognize this is not a permanent solution,” Wilkes said. “The lack of prosecution (for being in the country illegally) at any moment could change. The next president could .. do away with the policy.”

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