Attention state lawmakers: “PRWORA provides (with some exceptions) that “an alien who is not a qualified alien … is not eligible for any Federal public benefit.” Who is a “qualified alien”? Illegal aliens are generally not, nor are aliens in the U.S. on temporary visas. The categories of aliens qualified to be “qualified” primarily encompass lawful permanent residents, refugees, and asylees, but also include “an alien who is paroled into the United States … for a period of at least 1 year”. (Emphasis added.)
- Related: What is (immigration) parole?
Parole with Benefit
- The Biden administration has granted parole to over one million aliens in just over two years, including over 800,000 inadmissible aliens the administration invited into the U.S. or apprehended at the border and released – and it’s just getting started.
- These Biden parolees will become “qualified aliens” with respect to eligibility for major federal welfare programs after one year in parole status. While in some cases they will become eligible to receive benefits as soon as they become “qualified”, in most cases, they will become eligible after five years as parolees. This privileged status is equivalent to that of lawful permanent residents for purposes of welfare eligibility.
- Because of severe backlogs in our immigration courts and because the Biden administration has released hundreds of thousands of aliens apprehended at the border without even bothering to issue them notices to appear in court, many of Biden’s parolees will still be in parole status after five years (and, for many, far beyond that). Once the five-year “parole payday” arrives, the cost to American taxpayers will reach about $3 billion per year per million parolees.
- Congress should seriously consider amending federal law to deny Biden’s parolees privileged access to federal welfare programs, leaving them eligible only for those welfare benefits available to illegal aliens.
Milton Friedman famously postulated that “It’s just obvious that you can’t have free immigration and a welfare state.” President Biden is aiming to prove Friedman wrong.
In the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA), Congress dramatically curtailed the federal means-tested benefits (read: welfare) available to noncitizens and set forth a “national policy with respect to welfare and immigration”, stating in part that “the availability of public benefits [should] not constitute an incentive for immigration to the United States” and “[i]t is a compelling government interest to remove the incentive for illegal immigration provided by the availability of public benefits.”
PRWORA, however, contains a gaping vulnerability that will in a few short years result in a multi-billion-dollar bill to American taxpayers. The vulnerability? PRWORA grants parolees in such status for at least a year eligibility for major federal welfare programs on the same basis as it does lawful permanent residents. This is not really a big issue in those rare instances in which the Department of Homeland Security grants parole in circumstances contemplated by Congress. But it becomes a huge issue in the context of the Biden administration’s abuse of the parole program. Team Biden has already — in little more than two years — paroled in excess of one million aliens, including those whom DHS released on parole after they were apprehended along the border and those that DHS invited into the U.S. as parolees despite their not being admissible under the duly-enacted laws of the United States. After five years of presence in the U.S., Biden’s parolees will become eligible (per PRWORA) for billions of dollars a year in federal welfare benefits. And they are likely to spend many years, if not decades, in the U.S., and give birth to many U.S. citizen children. As Sen. Everett Dirksen is reputed to have said, “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money.”
The Biden Administration’s Misadministration of Parole
The statutory parole power provides that:
[The Secretary of Homeland Security] may … in his discretion parole into the United States temporarily under such conditions as he may prescribe only on a case-by-case basis for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit any alien applying for admission to the United States, but such parole of such alien shall not be regarded as an admission of the alien and when the purposes of such parole shall, in the opinion of the [Secretary], have been served the alien shall forthwith return or be returned to the custody from which he was paroled and thereafter his case shall continue to be dealt with in the same manner as that of any other applicant for admission to the United States.
Congress was clear in granting this power to the executive branch in 1952 that:
[The power should be] carefully restricted to those cases where extenuating circumstances clearly require such action and that the discretionary authority should be surrounded with strict limitations. … to permit the Attorney General to parole inadmissible aliens into the United States in emergency cases, such as the case of an alien who requires immediate medical attention before there has been an opportunity for an immigration officer to inspect him, and in cases where it is strictly in the public interest to have an inadmissible alien present in the United States, such as, for instance, a witness or for purposes of prosecution. [Emphasis added.]
The Biden administration has notoriously used the parole power to release into our communities hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens apprehended at the border.
Could it get any worse? [In January,] the Biden administration issued press releases announcing new “border enforcement measures to improve border security” and “create additional safe and orderly processes” for Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans “fleeing humanitarian crises”. As DHS proclaims:
[T]hese processes will provide a lawful and streamlined way for qualifying nationals of Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela … to seek advance authorization to travel to the United States and be considered, on a case-by-case basis, for a temporary grant of parole. … These processes will allow up to 30,000 qualifying nationals per month from all four of these countries to reside legally in the United States for up to two years and to receive permission to work here, during that period.
This represents the arrival of up to 360,000 aliens a year. And the administration could up the number with the stroke of a pen. It sure sounds like a categorical parole program intended to flout the immigration laws passed by Congress, the sort of program regarding which Congress thought it had bid good riddance.
Until [the announcement], the Biden administration was pursing this agenda under the guise of relative secrecy for Mexicans and Central Americans, as my colleague Todd Bensman has uncovered. Now, post-election, the breathtaking scale of what President Biden is attempting is all out in the open.
According to my calculations, at the very least, the Biden administration has granted parole to 1,075,664 aliens. Even excluding the almost 200,000 Afghans and Ukrainians granted parole, the number of Biden parolees is at the very least 880,220. Here are the numbers, month-by-month:
- January 21-31 2021: 261
- February 2021: 889
- March 2021: 1,607
- April 2021: 2,994
- May 2021: 5,731
- June 2021: 8,156
- July 2021: 10,706
- August 2021: 24,072
- September 2021: 25,841
- October 2021: 16,880
- November 2021: 15,353
- December 2021: 23,098
- January 2022: 18,576
- February 2022: 13,413
- March 2022: 36,777
- April 2022: 91,250
- May 2022: 68,527
- June 2022: 54,894
- July 2022: 39,877
- August 2022: 31,090
- September 2022: 95,191
- October 2022: 68,822
- November 2022: 90,468 + 5,587 (estimated Venezuelan parolees, November-December 2022, pursuant to the new migration enforcement process for Venezuelans)
- December 2022: 130,505 + 5,470 (estimated Venezuelan parolees, November-December 2022, pursuant to the new migration enforcement process for Venezuelans)
- January 2023: 5,214 + 11,637 (Cuban, Haitian, Nicaraguan, and Venezuelan parolees) = 16,851
- February 2023: 28 + 22,755 (Cuban, Haitian, Nicaraguan, and Venezuelan parolees) = 22,783
- Afghan parolees: 75,898
- Ukrainian parolees (estimated grants of parole pursuant to DHS’s Uniting for Ukraine progam, since May 2022): 119,546
(My colleague Andrew Arthur provided invaluable assistance to me in the derivation of these estimates.)
The Welfare Thoroughfare
PRWORA provides (with some exceptions) that “an alien who is not a qualified alien … is not eligible for any Federal public benefit.” Who is a “qualified alien”? Illegal aliens are generally not, nor are aliens in the U.S. on temporary visas. The categories of aliens qualified to be “qualified” primarily encompass lawful permanent residents, refugees, and asylees, but also include “an alien who is paroled into the United States … for a period of at least 1 year”. (Emphasis added.)
Qualified aliens generally have to meet special eligibility requirements for the most important federal welfare programs, in addition to meeting the eligibility standards for U.S. citizens:
- In general, qualified aliens are eligible for food stamps — the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) — “who ha[ve] resided in the United States with a status within the meaning of … ‘qualified alien’ for a period of 5 years or more beginning on the date of the alien’s entry into the United States”. However, with respect to qualified alien parolees, those under 18 years of age are immediately eligible, as are those who meet one of three “military-related” tests: they are 1) on active duty in the Armed Forces (other than for training), 2) veterans who have been honorably discharged and who have completed the shorter of 24 months of continuous active duty or the full period for which they were called or ordered to active duty, or 3) the spouses and unmarried dependent children of such service members or veterans, or unremarried surviving spouses… read the entire report at CIS.org