Recently, you may have heard news reports about legal challenges to the Biden administration’s CHNV program—but what is it, and why is it so important?
What is the CHNV program?
On January 6, 2023, the Biden administration opened a new humanitarian parole program allowing certain nationals from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela (CHNV) to apply for entry to the U.S. for a temporary stay of up to two years. At that time, the administration committed to accepting 30,000 beneficiaries a month from across the four countries, raising the cap on a previous parole program solely for Venezuelan beneficiaries. So far, more than 175,000 people have benefited from the program.
How does it work?
The CHNV program operates much like the preceding Uniting for Ukraine program and requires qualified nationals abroad and their immediate family members to have a U.S. tie or sponsor who promises to support them in the U.S. In just a few months, over 1.5 million individuals submitted requests to sponsor migrants from the four countries. To sponsor a CHNV applicant, an individual must be a U.S. citizen, a lawful permanent resident, or hold a U.S. lawful status such as Temporary Protected Status, asylum, parole, deferred action, or Deferred Enforced Departure. While an individual can file to become a sponsor, it’s also possible for a business, organization, or multiple individuals to jointly take on the responsibility of sponsoring a CHNV applicant. More about the eligibility requirements for the CHNV parole program can be found here.
Why is the CHNV Program important?
The program gives families a chance to be reunited, friends a chance at connection, and communities the space to live out their faith. Within the first six months of launching the program, over 35,000 Cubans, 50,000 Haitians, 21,500 Nicaraguans, and 48,500 Venezuelans have come to the U.S. through the program. One of LIRS’s clients who arrived from Venezuela through the program was able to reunite with her mother after eight years. Unlike her mother, who risked her life in a trek from Venezuela and multiple countries to the U.S.-Mexico border, the client was able to arrive in the U.S. without making the same harrowing journey. Another LIRS client from Nicaragua was able to board a plane for the first time and reunite with her sister who she hadn’t seen for 37 years.
Despite these positive outcomes, there is still a significant demand for safe legal pathways to protection and parole is not a replacement for a functioning asylum system
Why Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela?
The humanitarian situation in all four CHNV countries is dire. In Cuba, people are grappling with food shortages and the most severe economic crisis they’ve faced since the 1990s. In Haiti, a combination of ongoing natural disasters, poverty, and political instability has created a series of crises. Notably, Haiti stands as the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, with over half of its population living below the poverty line. Furthermore, around 60 percent of the capital city of Haiti is currently under the control of various gangs.
In Nicaragua, the President has implemented a range of authoritarian measures. These include the removal of term limits, imprisonment of political opponents, and even the use of lethal force against protestors. Consequently, this has resulted in significant instability within the country, leading to a doubling in the number of Nicaraguan asylum seekers seeking refuge in Costa Rica. Venezuela is also undergoing a dire situation, with more than 7 million individuals having fled the nation due to limited access to food and opportunities. The Venezuelan president has resorted to tactics such as extrajudicial executions, military tribunals, and suppressing free press.
All four of these countries are currently experiencing periods of heightened instability. Should the parole program become restricted or discontinued, the people in these nations will have even fewer avenues to escape from life-threatening circumstances.
Does LIRS support the program?
While LIRS welcomed the parole program, we raised concerns around the administration’s recurring “carrot-and-stick” approach to immigration policy, which on one hand offers limited pathways to protection, and on the other, severely restricts access to asylum. Similar to the Venezuelan parole program, the CHNV program was paired with an expansion of a border enforcement policy that allows the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to expel Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans who arrive at the border without proper legal documentation.
Nevertheless, we recognize the significant role parole plays in upholding our obligation to offer protection to migrants seeking safety. The program represents one of several tools the government has in developing a safe, humane, and orderly process that honors the dignity of the protection-seeking migrant and their legal right to seek safety.
What is parole? Has it been used before?
As a statutory provision, parole gives the Secretary of Homeland Security the discretionary authority to permit certain individuals on a case-by-case basis to enter and remain in the U.S. for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit. It’s important to note that parole does not confer immigration status to a person and applies only for limited periods of time. Both Democratic and Republican administrations have used parole authority for 70 years. Over 170,000 Vietnamese entered the United States on parole following the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam. In 1980, tens of thousands of Cubans and Haitians were paroled into the U.S. during the Mariel Boatlift. In 2007, the Bush administration established the Cuban Family Reunification Program (CFRP) and in response to Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s invasion in 2022, the Biden administration announced a generous parole program called United for Ukraine (U4U). These examples demonstrate the U.S.’s longstanding commitment to ensuring access to lawful pathways for protection.
What is happening with the legal challenges to CHNV?
Despite parole’s long history, the CHNV program now faces litigation from Texas and 20 states challenging the Biden administration’s parole authority. The plaintiffs allege that the Biden administration has “effectively created a new visa program without the formalities of legislation from Congress” (Texas v. DHS). They have requested the Court to end the program and declare it unlawful. This could potentially have a negative impact on other similar parole programs, such as U4U, that have been critical in getting people to safety during urgent humanitarian situations.
In March 2023, seven U.S. citizens filed a motion to become parties to the litigation and defend their ability to sponsor their loved ones and others from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. Their motion to intervene was granted by the Court, allowing the interveners to join the legal battle that will determine the fate of the CHNV program and possibly, the administration’s parole authority. LIRS applauds these brave sponsors who have stepped up to advocate for a program that has already offered humanitarian protection to thousands of people.
What is LIRS doing to support the program during the litigation?
Our mission to stand with and advocate for migrants and refugees compels LIRS to provide assistance to migrants who seek reunification with loved ones and safety in the U.S. through programs like CHNV. Therefore, LIRS has filed an amicus brief in support of the interveners in the litigation. We urge the Biden administration to work with the interveners to defend the CHNV parole program.
What can I do to support Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans?
When you donate to LIRS’s Welcome Centers, you support CHNV recipients and other asylum seekers.