A key portion of President Joe Biden’s immigration policy that grants parole to thousands of people from Central America and the Caribbean was set to be debated in a Texas federal courtroom beginning Thursday.
Under the humanitarian parole program, up to 30,000 people are being allowed each month to enter the United States from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela.
Texas is leading a lawsuit filed by 21 Republican-leaning states to stop the program, arguing the Biden administration has overreached its authority. Other programs the administration has implemented to reduce illegal immigration also have faced legal challenges.
The parole program was started for Venezuelans in fall 2022 and then expanded in January. People taking part must apply online, arrive at an airport and have a financial sponsor in the United States. If approved, they can stay for two years and get a work permit.
The program has “been tremendously successful at reducing migration to the southwest border,” attorneys for the U.S. Justice Department, which is representing the federal government in the lawsuit, wrote in court documents.
A trial on the states’ lawsuit is being presided over by U.S. District Judge Drew Tipton in Victoria, Texas. Tipton, a Donald Trump appointee, has previously ruled against the Biden administration on who to prioritize for deportation.
The trial was scheduled to last two days and be livestreamed from Victoria to a federal courtroom in Houston. Tipton was expected to issue a ruling at a later date.
In court documents, Texas and the other states have called the Biden administration’s program an “extreme example” of not enforcing immigration laws that require it to “grant parole only on a case-by-case basis for significant public benefit or urgent humanitarian reasons.”
While the Republican states’ lawsuit is objecting to the use of humanitarian parole for migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela, it hasn’t raised any concerns for its use to grant entry to tens of thousands of Ukrainians since Russia invaded that country.
Texas has also argued that the parole program causes financial harm because it has to provide services, including detention, educational, social services and driver’s license programs, to the paroled migrants.
Immigrant rights groups joined the legal proceedings on behalf of seven people who are sponsoring migrants. One of the sponsors was expected to testify during the trial.
The rights groups have defended the humanitarian parole program, saying it’s a safe pathway to the U.S. for desperate migrants who would otherwise be paying human smugglers and bogging down border agents. The program is also helping reduce the humanitarian crisis along the U.S.-Mexico border, the groups said.
As of the end of July, more than 72,000 Haitians, 63,000 Venezuelans, 41,000 Cubans and 34,000 Nicaraguans had been vetted and authorized to come to the U.S. through the parole program.