DACA Recipients Can’t Exploit an Immigration Law to Gain Pathway to Citizenship

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will more closely scrutinize advance parole requests from DACA participants, according to new guidance issued on August 24.  The guidance closes an Obama administration policy that thwarted our immigration laws and put
Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients on a path towards citizenship.

According to USCIS, the agency will only grant advance parole to DACA participants on a case-by-case basis for “urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit.” Circumstances that could warrant the granting of advance parole include travel to support a national security interest of the United States, travel to support federal law enforcement interests, travel to obtain life-sustaining medical treatment not available in the United States, or travel needed to support the immediate safety, well-being or care of an immediate relative.  The guidance also states that even if the DACA requester meets these requirements, USCIS may still deny the advance parole request.

Advance parole is an administratively created tool that allows an illegal alien to leave the United States with the promise of being “paroled” back into the country when they return.  It allows those who are residing illegally in our country to circumvent provisions in our immigration laws that would normally bar their readmission after leaving. 

By granting the DACA recipient advance parole, USCIS has now allowed that individual to enter the country legally, thus allowing the DACA recipient to change their illegal status into a legal one.  At that point, they can apply for a green card while in the United States instead of being required to go back to their country to wait.

Generally, aliens who have been residing in the country illegally for long period of time simply cannot return to the country if they leave. Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA) Section 212(a)(9)(B) bars the admission of aliens who have been illegally present in the U.S. between six months and a year for three years; it also bars the admission of aliens who have been illegally present in the U.S. for over a year for ten years. (INA § 212(a)(9)(B)) But, by paroling them into the country, the 3- and 10-year bars do not apply. It is a backdoor to permanent residency.

The Obama administration did require advance parole for DACA participants to travel outside the United States. If, on or after August 15, 2012, they traveled without first receiving advance parole, their departure would automatically terminate their deferred action under DACA.

However, this new guidance is a major shift in the right direction from the Obama years. Since Congress rejected mass amnesty legislation, the Obama administration abused the advance parole program as it applied to DACA recipients. During the Obama years, USCIS would grant advance parole for educational, humanitarian or employment purposes. According to the Obama-run USCIS, educational purposes included, but weren’t limited to, a semester abroad or academic research. This greatly expanded the number of DACA recipients able to get advance parole and eventually a green card.

In fact, in response to a congressional inquiry, the Obama USCIS admitted it was putting DACA participants on a path towards citizenship which allowed several Southern California universities to assist DACA students to exploit our immigration laws.  These educational institutions created “study abroad programs” for DACA students to get advance parole to essentially visit their families before returning to the U.S. with lawful status.

The new USCIS guidelines issued on August 24 ensure that DACA participants will no longer be able to use advance parole as a tool for gaining a path to citizenship. 

About Author


Shari Rendall brings to the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) over 15 years of experience in government relations and grassroots advocacy. In her former position, Shari led the legislation department in coordinating lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill and briefing congressional and administration staff on a wide range of issues. She has also been responsible for grassroots communications and helping state associations devise their legislative strategies. She began her time in D.C. working on Capitol Hill in the office of former Sen. Bob Smith (R-New Hampshire) as a Legislative Aide.