Many armed service members leave spouses, children and parents behind when they are stationed overseas. While fighting for our country, military personnel still worry about their loved ones’ well-being back home. For a spouse, parent or child of an illegal immigrant, general concern is often compounded by the fear that family members will be deported, with the service member stuck in a foreign country unable to do anything to help.
This is the nightmare Pfc. Guillermo Garcia faced in 2012 when his wife was detained for a minor traffic violation. An illegal immigrant since her parents brought her to the United States as a four-year-old girl, Araceli Mercado Sanchez was turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which immediately initiated deportation proceedings. Garcia’s concern for his wife was matched only by his concern for his three-year-old daughter, whose mother was now at risk of being permanently barred from the country while her father remained stuck in Germany awaiting deployment.
Thankfully, Ms. Sanchez was soon released and Mr. Garcia was informed that his family was safe because of the parole in place (PIP) program. Through PIP, families of active duty members are protected from exactly this type of harrowing scenario.
In 2010, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) instituted the parole in place policy, which achieves the following:
- Permits admission into the United States of an eligible person who is already illegally in the country
- Renders a person who entered the United States illegally as eligible to apply for legal status
- Prevents deportation of the spouse, child or parent of an active service member
- Allows the family of an active service member to adjust status without leaving the United States, which would trigger the 3/10-year bar rule
DHS issued a policy memorandum in November of last year that clarifies the agency’s position on the issue of the parole in place program, including the guidelines military families can follow to exercise their rights.
Tampa Bay-based military families who are concerned about illegal status should speak with a qualified immigration attorney about the parole in place policies.