Thanksgiving once again got more meaningful for hundreds of families in the CNMI after U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced yesterday it will consider granting, on a case-by-case basis, extending the parole of immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, not just for one year but for two years or up to 2014.
A two-year grant of parole extension would allow these individuals to maintain legal status in the CNMI.
“This is the best Thanksgiving gift one could ever hope for,” Jocelyn Anastacio, 39, told Saipan Tribune upon hearing the news. Anastacio has two minor children born here-a 7-year-old son and an 8-year-old daughter who have never known any home other than the CNMI.
Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens that are residing in the CNMI with parole as of Nov. 25, 2012, will be able to apply with USCIS for extension of that parole.
Existing paroles of these immediate relatives are now set to expire on Dec. 31, 2012, with the exception of certain “stateless” individuals granted two-year paroles.
USCIS Director Alejandro N. Mayorkas, in a Nov. 21 letter to Delegate Gregorio Kilili Sablan (Ind-MP), said the U.S. Department of Homeland Security recognizes Sablan's H.R. 1466, which would provide a path to lawful permanent residence for most individuals covered by this parole policy.
“As you note, that legislation remains pending, but we understand your concern that this group will not be able to remain in the CNMI lawfully after Dec. 31, 2012,” Mayorkas told Sablan in a two-page letter. “USCIS may grant two-year extensions to individuals who have been granted parole under the current 'immediate relative' parole policy and who, based on a case-by-case review of their request for such extension, continue to warrant the favorable exercise of discretion.”
Sablan's H.R. 1466 seeks a grant of CNMI-only resident status for four groups of people, including immediate relatives of U.S. citizens who were on the islands as of May 8, 2008, and continuing to be on the islands.
Mayorkas said an extension will allow these individuals to lawfully remain in the CNMI, provided that they do not otherwise violate immigration laws, and to apply for extensions of employment (if previously granted) or an initial grant of employment authorization.
“We will continue to monitor processing times for employment authorizations to ensure timeliness,” Mayorkas told Sablan.
Sablan said now that President Barack Obama has been re-elected and announced that immigration will be at the top of his agenda, it is not surprising that his policy for U.S. citizen families is going to be extended for another two years.
“This will provide more time for a legislative solution and I am looking forward to getting back to work on fixing problems created by the CNRA [Consolidated Natural Resources Act],” he said.
Parole extension is not automatic.
Requests to extend parole and required documents must be submitted before the expiration of the current parole.
Parolees authorized to work must apply separately for an extension of their work authorization and will need to submit approved parole extension with request.
Keeping families together
Violy Dawana, 54, said yesterday her prayers were answered when USCIS made the announcement of a two-year parole extension. On Wednesday, Dawana said she was hoping and praying USCIS will extend their parole or she will be separated from her 16-year-old son who is still in 10th grade at Saipan Southern High School.
“This is one big thing to be really thankful for. This is good news,” Dawana said.
She said by 2014, her son would already graduate from high school and she also hopes to have a fulltime job by then. Dawana lost her job because of the economic uncertainties.
“If we have a two-year parole, that would really be a great help. And I don't need to be separated from my son,” she added.
Sablan, who has just been elected to a third two-year term as the CNMI's first and so far only nonvoting delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives, said it's important that families with some U.S. citizens and some non-U.S. citizens be allowed to remain together in their home in the CNMI.
“We can't afford any more population loss,” he said. “It's important that we keep working to make sure that employers always hire qualified U.S. workers when they are available. It's important to make sure that our hotels and other employers have a sufficient number of workers so that our economy can start growing again.”
Sablan said he is grateful to Mayorkas, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, and President Obama for allowing these CNMI families to “continue to remain together.”
Mavine M., 36, said yesterday she's relieved to hear the news of a two-year parole extension consideration.
“Once I renew my parole valid for two more years and I apply for employment authorization document, more employers would be more willing to hire us,” said the mother of a 5-year-old and a 1-year-old.
Had USCIS not announced an extension, she would have been forced to go back home to the Philippines and bring her minor U.S. citizen daughters with her.
Bonifacio Sagana, president of Dekada Movement, said USCIS' Thanksgiving announcement came at a most opportune time.
“People have one more thing to be thankful for,” said Sagana, whose parole will also be expiring on Dec. 31, 2012. He said employers would be more accommodating when they know applicants have at least a two-year parole as well as EAD.
Press secretary Angel Demapan, when asked for comment yesterday on USCIS' Thanksgiving announcement, said the Fitial administration maintains the position that “decisions made today must be made consistent with the laws of today.”
“It is still unclear why USCIS would take action proceeded on the basis that a new law would come into effect. In this case, not only did 'tomorrow' not come, but there seems a low likelihood that a law proposing a large influx of individuals who would otherwise not be permitted to enter U.S. soil will be passed,” Demapan told Saipan Tribune.
Gov. Benigno R. Fitial was poised to sue DHS last year when it announced a one-year parole to those covered by Sablan's H.R. 1466.
How to request for parole extension
USCIS, in a news release yesterday, said one must reside in the CNMI and be a legal spouse, unmarried child under 21, or parent (regardless of the age of your child) of a United States citizen, referred to as an “immediate relative,” to request for parole extension.
They must have been granted parole by Nov. 5, 2012, in order to follow the simplified extension request procedure.
The request for extension of parole must include:
-Letter from the immediate relative asking for an extension of parole (or from the U.S. citizen family member if the immediate relative is a child who is too young to complete the parole request package) and explain under what relationship one is requesting this (such as parent, spouse, child), and whether one has been arrested or convicted of any crime since their original request.
*Form G-325, Biographic Information, completed within the past 30 days;
-Copy of one's I-94;
-Copy of one's EAD one has received; and
-Copy of one's passport, only if a new one was issued since the person last applied for parole.
*USCIS said all these items must be sealed in one envelope and clearly write on the outside of the envelope:
-“PAROLE EXTENSION FOR IR of USC”
-The expiration date of your parole
USCIS said one can make an appointment for their parole extension request at the USCIS Office in Saipan or one can mail his request to:
Sirena Plaza, Suite 100
108 Hernan Cortez Avenue
Hagatna, Guam 96910
ATTN: PAROLE EXTENSION - CNMI
USCIS said there is no fee for this extension request.
It also recommends that one keeps a copy of all documents.
“This parole extension will allow the immediate relative to remain with the U.S. citizen lawfully in the CNMI, but parole does not authorize employment,” USCIS said.
It also said immediate relatives must, as before, obtain an Employment Authorization Document by submitting a Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization or obtain work authorization as a CW-1 CNMI-Only Transitional Worker or other employment-based nonimmigrant status under federal immigration law.
USCIS also said this announcement does not extend to anyone other than the immediate relatives of U.S. citizens.
“USCIS may grant parole on a case-by-case basis based on the individual circumstances presented and has exercised parole authority on a case-by-case basis in the CNMI since 2009 for special situations,” it added.
USCIS is the agency within DHS responsible for immigration benefits. For more information, visit USCIS website at www.uscis.gov/cnmi.
The expiration of the two-year parole extension also almost coincides with the Dec. 31, 2014, end of the transitional Commonwealth-only worker program in the CNMI. However, this transition period may be extended so that the CNMI would continue to have access to thousands of skilled foreign labor, mostly from Asian countries such as the Philippines, China, Thailand, Korea, and Bangladesh.