An early Christmas gift for some

An early Christmas gift is how Precy Villafuerte, Violeta Dawana, and Jane Donesa described the decision of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to extend the humanitarian parole program to immediate relatives of U.S. citizens. USCIS announced yesterday extending the program, effective immediately until December 2018.

Only those who have already been granted humanitarian parole may apply to renew their respective statuses. Families under the program would have been separated since the parole was scheduled to expire on Dec. 31.

Those qualified to apply for the parole extension are the legal spouse, unmarried child under 21 years old, or a parent regardless of the age of the child. You must also be residing in the CNMI and have been previously granted parole.

Villafuerte said it was welcome news for IRs (immediate relative) like her as she had been waiting for word about her parole application.

“I applied in July and I’ve been praying every time that USCIS would finally grant my application. I had the same prayer last Thanksgiving. That’s why I’ve been checking our [mail] box but there’s no letter or any document from USCIS.”

“The last letter I received from them is it is still too early. I was a bit worried since it is already December and there’s been no word from USCIS. But I did not lose hope. Now, it will be a happy Christmas for us,” added Villafuerte, a single mother with a 10-year-old U.S. citizen child.

However, it would not be a joyous celebration of the holidays for everyone, she said, as some of her friends or people she knows had to leave the CNMI due to the CNMI-Only Transition Worker Nonimmigrant Visa program or CW1 numerical cap. She said it has been heartbreaking since they are forced to leave their children behind.

“It will be a sad Christmas for some. I feel sorry for some of my friends or people who I know who are CWs, because it is Christmas time and they have to leave their kids. Families should not be apart this time of the year,” said Villafuerte.

Like Villafuerte, Dawana is also waiting for the approval of her parole application. “Hopefully, USCIS had already sent it so we could receive our parole on time. There’s still hope, the extension would allow us to legally stay here in the CNMI.”

Having a parole document would also mean they could now apply for an Employment Authorization Document, giving one the chance to legally work in the Commonwealth. “I’m 58 years old but I can still work. Even if it is a part time job, I will take it.”

Dawana has a 20-year-old child and would be eligible to apply for a green card next year.

Jane Donesa, meanwhile, applied for parole so she could take care of her two kids who are 6 and 8 years old. She also recovered from an operation last year.

“I’m ready to apply for an EAD so I could also get a job. I’m happy with the news of the extension. I want to help my family here and in the Philippines since there are now a lot of opportunities here,” said Donesa.
 
Family is important

In a statement yesterday, Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) said that family unity has always been important to the Pacific culture. “That is why under Commonwealth immigration law, the immediate relatives of U.S. citizens were allowed to live here in the [CNMI], as were certain stateless persons born here but not granted citizenship in the Covenant.

“Because allowing these families to stay together was the Commonwealth immigration policy and because it is consistent with our cultural values, I have been an advocate for doing the same under federal law over the last eight years. The policy was put in place in 2011, has been renewed twice before, and this year I have been making the case with USCIS to extend it again.”

Sablan thanked USCIS director Leon Rodriguez for deciding to extend the parole program for two more years. “To the best of my understanding, there are fewer than 1,000 husbands, wives, children or parents and families affected by this humanitarian parole. These families were facing separation at the end of December. Now, they can stay together.”

“As I said two years ago, when director Rodriguez renewed this policy, I encourage all of our families who have some U.S. and some non-U.S. members to keep working toward obtaining U.S. permanent status.”

He added that the program has no guarantee of being offered in the future. “That advice is more important now than ever. Because even though this humanitarian parole policy has been continually renewed by the Obama administration, there is no guarantee that parole will continue to be offered in the future.”
 
USCIS requirements

USCIS released the following information on your request for parole extension: A letter from you, the immediate relative 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.

The letter must: Ask for an extension of parole; explain under what relationship you are requesting this parole (such as parent, spouse, child); and note whether you have been arrested or convicted of any crime since your last request.

Form G-325, Biographic Information that you completed within the past 30 days; a copy of your I-94; a copy of any EAD that you received; and a copy of your passport (only if a new one was issued since you last applied for parole).

There is no fee for this extension request. We recommend that you keep a copy of all documents.

Seal all the above items in one envelope and clearly write on the outside of the envelope: Your name, “PAROLE EXTENSION FOR IR of USC” and the expiration date of your current parole.

You can make an appointment for your parole extension request at the USCIS office on Saipan, or you can mail your request to: DHS-USCIS
ATTN: PAROLE EXTENSION – CNMI
770 East Sunset Boulevard, Suite 185
Barrigada, Guam 96913.

This parole extension will allow the immediate relative to lawfully remain with the U.S. citizen in the CNMI, but parole does not authorize employment.

Immediate relatives must, as before, obtain an EAD by submitting Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, or obtain work authorization as a CW-1 or in another employment-based nonimmigrant status under federal immigration law.

This does not extend to anyone other than the immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and certain “stateless” individuals. USCIS may grant parole on a case-by-case basis based on the individual circumstances and has exercised parole authority on a case-by-case basis in the CNMI since 2009 for special situations.

USCIS is the agency within the Department of Homeland Security that is responsible for immigration benefits.

Jon Perez | Reporter
Jon Perez began his writing career as a sports reporter in the Philippines where he has covered local and international events. He became a news writer when he joined media network ABS-CBN. He joined the weekly DAWN, University of the East’s student newspaper, while in college.

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