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US citizens sponsoring family members join effort to defend immigration program in court

By Priscilla Alvarez, CNN

US citizens who are sponsoring family members to come to the United States are seeking to intervene in a case over a key immigration program that’s been challenged in court by several Republican-led states.

At the center of the case is the so-called humanitarian parole program that provides a way for migrants from Nicaragua, Venezuela, Haiti, and Cuba seeking to come to the US to do so without taking the dangerous journey to the US-Mexico border. Among the requirements migrants must meet is obtaining a sponsor in the US.

“I want my family members to have the same chance I was given,” Valerie Laveus, a Florida schoolteacher, told CNN. Laveus, who’s one of the seven intervenors, is trying to bring her brother and nephew who are living in dangerous conditions in Haiti to the United States.

The use of the humanitarian parole program has become a key part of the Biden administration’s broader strategy to try to stem the flow of migrants to the US southern border. President Joe Biden has repeatedly touted the program and attributed a recent drop in border crossings to it, among other efforts.

“Since we created dedicated pathways in the United States, the number of migrants arriving on our southern border has dropped precipitously,” Biden said during his visit to Canada earlier this month.

But in late January, Republican-led states filed a lawsuit against the humanitarian parole program, arguing that the administration exceeded its authority in its use of the program and requesting the court block it. The Justice Department is expected to defend the program.

Now, US citizens who are sponsoring family members, among others, to come to the United States under the program are getting involved in the case to “defend their interests in the humanitarian and public benefits of the programs,” the filing says.

On Wednesday, the Justice Action Center — along with RAICES and UCLA’s Center for Immigration Law and Policy — submitted a court filing on behalf of the seven citizens.

“We wanted to illustrate how these programs are being used by ordinary Americans in the United States,” said Esther Sung, legal director at Justice Action Center.

“All of these programs, I think, are pretty unique in modern day immigration policy in that they allow the American public to interact with the immigration system in a way that people otherwise wouldn’t. I think our intervenors demonstrate the breadth and range of types of people who can and want to engage with the immigration system,” Sung added.

Laveus told CNN she was optimistic about the program when it was announced by the Biden administration after grappling with numerous delays in trying to obtain a visa for her relatives in Haiti.

“When [the program] came out, it gave us a big light of hope because we saw an opportunity for them to come and be here and be safe. It’s heart wrenching to have a part of you not safe,” she said.

Other intervenors include Francis Arauz, who’s trying to reunite with her Nicaraguan husband; Eric Sype who plans to sponsor a friend from Nicaragua; and Nan Langowitz who’s sponsoring family members of a Venezuelan human rights advocate.

The Biden administration, facing shifting migration patterns in the Western hemisphere, has increasingly relied on parole to admit eligible migrants to the United States and drive down border crossings.

The US has committed to accepting up to 30,000 migrants per month from Nicaragua, Cuba, Haiti, and Venezuela — who have been arriving in larger numbers — under the parole program, while turning back those who cross the border unlawfully under a Covid-era border restriction.

“Let me assure you that we are indeed trying to prevent unlawful entries at our southern border,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told lawmakers Wednesday during a House panel hearing, calling the humanitarian parole program “extraordinarly successful.”

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