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World Relief Applauds New Pro-Marriage Immigration Policy Change, Urges Congressional Action

Today, President Biden announced a new administrative policy designed to benefit married couples in situations where an undocumented immigrant is married to a U.S. citizen and has been present in the United States for at least a decade. World Relief is encouraged by this new policy by the executive branch, while continuing to urge Congress to act toward broader and more durable pro-family immigration policy changes.

“As a Christian organization that believes that God has ordained marriage and the family unit, World Relief celebrates policies that keep marriages together and allow children to be raised, whenever possible, by both parents,” said Aerlande Wontamo, Senior Vice President of US Programs for World Relief.

“While we are grateful for this step, this executive action, enacted by one president, could easily be undone by a future president, and may also face legal challenges, so we believe the better solution is for Congress to act in a bipartisan way to address this and other elements of our immigration laws that separate families,” added Matthew Soerens, Vice President of Advocacy and Policy for World Relief.

Under existing law, an immigrant who is married to a U.S. citizen is generally eligible to adjust status to Lawful Permanent Resident within the United States only if he or she “was inspected and admitted or paroled.” If the foreign-born spouse was not previously admitted or paroled into the U.S., the only option in many cases is for the non-citizen spouse to return to a country of origin, but the departure from the United States often triggers a ten-year bar to lawful re-entry under a separate law. To address this challenge, this new policy relies upon the parole authority that Congress has given the executive branch.

“Through World Relief’s network of immigration legal service providers, we encounter married couples on a regular basis whom we have to inform of the difficult news that the fact that an individual is married to a U.S. citizen does not necessarily mean that they can live together lawfully in the United States,” observed Robyn Brown, World Relief’s Director of Immigration Programs. “In some cases, before the change announced today, a lawfully-married couple may be required to either live apart from one another or live abroad — outside of the U.S. citizen’s homeland — for a decade or more, which sometimes means that their children grow up apart from at least one parent. I’m hopeful that this new policy will keep more families together.”

The policy announced today will allow the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to individually consider requests and grant “parole” to individuals who pay all applicable fees, pass a criminal background check, and demonstrate that they are both legally and legitimately married to a U.S. citizen and that they have been present in the U.S. for at least ten years. 

It is important that individuals and couples who believe they may benefit from this change consult with an experienced immigration attorney or a legal representative who is accredited by the U.S. Department of Justice to assess their eligibility and to determine the current status of this new proposal, which the Department of Homeland Security has said will begin “later this summer” but which is not immediately available. A map of World Relief offices and church-based affiliate sites offering accredited immigration legal services is here, and a roster of all Department of Justice-recognized organizations is here.

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