Miami Herald

Florida and other states sue feds over parole program for Cubans, Haitians, Venezuelan­s and Nicaraguan­s

- BY SYRA ORTIZ-BLANES sortizblan­es@miamiheral­ Syra Ortiz Blanes: @syraob

Florida sued the Department of Homeland Security and its leadership on Tuesday over a humanitari­an parole program that the Biden administra­tion hopes will reduce irregular migration from Cuba, Haiti, Venezuela and Nicaragua, arguing that it is a violation of federal immigratio­n law and an overreach of executive power.

“The Plaintiff States … face substantia­l, irreparabl­e harms from the Department’s abuse of its parole authority, which allow potentiall­y hundreds of thousands of additional aliens to enter each of their already overwhelme­d territorie­s,” says the lawsuit, which was filed by the government­s of 20 states.

At the heart of a lawsuit is a new parole process set up for Venezuelan­s, Cubans, Haitians and Nicaraguan­s that allows nationals from these countries to apply for humanitari­an parole for as long as two years. The migrants can be approved to live and work in the United States as long as they pass medical and background checks, have a financial sponsor in the country, and pay for their airfare.

The legal challenge to the parole program comes as South Florida and the Florida Keys experience a significan­t surge in migrant landings, especially by Cubans. On Sunday, the U.S. Coast Guard intercepte­d a boat with nearly 400 Haitians near the Bahamas.

The Republican-led states involved in the lawsuit, filed in federal court in Texas, argue that Homeland Security, which oversees U.S. immigratio­n agencies, effectivel­y circumvent­ed Congress and created a de facto visa program without legislativ­e approval. They also claim the program runs beyond the limited circumstan­ces in which Homeland Security is allowed to employ humanitari­an parole under federal law.

The states suing are Florida, Texas, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho,

Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississipp­i, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming.

The lawsuit argues that in Florida’s case, the state will be harmed because it costs the state millions of dollars and “significan­t state resources,” such as public education, healthcare, services for domesticvi­olence victims, and correction­al facilities.

“The presence of these illegal aliens in Florida … violates the State’s quasisover­eign interest in its territory and the welfare of its citizens,” the lawsuit states.

“Biden’s new solution to his self-created crisis at the border is to allow illegal immigrants to travel directly into the interior of the country without crossing the southern border — in direct violation of federal law,” Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody said in a statement Tuesday.

Listed as defendants are Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas; U.S. Citizenshi­p and Immigratio­n Services director Ur Jaddou; Customs and Border Protection Acting Commission­er Troy Miller; and Immigratio­n and Customs Enforcemen­t Director Tae Johnson.

The Department of Homeland Security has argued that the program is a way to bring some order to what the agency has described as a broken immigratio­n system as well as reduce the use of dangerous migration routes such as the Florida Straits and the Darien Gap, the unruly no-man’s-land on the Panama-Colombia border.

Up to 30,000 people a month from Venezuela, Nicaragua, Haiti and Cuba can enter the United States under the initiative. Already, the first applicatio­ns for Cubans and Haitians have been approved, a surprising­ly quick turnaround for the federal government. Meanwhile, Mexico has agreed to take back 30,000 people a month who come to the U.S. border without proper documentat­ion.

The parole program was first announced for Venezuelan­s in October, and federal officials have said it has resulted in a drastic drop of immigratio­n encounters with people from the South American nation. Then, in early January, the Biden administra­tion announced it would create similar pathways for Cubans, Nicaraguan­s and Haitians.

Customs and Border Protection recorded more than 224,000 encounters nationwide with Cuban nationals in fiscal year 2022, according to federal statistics. Before the parole


program was announced, that influx showed no signs of stopping. Since October, the agency has registered nearly 110,000 encounters with citizens from the island.

Meanwhile, CBP had recorded 56,596 encounters with Haitians during fiscal year 2022, a spike from 48,727 the previous fiscal year year; 164,600 encounters with Nicaraguan­s, up from 50,722 during that same time period; and 189,520 encounters with Venezuelan­s, an increase from 50,499.

At a Jan. 19 meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Mayorkas said “encounters from targeted countries have dropped significan­tly” following the establishm­ent of the parole program this month. He also recently warned on his Twitter page that any Cubans or Haitians who tried to enter the United States by sea would not be eligible for the process, a warning that comes amid a surge in migrants landing in the Florida Keys.

 ?? SUSAN WALSH AP | Jan. 5, 2023 ?? Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has said ‘encounters from targeted countries have dropped significan­tly’ following the establishm­ent of the parole program.
SUSAN WALSH AP | Jan. 5, 2023 Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has said ‘encounters from targeted countries have dropped significan­tly’ following the establishm­ent of the parole program.

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