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Biden to announce a plan to give protection from deportation to certain migrants

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

President Biden is set to announce a plan to protect hundreds of thousands of people who are living in the U.S. without authorization from deportation.

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Yeah, the plan will apply to the spouses of American citizens and will offer a pathway to legal residency, and it comes just a couple of weeks after the Biden administration issued a directive to restrict asylum claims at the southern border.

FADEL: NPR's immigration correspondent, Sergio Martínez-Beltrán, joins us with more. Good morning.

SERGIO MARTÍNEZ-BELTRÁN, BYLINE: Hi. Good morning.

FADEL: So what is this new plan, exactly?

MARTÍNEZ-BELTRÁN: Yeah, so it is centered around a program called parole in place.

FADEL: OK.

MARTÍNEZ-BELTRÁN: That's the mechanism the Biden administration is using to provide relief to about 500,000 migrants already in the country without authorization, but who have been married to a U.S. citizen. The parole in place would prevent them from being deported. They'd also get a work permit, and three years to apply for permanent residency. They could also potentially become citizens.

FADEL: So what does this mean for people who would benefit from this new plan?

MARTÍNEZ-BELTRÁN: I mean, I think about people like Alejandro Paz Medrano, who lives in Pennsylvania. He's originally from Mexico and has lived in the U.S. for nearly 20 years, eight of those while married to his wife, Erin, a U.S. citizen.

ALEJANDRO PAZ MEDRANO: (Speaking Spanish).

MARTÍNEZ-BELTRÁN: Medrano says every day he kisses Erin before going to work, he never knows if that would be their last kiss. Again, he's been in the country without authorization all this time, and he says that's influenced all aspects of his married life. For instance, the couple decided to not have children because of the fear of Medrano getting deported, but getting parole in place could change his life. He would be able to drive without fear of getting pulled over, and get a stable job.

FADEL: Wow. What other criteria do people need to meet in order to qualify?

MARTÍNEZ-BELTRÁN: So they must have lived in the U.S. for at least 10 years. The other main criteria is that they had to be married to a U.S. citizen as of yesterday, so no, mixed-status couples cannot run to the courthouse now and get married to qualify for this program. Also, this parole in place will be granted on a case-by-case basis, meaning many people might not qualify, says Erica Schommer. She teaches law at the St. Mary's University's Immigration and Human Rights Clinic in San Antonio, Texas.

ERICA SCHOMMER: This is not some sort of blanket amnesty that's just going to automatically, overnight, convert a whole bunch of people into residents or citizens.

MARTÍNEZ-BELTRÁN: And to her point, according to the plan, people who have been deported and are back in the U.S. will not qualify for a parole in place.

FADEL: And when will this plan be implemented?

MARTÍNEZ-BELTRÁN: So the Biden administration, Leila, says they hope to have the program in place by the end of the summer.

FADEL: Where does this new plan fit into President Biden's broader approach to immigration during the election, which so far has seemed to go the opposite direction of this plan, much more restrictive?

MARTÍNEZ-BELTRÁN: Right. I mean, today's policy is the latest in a string of recent announcements related to rules, or policies, aiming to curb the high number of unauthorized crossings at the southern border. He's severely restricted asylum. He's expedited the removal of migrants who are in the country illegally, and that has prompted backlash from immigrant rights groups who, in the past, have supported him. So this policy, protecting some migrants, seems to have pleased some of these groups - at least for now - but like other immigration-related programs, it is expected to be challenged in court.

FADEL: NPR's Sergio Martínez-Beltrán. Thank you so much for your reporting.

MARTÍNEZ-BELTRÁN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Sergio Martínez-Beltrán
Sergio Martínez-Beltrán (SARE-he-oh mar-TEE-nez bel-TRAHN) is an immigration correspondent based in Texas.