WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump, who has long been outspoken regarding his respect for the U.S. military and its personnel, is now looking to roll back a program that protects undocumented family members of active-duty troops from being deported, according to immigration attorneys.
According to NPR, attorneys who work with family members and loved ones of deployed soldiers are racing against the clock to submit applications for what is known as parole in place, after hearing that the program is "being terminated."
The parole in place program extends immigration protections to family members of all active-duty troops, selected and ready reserve individuals, and those who previously served and were not dishonorably discharged.
According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, parole in place is only available to military family members on a case-by-case basis, in one-year increments and under “urgent humanitarian reasons.”
The purpose of this program is to give military members peace of mind while serving, knowing that their undocumented families will be safe from deportation.
“What I’ve learned in the last week or so from multiple military and government attorneys is that the Trump administration plans to roll back the remaining military-related immigration benefits,” said Margaret Stock, an immigration attorney who represents recruits and veterans in deportation proceedings.
She said that various government lawyers have been notified that in the next 30 days “they’re going to remove these benefits and they won’t be available anymore.”
According to Stock, the NPR story only mentioned the benefits for active-duty personnel, but she says there is going to be a rollback of all of the immigration benefits available to active duty, National Guard, reserve and military veterans and their families as well.
For her and many others, not only does the change in policy not make any sense, it would negatively affect thousands of U.S. soldiers and their families, some of whom she represents.
“I have a client who’s a soldier in the Army, who’s about to be deployed to Africa, with Africa command, and she has a husband in the United States and a child, and her husband would’ve been eligible for benefits under the Obama administration’s policies,” said Stock.
“But under these new policies he’s not going to be eligible for benefits so he’s going to be facing deportation, while she’s deployed in Africa, and he’s supposed to be the one taking care of their baby.”
An email Stock said she obtained from a government lawyer who she knows personally read, “I am urging all attorneys who have clients eligible for PIP [parole in place] to do just that ASAP.”
It went on to say, “Time is no longer your client’s friend.”
Another email she obtained from a civilian attorney who she says works at the Pentagon said, “Yesterday the Baltimore Field Office told a young Marine’s wife that PIP was ‘being terminated’ in 30 days.”
Another government lawyer has urged immigration lawyers to “act quickly before the program is officially terminated next month,” according to NPR.
"I would advise clients that if they are eligible for [parole in place] to submit it ASAP," the government lawyer warned in a message obtained by NPR. "Wish there was better news to share. Big take-away is that no group is 'safe' any longer," the lawyer added.
So far, there has been no statement from the White House regarding the Trump administration’s interest in deprecating the parole in place program.
A spokesperson from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said in an email that “there is no new information to release at this time.”
Stock said the White House is fully aware of the “firestorm of criticism” that they’re going to get from implementing the rollbacks.
“They know they’re going to have to deal with the chaos, obviously someone is telling them to implement a policy that doesn’t make any sense other than it plays to the anti-immigrant crowd,” said Stock.
“They’re saying they’re not going to confirm it, kind of is confirmation that they’re doing it because they’re not denying it,” she added.
This story was reported from Los Angeles.