White House weighs immigration relief for spouses of US citizens

By Thomson Reuters Apr 22, 2024 | 11:54 AM

By Ted Hesson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House is weighing ways to provide temporary legal status and work permits to immigrants in the U.S. illegally who are married to American citizens, three sources familiar with the matter said on Monday, a move that could energize some Democrats ahead of the November elections.

Democratic lawmakers and advocacy groups have pressured Democratic President Joe Biden to take steps to protect immigrants in the country illegally as Biden simultaneously considers executive actions to reduce illegal border crossings.

Immigration has emerged as a top voter concern, especially among Republicans ahead of the Nov. 5 election pitting Biden against his Republican predecessor, Donald Trump. Trump has said Biden’s less restrictive policies have led to a rise in illegal immigration.

The White House in recent months has considered the possibility of executive actions to block migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border if illegal crossings reach a certain threshold, sparking criticism from some Democrats and advocates.

The Biden administration also has examined the possible use of “parole in place” for spouses of U.S. citizens, the sources said, requesting anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

The temporary status would provide access to work permits and potentially a path to citizenship. No actions are imminent or finalized, the sources said.

The Wall Street Journal first reported the possible moves. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

An estimated 1.1 million immigrants in the U.S. illegally are married to U.S. citizens, data by advocacy organization FWD.us shows.

A group of 86 Democrats sent a letter to Biden and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas last year urging them to protect spouses of U.S. citizens and create a family reunification process for those outside the country.

(Reporting by Ted Hesson in Washington; Editing by Richard Chang)