McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Migrants from four Central and South American countries who already have applied for U.S. visas might be able to jumpstart their parole process into the United States through a new family reunification program launched by the Department of Homeland Security.

The Family Reunification Parole program, announced Friday, is for qualifying migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Colombia.

They must already have applied for a visa to join their family, who must be a U.S. citizen or a green card holder in the United States. And they must not illegally cross into other countries from their homeland during this visa process.

This is part of the Biden administration’s new legal pathways programs that are being expanded under Title 8 to legally accept migrants into the United States and to avoid a crush at the Southwest border.

Hundreds of migrants illegally crossed the U.S. border into Brownsville, Texas, on May 5, prior to the end of Title 42. Under a new family reunification parole program, qualifying migrants must not leave their home countries during the visa process. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report File Photo)

“These new processes promote family unity and provide lawful pathways consistent with our laws and our values,” Homeland Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement. “The expansion of safe, orderly, and lawful pathways, combined with strong enforcement, is effective in reducing dangerous, irregular migration to the United States.”

‘Already in the pipeline’

But there are questions about how many migrants will actually qualify for this new program, how quickly they will be admitted into the United States, and how much it will reduce irregular migration on the border

Aaron Reichlin-Melnick is policy director for the nonprofit American Immigration Council, based in Washington, D.C. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report)

“The new parole programs created by the Department of Homeland Security apply only to individuals from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Colombia, who have already had an immigrant visa petition filed on the basis of a U.S. citizen, or lawful permanent resident family member approved already. So these are people who are already in the pipeline to come to the United States on an immigrant visa. And this program allows them to come to the United States earlier, rather than have to wait for potentially years, which is the case for people who are stuck in immigrant visa backlogs,” Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy director for the nonprofit American Immigration Council, told Border Report Tuesday.

“But it’s unclear how many people who already have an immigrant visa approved would be coming to the border instead to seek asylum. It’s certainly possible that some people who would choose to migrate could have this pathway available to them. But I don’t expect it to be a significant number of people,” he said.

Work visas

Under the program, the State Department will issue invitations to the petitioning U.S. citizen or legal U.S. resident on a “case by case basis,” according to a DHS statement.

Parole is temporary, up to three years, and based “upon a demonstration of urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit, as well as a demonstration that the beneficiary warrants a favorable exercise of discretion,” DHS says.

Qualifying migrants will be issued work visas while in the United States.

Most are expected to be adults, as minor children of U.S. citizens already qualify for rapid entry visas into the United States under immediate entry family visas. However, adult children of U.S. citizens over the age of 21 do not qualify.

Minor children of green-card holders also could be paroled into the United States via this new program, as Reichlin-Melnick says they do not qualify for automatic visas.

“Generally speaking, we’re looking at people who are adults whose family members in the United States have filed for an immigrant visa for them and that visa has been approved. But crucially, just because you’ve had your visa approved doesn’t mean you’re able to come here. There are lengthy backlogs that cause some people to wait years and years while they go through the immigrant visa process,” he said.

Just because you’ve had your visa approved doesn’t mean you’re able to come here.”

Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, American Immigration Council

Currently, there are over 2.3 million backlogged asylum cases in the U.S. immigration system, according to Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse of Syracuse University, which tracks all immigration cases.

This year, the Biden administration has rolled out several parole programs for migrants from different Latin American countries, including Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and for Haitians.

On Tuesday, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, criticized the parole programs on the floor of the U.S. Senate, saying the Biden administration’s “policies have been a demonstrable, abject failure.”

He accused President Joe Biden of trying to inflate lower Southwest border apprehension numbers by not including the thousands who are paroled into the United States every month via special programs.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. (Nexstar File Photo/Phil Prazan)

“This is another way of hiding the ball or cooking the books to make it look like the situation at the border has vastly improved when it has not,” Cornyn said. “Three hundred and sixty-thousand individuals from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela have been subtracted from that top-line number, because what was illegal is now, due to this sleight of hand by the Biden administration, presumably legal.”

DHS reported a 25% drop in migrant encounters on the Southwest border in May, compared to May 2022.

This came after the lifting on May 11 of Title 42, the public health order that since March 2020 had prevented migrants from claiming asylum at the border.