The Protect Patriot Spouses Act (H.R. 5593) would allow military and veteran spouses who entered the United States without documentation to remain in the U.S. while they pursue lawful permanent resident (LPR) status. Rep. Darren Soto (D-Florida) introduced the bill on April 24, 2018 with 12 original cosponsors. The bill would prevent the deportation of potentially thousands of military and veteran spouses.
What Does the Bill Do?
- A military or veteran spouse who entered the U.S. without documentation would be deemed to have been “inspected and admitted” legally into the U.S. and eligible to adjust to LPR status without leaving the U.S. if he or she is or was the spouse of a U.S. citizen who:
- Serves or has served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces or in a reserve component of the U.S. Armed Forces; and
- If discharged or released form service in the Armed Forces, was discharged or released under honorable conditions.
- The military service member or veteran must petition for an immediate relative visa by filing Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in the same way that other U.S. citizens petition for a visa for their spouses.
- Military or veteran spouses who meet the bill’s requirements also would be exempt from the three-and ten-year bars for re-entering the U.S. and no longer considered “inadmissible” under INA Sec. 212(a)(6)(A) (entering without inspection or parole) and 212(a)(7)(A) (not having a valid unexpired immigrant visa or other entry document at the time of the application for admission).
Why is the Bill Important?
- Currently, a person who entered the U.S. without documentation and is married to a military service member or veteran who is a U.S. citizen cannot pursue LPR (green card holder) status unless they leave the U.S. and present him-or-herself to a consular post abroad.
- In addition, under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) 212(a)(9)(B), any individual who entered the U.S. without documentation and stayed in the U.S. without legal status is subject to a three-or ten-year bar from re-entering the U.S.
- Military and veteran spouses without documentation who leave the U.S. to pursue LPR status are unable to re-enter the U.S. because they are deemed “inadmissible” and subject to the three-and ten-year bars.
- USCIS may currently use its discretion to grant “parole in place” to military and veteran spouses on a case-by-case basis for “urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit,” which allows military and veteran spouses to remain in the U.S. and potentially attain LPR status (Adjudicator’s Field Manual Chapter 21.1(C)(1)). This policy is discretionary and not required by law. USCIS generally grants such parole in one-year increments, with extensions as appropriate. The Protect Patriot Spouses Act would allow military and veteran spouses the ability to remain in the U.S. and potentially adjust to LPR status.
- As many as 11,800 military services members in the U.S. Armed Forces are currently dealing with a spouse or family member who is facing deportation.
- Elia Crawford, the wife of an Army 7th Special Forces Group veteran, is potentially one of many spouses that the bill could permanently protect from deportation. She crossed into the U.S. without documentation in 1999 after Hurricane Mitch killed thousands in Honduras, her home country. She married Retired Sgt. 1st Class Bob Crawford in 2001, and they have two U.S.-citizen children ages 12 and 9. Elia did not qualify for USCIS’ “parole in place” policy because U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) started removal proceedings against her. Bob Crawford noted that the family has “been fighting for years” to get Elia legal status and that she “supported me the whole time I was gone…[b]ehind every good soldier is a good woman.” In 2018, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) offered to drop the deportation proceedings against Elia and allowed Elia to stay in the U.S., but she may still unable to become a lawful permanent resident due to the 3 and 10 year bars.