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Immigrants related to military members won't be deported

Military personnel with undocumented immigrant family in South Carolina and across the country can now rest a little easier. With the proposed immigration bill languishing in Congress, the prospect of family members being deported while troops are deployed was a constant worry for many military families. But now, a White House memorandum delineates a new policy: Spouses, children and parents of active-duty members of the armed forces will be eligible for a "parole in place," authorizing them to remain in the U.S., along with the possibility of applying to become lawful permanent residents.

Military families' cause for concern was real; undocumented immigrants generally are required to leave the country to obtain whatever visas they may have applied for, whether through marriage or other family relation. But they may then be barred from returning to the U.S. for years. In the face of this legal Catch-22, an unknown number of immigrants have had no official status, and their legal existence has been kept a secret. The new policy means that leaving the country is no longer required. These immigrants will be able to apply for work permits, but must renew their documents annually.

The military includes many Hispanic members, including not just citizens, but legal immigrants, and the new policy was greeted with enthusiasm by several Hispanic organizations. However, many feel that the president could extend the policy further by including others immigrants who are currently living in the U.S. without legal status.

The memorandum had been long-anticipated and comes at the end of three years of deliberations by the Department of Homeland Security. Administration officials clarified that the new rules do not require that Congress establish any new legal immigrant status, as they derive from currently existing statutes and are "intended to reduce the uncertainty our active-duty and retired military personnel face because of the immigration status of their family members," according to a spokesman for the department.

Source: nytimes.com, "Immigrants closely tied to military get reprieve" Julia Preston, Nov. 15, 2013

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