President Obama plans to use parole authority to go around normal rules and try to admit thousands of entrepreneurs to the U.S., the administration announced Friday, once again testing the limits of executive power on immigration.
Parole is usually used in specific humanitarian cases, such as temporarily admitting someone in dire need of medical treatment, but Mr. Obama argues it can also be used more broadly to try to boost the U.S. economy by letting wealthy entrepreneurs buy their way in.
Under his proposal, announced by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, would-be immigrants would have to show they own at least 15 percent of a business in the U.S. that started up in the last three years.
Parole entitles the entrepreneur to live and work in the U.S. for at least five years, and it is renewable as long as the government believes the business is successful.
“Once this rule is finalized, it will provide much-needed clarity for entrepreneurs who have been validated by experienced American funders, and who demonstrate substantial potential for rapid growth and job creation,” said Tom Kalil and Doug Rand, two White House officials, in a web post describing the new program.
They said immigrant entrepreneurs have been central to the American economy, and said they hope this program is part of that tradition.
The new program is part of the long list of executive actions Mr. Obama announced in November 2014, when he decided Congress was taking too long to act and he said he would move ahead without them.
Other parts of the 2014 actions included refusing to deport most illegal immigrants, trying to streamline the legal immigration process and granting work permits to about 5 million illegal immigrants. That last action has been halted by the federal courts, which have ruled Mr. Obama broke the law.
It’s unclear whether anyone would have the ability to sue to try to stop the entrepreneur program.
Parole is not considered a legal immigration status. It is available both to those living abroad and to those already in the U.S. — though whether that includes illegal immigrants is unclear.
For now, the program is a proposal. The administration expects to finalize it by the end of Mr. Obama’s term in office.
USCIS, which will administer the program along with other agencies in the Homeland Security Department, estimated nearly 3,000 entrepreneurs, and more than 3,000 spouses and children, will qualify each year.
The key legal question is whether the parole authority Congress has granted the president is broad enough to cover this type of program.
Parole is supposed to be used on a case-by-case basis and to apply in cases of humanitarian need or where the individual is deemed to be a significant public benefit.
But the administration couldn’t point to any case where parole had been used to gain entry to the mainland U.S. strictly on future economic prospects. The closest parallel was a 2009 grant of parole to Russians and Chinese to work in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.