NPR Story
12:09 pm
Thu February 21, 2013

In The Southwest Who Gets Humanitarian Parole Is Decided By Border Agents

Humanitarian parole is a rare example of empathy in the black and white bureaucracy of immigration policies.

As defined by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Humanitarian Parole is “used sparingly to bring someone who is otherwise inadmissible into the United States for a temporary period of time due to a compelling emergency.”

Anyone can apply and there is no defined time for parole. A compelling emergency can be to attend a funeral or a child’s court hearings, or due to a family member in hospice.

But here’s the catch: in the Southwest there isn’t a clear example of who can get humanitarian parole.

When it comes to the border, whether an individual gets across into the United States is up to the discretion of the agent at the gate.

As the Los Angeles Times reports, the matter underscores the complicated relationship between the U.S. and Mexico. Without a set criteria failures like the Maria Sanchez case happen.

[Sanchez] crossed the border illegally as a teenager and settled in Galveston, Texas, where she worked three jobs — washing dishes, cleaning houses and waiting tables — and sent money to her parents.

Three years later, she met Luis Aguillon, 37, a welder born in Mexico and living in Galveston as a legal resident. In 2008, the couple had a daughter, Melissa.

In 2010, Sanchez was diagnosed with a spinal tumor, stopped working and was hospitalized in Houston.

In December, she was discharged to die in a Houston apartment with the help of hospice, and told Aguillon she wanted to see her parents.

"It was her last wish," he said.

Her parents applied for humanitarian parole twice in December, submitting a letter of support from hospice, before coming to the border bridge connecting Hidalgo and the Mexican city of Reynosa.

The Sanchezes and U.S. government officials differ on what happened next. Jose and Ninfa Sanchez say they were twice denied permission to cross the border without explanation.

Read the Los Angeles Times story: At U.S. border, an emergency pass that's not easy to get

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