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Build Back Better bill wouldn’t parole criminal immigrants

Build Back Better bill wouldn’t parole criminal immigrants

Build Back Better bill wouldn’t parole criminal immigrants

An image showing a bare-chested, heavily tattooed man attacks the Build Back Better bill by claiming: 

“Build Back Illegal: ‘Parole’ amnesty for millions of criminal illegal aliens.”

The image, shared on Facebook, was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

The claim gives the misleading impression that people who entered the U.S. illegally and were convicted of crimes would be paroled and allowed to stay. But parole has a different meaning in immigration law, and the parole provisions of the bill as they’re currently written would not be available to people convicted of crimes in the U.S.

Claim by ‘America first’ group

The viral image alludes to members of criminal gangs. The photo of the man in the image appears to be cropped from a photo of three men that appears with articles about the MS-13 gang, which grew out of poor Los Angeles neighborhoods that housed many refugees from civil wars in El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua in the 1980s. In the United States, law enforcement officials have indicted MS-13 members for a wide range of crimes, including racketeering, murders, attempted murders, assaults, obstruction of justice, arson and conspiracy to distribute marijuana.

The image was shared by the Great American Movement in a post that urges people to tell their congressional representatives to oppose the Democratic-supported Build Back Better bill. The slogan of the group, which has 135,000 Facebook followers, is: “‘America First’ should not just be a political slogan. It should be a way of life for all Americans.”

Great American Movement’s Facebook page lists as its contact information, but that link did not lead to a working website when we checked it on Nov. 23. 

We’re fact-checking the claim, made Nov. 15, based on the version of the Build Back Better Act that passed the House on Nov. 19. The bill could be changed in the Senate.

Misleading use of ‘parole’ and ‘criminal’

In the criminal context, the word “parole” typically is understood as the early release from prison of a person convicted of a crime who must abide by certain conditions after release.

But the term “parole” is also used in immigration law to describe a process that gives people who are in the U.S. without legal authorization temporary permission to stay. 

The permission is granted for humanitarian reasons or other reasons in the public interest, said Washington University law professor emeritus Stephen Legomsky, former chief counsel of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in the Department of Homeland Security.

Section 60001 of the Build Back Better bill would give a form of this parole to some 7 million immigrants who are in the country without permission, protecting them from deportation and formally admitting them into the United States if they file an application, pay a fee and pass criminal and security background checks. 

To be eligible, the immigrants must have arrived before Jan. 1, 2011, and have lived here ever since. If approved, they could get work permits that would be valid for five years and could be renewed one time for another five years, expiring on Sept. 30, 2031.

People convicted of crimes in the U.S. would not be eligible for immigration parole under this provision, said Theresa Cardinal Brown, managing director of immigration and cross-border policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center. 

The wording of the claim in the post may suggest that simply living in the U.S. without permission makes a person a criminal. But that’s not necessarily the case. 

Entering the U.S. without permission is a crime — though it’s not always prosecuted on its own — but living in the United States without authorization is a civil violation, not a criminal offense.

Many people who are in the U.S. without authorization entered legally but committed a civil violation by overstaying their visas or violating their conditions of admission, such as by working without authorization or dropping out of school, Cardinal Brown said. 

Under the bill, people who entered illegally, or entered legally but have overstayed, would be eligible for parole, she said, but convicted criminals would not.

Legomsky said that while “almost every serious crime will disqualify you from the parole program under this bill, illegal entry will not.”

Our ruling

A viral image shared on Facebook alluded to members of criminal gangs and stated that the Build Back Better bill provides “‘parole’ amnesty for millions of criminal illegal aliens.”

The post gives the impression that people who entered the U.S. illegally and committed crimes in the U.S. would be eligible for parole. But parole means something different in immigration law: temporary permission to stay for people who are in the country without permission. 

Under the bill, immigration parole would be available to people who entered the country legally or illegally before 2011, but not to people convicted of crimes.

We rate the post Mostly False.