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Immigration parole has added 450,000 workers
to industries with critical labor shortages

Humanitarian parole likely accounted for about a quarter of labor shortage decreases in 2022

A man and a woman in lab coats look at a computer.
Viktoria Taranto, a Ukranian war veteran and refugee, works with Dermatologist Dr. Navin Arora, at Borealis Dermatology in Garden City, New York.
The Biden Administration’s recent use of immigration parole authority has also had the unintended effect of helping the U.S. economy address severe labor shortages.

The Biden Administration’s recent use of immigration parole authority has proven not only a compassionate response to people seeking safety and refuge, but has also had the unintended effect of helping the U.S. economy address severe labor shortages in 2022.

Immigration parole authorizes government officials under the guidance of the Administration to allow, case by case, individuals to temporarily enter the U.S. and receive temporary protection. This is particularly useful in light of ongoing restrictive policies, such as Title 42 or the proposed asylum ban, which make entering the U.S. and applying for relief nearly impossible for many people seeking asylum. Immigration parole is a timely, legal immigration tool that has let the U.S. extend urgent humanitarian relief to individuals fleeing some of the world’s most dangerous situations, arriving by air or walking by foot to seek safety for themselves and their families in the U.S.

Immigration parole is granted if immigration authorities determine there are “urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit.” Paroled individuals may enter the U.S. legally, be protected from deportation, and, in certain circumstances, can apply for work authorization. In recent years, the Biden Administration has exercised parole authority to admit some individuals fleeing war and dangerous conditions. After the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, Operation Allies Welcome was responsible for the rapid relocation of more than 75,000 Afghans in 2021 and 2022. Families and communities across the U.S. have welcomed Afghan families with generosity. Similarly, in 2022, the Uniting for Ukraine parole policy permitted some 115,000 Ukrainians to enter the U.S. after they were sponsored by U.S. individuals at their own expense. The U.S. also paroled some individuals arriving at the southwest border seeking asylum, but who were ineligible to enter the U.S. because of Title 42.

Paroled adults entering the U.S. workforce by the start of 2023 contributed to about 25% of the decrease, on aggregate, in total job openings in these shorthanded industries.

While parole is intended to provide relief to people seeking safety, it also benefits the U.S. as these adults bring an array of talents and skills that they can contribute to U.S. communities. Thousands of carpenters, medical workers, and manufacturers, among many other skilled individuals, have been admitted into the U.S. through immigration parole in recent months. With work authorizations available through immigration parole, these skills, among others held by those granted parole, can be used to contribute to U.S. communities in a variety of vocations. New FWD.us estimates show that people recently granted parole—largely from Afghanistan, Ukraine, and Latin American countries—have had a profoundly positive impact on our economy, particularly at a time when worker shortages have contributed to soaring inflation. These results affirm that smart immigration policy can provide vital relief, promote order, and benefit the U.S. all at the same time.

FWD.us estimates some 450,000 paroled adults who entered the U.S. in 2021 and 2022 are likely working in industries with labor shortages, with some of the highest numbers occurring in construction (93,000), accommodation and food services (70,000), retail trade (53,000), professional and business services (51,000), manufacturing (49,000), transportation, warehousing, and utilities (49,000), and healthcare (31,000). With about two open positions for every unemployed person in the U.S. during most of 2022, these individuals have met an economic need that will likely persist for years, all without displacing American workers.

Estimated number of paroled adults during 2021 and 2022, by likely industry of employment

Accommodation and food services70,000
Retail trade53,000
Professional and business services51,000
Transportation, warehousing, utilities49,000
Healthcare and social assistance31,000
Other services24,000
Other industries30,000

Sources: FWD.us analysis of U.S. Customs and Border Protection and augmented 2021 American Community Survey data.
Note: Estimates rounded to thousands. Industries with an estimated 10,000 or more paroled workers shown. See Methodology section below for details.

Consequently, paroled adults entering the U.S. workforce by the start of 2023 contributed to about 25% of the decrease, on aggregate, in total job openings in these shorthanded industries since the labor shortage peak in 2022. Although the direct link between the filling of job vacancies by paroled adults and more tempered inflation rates cannot be made, it is likely that newly arrived individuals helped to ease inflation through workforce expansion in these industries challenged by labor shortages.

Some 170,000 people anticipated to be paroled into the U.S. through the CHNV parole policy will likely work in industries experiencing current labor shortages.

This exercise of humanitarian parole authority during the past two years not only provided refuge for those needing protection, but simultaneously met an economic need in our country. While we have continued to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, demand for goods and services have increased dramatically, causing significant labor shortages. These historically high job openings were filled in part by adults who were admitted through parole, allowing people across the U.S. to continue accessing vital care in medical centers, dine in restaurants, enjoy vacations, build homes, and buy groceries.

Following the success of the Uniting for Ukraine policy, the Biden Administration is permitting people in the U.S. to sponsor individuals from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela (CHNV) for humanitarian parole. The Administration will permit 30,000 people to enter from this combined group of countries each month in 2023, for a maximum of 360,000 this year. After the implementation of this parole policy, Customs and Border Protections reported that encounters of individuals from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, or Venezuela between ports of entry at the southwest border fell from an average of 1,231 per day in January to only 46 per day by the end of February, a 98% decline.

FWD.us estimates that some 170,000 adults anticipated to be paroled into the U.S. through the CHNV parole policy will likely work in industries experiencing current labor shortages.

Several Republican-led state governors have sued the Biden Administration to halt the CHNV policy, even though they have benefited from these same humanitarian policies. The important and shortsighted thing is these states have seen their worker rolls and tax coffers bolstered by the same policy they are trying to end. For example, FWD.us estimates that some 96,000 paroled adults in Florida and another 45,000 in Texas are working in industries with national labor shortages. A stoppage in the CHNV policy would not only lead to tens of thousands of individuals needing refuge unable to enter the U.S., but also further hamper our economy in cooling inflation due to labor shortages.

Humanitarian parole has proven very successful for paroled individuals and the U.S. alike. The Biden Administration should continue to use humanitarian parole as a policy tool, strengthening and improving it to meet an even greater number of humanitarian needs.

For example, the Administration should not be afraid to expand parole allowing applications from individuals from other countries facing humanitarian crises.

Congress can also get involved. Creating new legal pathways to meet employment demands in the U.S., as well as more humanitarian avenues for those seeking refuge, could reduce the number of arrivals at the southern border and allow for a more orderly immigration process. By expanding legal pathways the U.S. can also further harness the skills and talents of people who have benefitted from humanitarian parole, can more greatly propel the economy forward, and strengthen communities across the country. Congress must also do its part by passing legislation, like the bipartisan Afghan Adjustment Act, that provides permanent protections for individuals who have received parole and have served as critical members of communities across the United States for some time.

Over the decades, the U.S. has offered safety to millions of individuals seeking refuge. Some of those welcomed to the U.S. have become leaders in technology, business, and politics. We must continue to maintain and find new pathways to expeditiously process those in unsafe situations to live in the U.S. with their families, while also providing them the tools and opportunities to contribute to American communities.

Population totals for paroled groups were drawn from various sources. The total Afghanistan paroled population is from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and distributed into age and gender categories as listed in this news article. The total Ukrainian paroled population is drawn from this news article with age and gender categories drawn from the distribution of similar refugees in Europe drawn from United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) data. The total population paroled via the U.S. Southwestern border is based on Title 8 entry data from Customs and Border Protection for ports of entry and between ports of entry by nationality for calendar years 2021 and 2022. Publicly available micro-level data from the U.S. Border Patrol for fiscal 2021 permitted breakdown of parole rates by nationality and demographic group for all Title 8 encounters.

Labor force participation rates in selected industries with labor shortages were drawn from immigrants that entered the U.S. between 2017 and 2021, according to the 2021 American Community Survey (ACS). These rates were calculated for each nationality and gender group of adults to estimate the total adult population that are likely working in industries with labor shortages. The estimates operate under the assumption that newly arrived paroled immigrants will work at the same rate and industries as co-nationals entering in recent years.

Breakdowns for paroled immigrants working in industries with national labor shortages by state (for example, Florida and Texas) are drawn from the 2021 ACS for immigrants from selected nationalities, are working in labor shortage industries, and entered the U.S. between 2017 and 2021.

Industries of employment for future individuals granted parole from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela are estimated in a similar way as listed above. The country breakdown for the potential 360,000 individuals is based on those paroled from these same countries in 2021 and 2022, and further disaggregated by gender and age shares of immigrants from the same countries arriving between 2017 and 2021.

Industries with labor shortages are drawn from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and reflect industry-level estimates for March 2022 with a 5% or higher job openings rate. March 2022 was the peak month of total job openings in the U.S. The comparative time frame is nearly one year later, in February 2023, and was the lowest level of job openings since the 2022 peak.

Phillip Connor

Senior Demographer

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