Poll: 'Parole in Place' program for immigrants

SAN DIEGO - In November, the Obama administration quietly ordered a directive that allows undocumented close family members of active-duty military service members, reservists and veterans to stay in the U.S. and travel a path toward citizenship.

The spouses, children and parents will be eligible for "Parole in Place," a term that means they will be legally able to reside in the U.S.

Before, they would have to leave the country and apply for legal status, which immigration attorneys say used to take as many as 10 or more years.

Supporters are call the directive a big step forward for military families, while critics say it is immigration amnesty by piecemeal.

The Vasquez family says it's a joyful relief.

"It was an amazing feeling," said Gerald Vasquez.

Before that feeling, there was a different one.

Married in 2004, Vasquez -- a Marine for some 13 years -- and his wife Laura lived, in some ways, in the shadows.

Laura Vasquez was undocumented, having been brought to San Diego from Mexico when she was three years old.

When Gerald Vasquez was deployed to Japan in 2009, she wasn't able to go with him.

As he served, he served with a sense of anxiety.

"I was afraid one day immigration would meet up with her sometime, somewhere, and have her deported … It was always in the back of my mind," he said.

Laura could have applied for legal status as a wife of service member, but there was a catch.

In years past, undocumented family members could file all the paperwork for legal status, but first they would likely have to leave the country.

Immigration attorneys say it used to take up to 10 years to get back into the country -- if they got back at all.

The couple says with two children it wasn't a risk they wanted to take.

Under Obama's directive, Laura was approved in late January.

The Vasquez family's attorney Carl Balediata said the reprieve is a nod to military service.

"They recognize that stress and anxiety could affect military preparedness," said Balediata.

Critics say it will lead to things like marriages motivated by citizenship.

"This executive policy will create a magnet that will increase illegal immigration into the country," said Ted Hilton, president of Taxpayer Revolution.

Laura said she can't speak to other cases, but for her it's been a relief.

"It means hope and a future for myself and my family," she said.

There are no early numbers, but some believe the new policy could affect tens of thousands of people.

The attorney for the Vasquez family is representing six such families.

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