The Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security may, in his discretion, parole into the United States temporarily, under such conditions as he may prescribe on a case-by-case basis, for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit, any alien applying for entry to the United States.

Humanitarian Parole cannot be used to circumvent normal visa-issuing procedures, nor as an instrument to bypass preference immigrant visa availability or processing for refugee status. Absent urgent circumstances, unless all other legal immigration avenues (such as applying for a non-immigrant visa) have first been exhausted by an alien, parole will not be approved. Parole is an extraordinary measure, sparingly used to bring an otherwise inadmissible alien into the United States for a temporary period of time due to a very compelling emergency.

TPS is a temporary immigration status granted to eligible nationals of designated countries (or parts thereof). In 1990, as part of the Immigration Act of 1990, Congress established a procedure by which the Attorney General may provide TPS to aliens in the United States who are temporarily unable to safely return to their home country because of ongoing armed conflict, an environmental disaster, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions.

On October 28, 2000, the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 was signed into law. This law addresses issues of worker exploitation resulting from trafficking in persons. This law is the result of the federal government's efforts through the Trafficking in Persons and Worker Exploitation Task Force, an interagency group that brings the FBI, INS, Department of Labor and other agencies together to remedy a problem with both domestic and global dimensions, primarily involving women and children as victims.

The Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division, which enforces slavery and peonage statutes that were initially enacted over 100 years ago, was involved in drafting this legislation. The law expands the definition of forced labor to reach more forms of coercion occurring in contemporary times, thus enabling the Section to come to the aid of more victims and to bring more cases than allowed under prior laws.

A refugee is a person unable or unwilling to return to his or her native country due to a well-founded fear of persecution or because the person's life or freedom would be threatened. To apply for refugee status, the applicant must be physically located outside the United States. According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service the U.S. offers refugee protection "based on an inherent belief in human rights and in ending or preventing the persecution of individuals."

Refugees are in a separate category from political asylum applicants.  They are admitted to the United States under executive orders that mirror U.S. participation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees worldwide.  Refugees are admitted for permanent residence, or temporarily, until situations in their home countries are resolved and they are able to return home.

Under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) passed by Congress in 1994, the spouses and children of United States citizens or lawful permanent residents (LPRs) may self-petition to obtain lawful permanent residency. The immigration provisions of VAWA allow certain battered immigrants to file for immigration relief without the abuser's assistance or knowledge, in order to seek safety and independence from the abuser.

In November 2000, the Violence Against Women Act II was passed into law. Among other things, this law made changes to previously existing immigration laws that had allowed abused immigrant women and children to seek legal residency in the US independently of their abusers.

Political asylum is granted by the U.S. government to people who can prove that they are afraid to return to their home country because they have a "well-founded fear of persecution."  People may also be granted political asylum if they left their home country because they were persecuted in the past. If someone wins asylum, they can then apply for a "Green Card" (permanent residence).