Fixing Visa Backlogs And Green Card Delays: The Reuniting Families Act
Last week, during a meeting at my San Bernardino immigration attorney office, a client asked, “Can we totally shut the border?”
Sensing my bewilderment, he explained that a few days before, he had been asked the same question. He had debated immigration issues with his next-door neighborhood. He was fuzzy about his answer, so he decided to ask me.
Without responding, I asked him what he had said to his neighbor.
“I don’t think it’s possible to totally shut the border.”
“And if we could,” I asked him, “what do you think it would cost the country in dollars and cents?”
His eyes widened, and he replied, “I don’t know but it would be astronomical.”
Border Enforcement Is Not The Solution
For several months, our government has focused on border enforcement. Political leaders present it as the primary cure for an overflow of immigrants without legal documents.
ICE has set new records for removing immigrants from the United States. The government has stepped up deportations in partnership with local police departments. Extra funding has been provided for more troops at the border.
Yet, opponents insist our immigration system is not fixed.
Of course not.
The main component of true immigration reform has been neglected.
Fixing our antiquated system of processing family visa petitions and green card applications is the answer.
Those opposed to reform know that if half the money allocated to border security went to the family immigration system, the number of undocumented immigrants would shrink almost overnight.
The government savings would increase each year, as the backlog is cleared out.
In addition, the need to fund futile efforts to completely shut off the border and chase non-criminal immigrants in local communities would also be minimized.
According to the Asian American Justice Center, 5.8 million people are currently stuck in immigration processing backlogs.
Some immigrants, like those from China, Mexico, the Philippines and India, wait up to 5, 10, 15, or 20 years before they are reunited with their loved ones.
The Fight To Fix Our Immigration System Continues
Many immigration advocates fear the recent election results spell doom for sensible immigration reform.
Not San Jose Respresentative Mike Honda.
In an op-ed piece written for the San Francisco Chronicle, Congressman Honda stated that despite the election results, work on immigration reform must continue. He pledged to re-introduce the Reuniting Families Act in the next session of Congress.
Emphasized Honda, helping immigrant families reunite leads to creation of new family businesses, new jobs for American workers, and more economic resources for the country.
What Is The Reuniting Families Act?
The Reuniting Families Act, in short, is an effort to fix our immigration system by reducing the waiting times for immigrants who apply for visas.
Under the current system, which has not been updated in over 20 years, many immigrants who seek visas in the prime years of their lives are not granted admission until they reach retirement age.
As a family visa and green card lawyer, I think the following provisions of the Act are most likely to pass Congressional scrutiny:
Recapturing family-based and employment-based visas already allocated by Congress which are still unused. By simply using unclaimed visas for the period of 1997 to 2007, the number of visas for families and employers for green card applications today could be increased.
Increasing the per country limits of family and employment-based visas from 7% to 10%. Right now, all countries get the same percentage of the total visas. By increasing each country’s percentage of visas, the long, long waits for immigrants from countries like China, India, Mexico, and the Philippines could be diminished. (Another idea, not addressed by the Act, would be to temporarily adjust the cap for certain countries. This idea, however, is not as likely to get enough Congressional support.)
Promoting family unity by enabling more people to apply for immigration benefits. Some immigrants have lived in the U.S. without permission. The government could set up a system for waivers, such as evidence of hardship to an immigrant’s family member living here. Allowing immigrants to seek such waivers is not a new measure. Such conditions are already exist under various provisions of immigration law.
“Nearly 6 million people,” notes Congressman Honda, “are stuck in perpetual waiting, which is both unproductive and inexcusable.”
Honda adds, “It is time to reunite Americans. No family excluded.”
By Carlos Batara, Immigration Law, Policy, And Politics