Carlos Batara – Immigration Lawyer header image

A Jamaican Story Of Persistence: Why The Family Visa System Needs An Overhaul

Contrary to an image perpetuated by many public officials, media personalities, and bloggers opposed to immigration reform, not all immigrants jump the border to reunite with family members.

A recent story of a Jamaican immigrant turned U.S. citizen and her daughter laid truth to the fiction.

After 20 Years, A Green Card Reunites Mother And Daughter
Mirela Iverac, WNYC News, November 25, 2013

Wignall, 50, made the journey from her home in New Jersey to Jamaica every year.

But her daughter had to stay put, one of 4 million people waiting abroad to join their families in the U.S., according to the Department of State.

The wait paid off. Robinson’s application was approved in September. On that recent day she got off the plane from Jamaica and entered the U.S. as a permanent resident.

“I’m here!” she said, laughing.

Not even a teenager when her mother left Jamaica, Robinson is 30 now. She left aside the four suitcases into which she has packed her life and fell into her mother’s embrace.

As most green card attorneys would attest, an antiquated system of allotting visas to immigrants from other countries often causes long delays in processing valid applications to become permanent residents of the United States.

Millions wait and wait . . . abroad, suffering from family separation, waiting patiently for the day when their visa application becomes current and they can present their case to an immigration officer.

How Immigration Reform And Family Unity Go Hand-In Hand

The story of Celis Wignall and her daughter, Miriam Robinson, is one such tale.

In 1995 Wignall left her home country, Jamaica, hoping to find gainful employment in the United States, allowing her to support her family that she left behind. Her daughter was 12 years old.

Eventually, Wignall became a permanent resident, then a naturalized citizen, and filed to immigrate her daughter. Like all immigrants, she went to the back of the immigration line, started consular processing, and the green card wait began.

As a immigration family unification green card and citizenship lawyer, I have witnessed several family reunions after a long separation period. These are always joyfully traumatic moments for both the parents and the children.

The number of such encounters could be decreased. Like many others, this green card issue is not impossible to fix.

It requires, however, a Congress willing to take actions to reform the visa allocation system and to reduce the permanent residency application backlog.

At the earliest, that seems unlikely until after the next round of elections in November 2016.

However, immigration reform might not help the plight of immigrants from Jamaica.

In the most recent round of debates, the primary reform proposal (S.744) sought to reduce family-based immigration avenues. The net effect of such measures would have been to reduce the number of eligible immigrants from Third World nations like Jamaica.

The Impact Of A Broken Visa System On Future Generations Of Jamaican Immigrants

According to a Pew Research Center study, there are about 682,000 Jamaican immigrants living in the U.S. at present.

In addition, the Census Bureau reports there are approximately 1 million Jamaican Americans. The 10 states with the largest Jamaican populations are:

  1. New York – 305,285
  2. Florida – 246,478
  3. New Jersey – 55,351
  4. Georgia – 53,603
  5. Connecticut – 52,185
  6. Pennsylvania – 30,708
  7. California – 29,442
  8. Maryland – 28,995
  9. Massachusetts – 26,526
  10. Texas – 23,284

Absent a change away from a family-based immigration system, these figures are expected to increase over the coming years.

Of course, as the number of applicants from Jamaica rise, the current visa system in place will force permanent residency seekers – like Ms. Robinson and her U.S. citizen mother – to wait even longer periods before they can reunite in the United States.

Immigration News Curation By Carlos Batara