President Barack Obama took a small, but important, first step in eliminating the painful separation of American families because of twisted immigration laws.
Right now, the spouse of a U.S. citizen cannot apply for a green card in the United States if he or she originally entered without proper inspection by an immigration officer. To obtain lawful status the immigrant must leave the United States and apply for a visa at a U.S. embassy in their home country. However, this sets up a catch-22 because once the immigrant leaves the United States, he or she is barred from returning for up to
10 years unless he or she is granted a waiver proving the U.S. citizen spouse or parent will suffer extreme hardship as a result of a forced and extended separation.
On Jan. 6, the Obama administration proposed changing the rules on how the administration deals with American citizens and their illegal immigrant spouses by allowing families to stay together while the waiver is being processed. The administration hopes to change the rule later this year after taking public comments.
Currently, this waiver, known as an unlawful presence waiver, can take months or even years to process because of bureaucratic backlogs. In the meantime, the family is separated, the foreign spouse may be stuck in a dangerous place like Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, where many immigrants have lost their lives and there is no way of predicting if or when the family will ever be reunited.
Alejandro Mayorkas, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said the purpose of the change is “to minimize the extent to which bureaucratic delays separate Americans from their families for long periods of time.”
This is exactly what Americans support – the protection of American families and honoring that bond. Although the new rule as proposed isn’t perfect, it’s an important step forward keeping families together and fixing our broken immigration system.
— Judy Flanagan, Phoenix