The Obama administration has proposed a new process allowing spouses and children of U.S. citizens to file for visas while remaining in the country-ending one of the most heartbreaking practices in history by preventing the separation of families. As you may know, under current immigration law, many undocumented immigrants that are eligible for visas must leave the country in order to adjust their status. The devastating aspect of this requirement is that, upon leaving the U.S. to have their documents processes in their country of origin, they trigger a ban against returning to the U.S. for three or even ten years. This catch-22 tears families apart and punishes hundreds of thousands through extended separation from parents, children, and spouses. If the administration’s proposal goes through, however, it will be easier for families to avoid these bars by applying for family unity waivers. These waivers are currently available but only in situations of extreme hardship and the process is incredibly slow and inefficient. This proposal would be a huge relief for mixed-status families and it is exactly the kind of common-sense reform that is desperately needed.
Under the new process, if eligible, undocumented husbands, wives and children of U.S. citizens would no longer need to leave the country to process their visa application, and could instead remain in their home in this country throughout the process. Moreover, the new procedure could allow spouses and children to remain united with their family members, and would not have to endure long and unequal waiting times depending on home country processing. Furthermore, since government bureaucracy has created a backlog of immigrant cases in our courts, and has put up other obstacles that keep families separated for years; this proposal may substantially relieve the courts and boost efficiency. Given that waiver applications are often referred by U.S. consulates abroad back to the Department of Homeland Security offices in the U.S. for settlement, processing these applications in the U.S. in the first place will allow these consulates to focus staff resources on serving citizens in foreign lands, and will ensure DHS staff develop the expertise to apply uniform legal standards to all cases. Those potentially eligible for family unity waiver include spouses and unmarried children of U.S. citizens-a pool of hundreds of thousands of individuals that could be protected from forced separation from loved ones. This is a great step in the right direction and we should push for this announcement to become a reality so that we can ensure families can stay together. We will be tracking the developments of this as time progresses hoping for the best of outcomes. We are confident that it has high chances of passing, especially given that this is an election year and such an administrative change would greatly help Obama’s chances in securing the support from the ever-growing Latino and Hispanic communities. Our fingers remain crossed.