The New Year is upon us, putting an end to a year with many developments made politically on the immigration front. The long awaited Supreme Court decision was rendered on the Arizona immigration law, SB 1070, with the Court striking down all but one of the controversial provisions, allowing the one that is conducive to racial profiling to stand. Nevertheless, the ruling was a victory for the federal government since it reaffirmed its sole power to legislate immigration, with Congress being the key holder of true reform.
Another triumph for the federal government was evidenced through the immigrant population’s commitment to Barack Obama as they came out in huge numbers to vote to keep him in office—a fact that was presumably tied in many ways to the president’s amiable stance on immigration policy. He captured most of the minority vote including 71% of the Latino vote, 73% of Asian-American voters, and 93% of black voters, undisputedly catapulting him to the top in spite of some backlogging in conflictive voting district such as the infamous Miami-Dade County which took weeks to finish counting each ballot and provide an official result.
Now, just a few days into 2013, the U.S. legislature has averted a fiscal cliff after finally managing to come to an agreement on the eleventh hour of negotiations, and we are also seeing a new effort being made on immigration policy.
The Department of Homeland Security has issued a new regulation that helps keep families together by making it possible for immediate relatives to complete part of their immigration paperwork without leaving the country. The “Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver of Inadmissibility for Certain Immediate Relatives” which is referred to as the new family unity rule will be effective starting March 4th. This new rule is meant to prevent the 3 to 10 year ban that can separate families for extended periods of time by precluding their re-entry into the country.
Before it used to be that an individual wishing to become a lawful permanent resident would have to go back to his country of origin, the departure in itself would trigger the 3 to 10 year ban, and the only way to get around it would be by applying for a waiver, all of which would be costly and uncertain. Now, immediate relatives are offered the chance to streamline the process by being able to have the waiver “provisionally” approved before they even leave the country, making the processing of their visa that much quicker once they are in their home country’s consulate.
Although this new rule doesn’t expand the categories of eligibility, it does provide a certain degree of balance that helps counteract some other deficiencies. This juggling of policy will continue throughout 2013 as the President and Congress continue to grapple with immigration reform legislation.