On Friday, January 6, the Obama administration unveiled a new immigration policy that promotes immigrant family unity while providing an opportunity for thousands of undocumented immigrants to come out of the shadows. Current immigration laws require undocumented children or spouses of U.S. citizens to return to their country of origin in order to apply for legalization. This is necessary to start the process of applying for a “green card,” which provides legal residency. This causes a dilemma for these children or spouses. Any person who has resided in the United States without a current immigration status for more than 180 days has a three- to ten-year bar from reentering the U.S. This keeps families separated for long periods of time.
Although a waiver process does exist for these applicants facing the bar, the bureaucratic backlog for processing the waiver application often separates families for months, even years. The new Obama administration policy now allows this application and waiver processing to occur while the immigrant remains in the United States. This change will relieve the anxiety of thousands of separated immigrant families while also promoting legal immigration. The policy still mandates that the applicant return to their country of origin to process the permanent residence visa, but the time away from family will be much shorter because the spouse or child of a U.S. citizen can wait in the U.S. until they have a specific appointment date in their country of origin. It is important to note that it will still be months before it is fully implemented, but it is an important step in the right direction.
With a gridlocked Congress unable to come to a sensible solution regarding our nation’s broken immigration system, NETWORK supports this important move forward until comprehensive immigration reform can be implemented. It is not a substitute for comprehensive reform, but it is all that can be done presently within existing law.