National Immigration Forum

Practical Solutions for Immigrants and America

Media

New Immigration Rules Will Keep Families Together

January 10, 2012

Families, Faith and Civil Rights Communities Praise Changes to Family Unity Immigration Waiver Processing

To listen to the recording of this call, visit our press audio archive.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced last week proposed regulations that will change how U.S. citizens’ spouses and children who are eligible for a green card can file their applications for family unity, allowing them to do so from within the U.S. On a press call today hosted by the National Immigration Forum, families and leaders from the faith, immigrant and civil rights communities applauded the proposed changes as a practical improvement to our immigration policy and an important step for promoting legal immigration and fixing bureaucratic hurdles that keep families apart.

Luis Perez, a Mexican immigrant residing in Los Angeles, is part of one of the many U.S. families that could potentially benefit from the new immigration regulations. Mr. Perez has lived in the U.S. since he was 8 years old, and he is married to a U.S. citizen. He and his wife are the sole caretakers of the wife’s three orphaned nephews and nieces. “I am thankful to the Obama Administration for recognizing the importance of keeping American families together,” said Mr. Perez. “As hard as it is to live without a work permit and with the fear of deportation, the prospect of being separated from my family is unbearable.” He added, “They say that immigrants will do everything for a green card, but that’s not true. We will not sacrifice our families or the well-being of them. The new changes would do away with the uncertainty that discourages many family members from coming forward and applying for legal residence. We look forward to living our lives as any other American family.”

“Catholic bishops in the United States have always emphasized the importance of family unification as an important principle in any sound and humane immigration law,” said the Most Reverend Jaime Soto, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sacramento and a National Immigration Forum board member. “Our current broken immigration system works against the principle of keeping families together.”

Today, 60 percent of the Asian American community is foreign born and still trying to reunite with loved ones. After Mexico, close family members from India, the Philippines, Vietnam and China experience the longest wait times for family-based green cards. “Fixing our broken immigration system, particularly curtailing the prolonged separation of families, is especially important to the Asian American community,” said Karen K. Narasaki, President and Executive Director of the Asian American Justice Center and a member of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice. “Government bureaucracy should not keep families apart, and we believe this proposed common-sense change will benefit many immigrant families and their communities.”

“The Evangelical church has always opposed the separation of American families through policy,” said the Reverend Luis Cortés, Jr., President of Esperanza, a national network of Latino Evangelical churches. “I hope the Republican Party would take immigration reform seriously and would stop hiding behind the words ‘border security’ and ‘amnesty,’ which is just an excuse for inaction. Those who oppose the unity of a family, of an individual who is legally married to a United States citizen, stand opposed to the tenets of faith that uphold the sanctity of the family.”

“Last week’s announcement represents real progress toward protecting American families. Our faith values have long held that the family unit is sacred and should remain intact,” said Linda Hartke, President and Chief Executive Officer, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. “We are relieved that the administration has taken a good step in eliminating needless bureaucratic red tape for some American families, but there is still much more that the administration can and should do. The administration should also allow children and spouses with a parent or spouse with a green card to stay with their families in the United States while their paperwork is processed — instead of forcing them apart for months, even years.”

“This is a common-sense processing change,” said Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum. “As a result, there will be no government bureaucracy standing in the way of keeping American families together, immigrants will be able to get right with the law, and husbands, wives and children will not have to risk their lives to get their lawful visas.”

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For more recommendations on common-sense immigration fixes the administration can initiate without congressional action, please read the Immigration Policy Center’s memo: http://www.immigrationpolicy.org/sites/default/files/docs/Memo_exec_branch_authority.pdf

For more information on Stateside processing of waivers, please read the American Immigration Lawyers Association letter to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano: http://www.aila.org/content/default.aspx?docid=38110

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