Family reunification is a driving force behind US immigration law. The nation understands that families who are united make far more contributions to the nation than those that are separated. They are more productive at work, they contribute more to the community, they are less likely to violate the law or have run ins with law enforcement.
Yet even with this understanding of the benefits of family reunification, the sluggish process of granting alien relatives green cards has resulted in incredible backlogs that can result in families being separated for years.
Immigration reform should start in our own backyard
Dealing with the “immigration issue” is a hotly debated issue in the United States with passionate arguments about how to deal with illegal immigrants. Both sides of the argument, from blanket amnesty to strict enforcement and deportation, fill up the airways of broadcast news and take up an incredible amount of time in state legislations as they create their own “immigration policies”.
But lost in all of the hoopla about illegals, are those immigrants who followed the rules and were granted Legal Permanent Resident status (green card) only to discover that following the rules meant spending years separated from their family back in the home country. Is this the best way for the US to encourage compliance with immigration law?
In the argument over illegals, regardless which side is speaking, there is always reference made to illegals having to stand at the end of the line behind persons who have applied legally for immigration. What’s the point if it means at the end of the day the illegal, now legal, still has to wait years until he or she can be reunited with family.
Overwhelmed, under funded and tripping on its own red tape
The United States Customs and Immigration Service is responsible for administrating US immigration law. In recent years it has made some progress in improving its service to the public but it is still incredibly backlogged and trapped in a bureaucratic quagmire that perpetuates the backlogs.
The United States has always had an inefficient immigration system which is really surprising seeing how it is a nation founded on immigrants. However the old policies of the 1800s and early 1900s that were as much race based as anything else have left a legacy of excessive paperwork and documentation and no sense of urgency in processing them in a timely basis.
Toss in 9/11 and the extreme emphasis on security and you take a bad situation and make it even worse.
Family members that are subject to annual quotas can wait years for a visa number while thousands of visa numbers go unclaimed from another “quota” country. Legal green card immigrants currently have to wait 5 years on average before their sponsored family receives permission to enter the country.
Reform for who?
Legal immigrants are in a sense being held hostage by illegal immigrants. No reform of immigration policy will be passed until the illegal question is resolved. In the meantime, those immigrants who did everything right will continue to suffer the absence of their families.
While it is true that a legal immigrant can travel unrestricted out of the country and can visit his or family in the home country, as a practical matter it doesn’t make economic sense and even if it did that would limit the legal immigrant to being with the family for 2 or 3 weeks out of the year.
A new temporary visa category that would allow legal immigrant families to visit for 3 to 6 months while waiting for their green card would seem to be a fix, albeit not a great one. Creating a new class of visa simply creates more bureaucracy and does not guarantee that it would be issued any faster than the green card itself. The solution is more streamlining and more staffing but in these difficult times that’s probably a pipe dream.
Eugene Jones is a principal in www.ImmiGreatNow.com.com which provides web solutions for family Immigration. Eugene is also a principal in www.connect4business.com a lotus domino manufacturing solution and www.nauvou.com.com web based solutions for customer support.