New Immigration Rules Will Help American Families, But Need to Be More Inclusive

January 3, 2013

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Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) welcomes new federal regulations that will help thousands of American families remain together while loved ones apply for permanent residence.

“This policy will allow thousands of aspiring Americans to move closer to their dream of becoming permanent residents and citizens while permitting them to stay together with their families, keep their businesses open, and remain rooted in their communities,” said NIJC Director Mary Meg McCarthy. “It’s a good solution for many American families who have faced illogical immigration laws.”

Under those laws, permanent residence, or “green card,” applicants who entered the U.S. without lawful status face three- to 10-year bars to reentry if they leave the country, even if their departure is to attend the mandatory consular interview for their green card application. Applicants are forbidden from applying for waivers to reentry bars until their interviews at consulates abroad. The provisional waiver, which will only be available to the spouses and children of Americans who show that the applicant’s prolonged absence would cause extreme hardship, will reduce the amount of time an individual must spend abroad waiting to reenter the United States as a permanent resident.

NIJC encourages the Department of Homeland Security to extend the provisional waiver to all family-based visa categories, including spouses and children of lawful permanent residents, and to streamline the process for individuals with cases already before the immigration courts.

“We need more policies that make it easier for American families to stay together and for immigrants to complete the legal processes that give them full recognition as members of our society,” McCarthy said. “This policy is a significant step forward in fixing our country’s immigration system, and we hope it is prophetic of more positive and inclusive reforms yet to come in 2013.”

NIJC anticipates an increase in requests for legal services from families who may now move forward with the green card application process without fear of long-term separation. An information sheet about how the process will work is available at www.immigrantjustice.org/familyunitywaiver.