Tuesday, April 4, 2017
Immigration Article of the Day: Redefining American Families: The Disparate Effects of IIRIRA Automatic Bars to Reentry and Sponsorship Requirements on Mixed-Citizenship Couples by Jane Lilly López
Redefining American Families: The Disparate Effects of IIRIRA Automatic Bars to Reentry and Sponsorship Requirements on Mixed-Citizenship Couples by Jane Lilly López
With passage of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA), the goal of discouraging illegal immigration and the legal immigration of the poor triumphed over the longstanding goal of family unity in US immigration policy. Two specific elements of IIRIRA — (1) the three- and 10-year bars to reentry, and (2) the minimum income thresholds for citizen sponsors of immigrants — have created a hierarchy of mixed-citizenship families, enabling some to access all the citizenship benefits, while excluding other, similar families from those same benefits. This paper details these two key policy changes imposed by IIRIRA and describes their disparate impact on mixed-citizenship couples seeking family reunification benefits. Policy recommendations include enacting changes to: (1) allow the undocumented spouses of US citizens to adjust their legal status from within the United States; and (2) include the noncitizen spouse’s income earning potential toward satisfying minimum income requirements.