Wednesday, May 17, 2017
Immigration Article of the Day: US Immigration Policy and the Case for Family Unity By Joanna Dreby and Zoya Gubernskaya
US Immigration Policy and the Case for Family Unity By Joanna Dreby and Zoya Gubernskaya (University at Albany, State University of New York)
This paper reviews and critically evaluates the principle of family unity, a hallmark of US immigration policy over the past 50 years and the most important mechanism for immigration to the United States. Family unity is critical for promoting immigrant integration, social and economic well-being, and intergenerational mobility. However, several US policies and practices contribute to prolonged periods of family separation by restricting travel and effectively locking in a large number of people either inside or outside of the United States. Furthermore, increasingly aggressive enforcement practices undermine family unity for a large number of undocumented and mixed-status families.
Given the benefits of family unity in the US immigrant context and the significant negative consequences of family separation, the United States would do well to make a number of changes to current policy and practice that reaffirm its commitment to family unity. Reducing wait times for family reunification with spouses and children of lawful permanent residents, allowing prospective family-based migrants to visit their relatives in the United States while their applications are being processed, and providing relief from deportation and a path to legalization to parents and spouses of US citizens should be prioritized. The cost to implement these measures would likely be minor compared to current and projected spending on immigration enforcement and it would be more than offset by the improved health and well-being of American families.