Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Family-based immigration: Reunite the Family

Guest Blogger: Rachana Panchal, second-year law student, University of San Francisco:

Immigration visa categories allow lawful permanent residents and United States citizens to petition for family members to immigrate to the United States. Even though there are many categories available, there still needs to be change in the categories. The family based categories only allow a United States citizen to petition for parents, spouse, married son or daughter, unmarried child under age 21, unmarried son or daughter 21 and older, or siblings. The lawful permanent resident can only petition for spouse, unmarried child under age 21, or unmarried son or daughter 21 and older. But what about the other family members who are not immediate family members? The meaning of family to different people varies and can include friends, grandparents, and distant relatives. Presidential candidates all have been arguing for comprehensive immigration reform which I think should include changing the family categories to allowing US citizens or lawful permanent residents to petition for people regardless of whether they immediate family or not.

Another change that the comprehensive immigration reform should include is allowing children who are derivative beneficiaries of the petitioner to come with the petitioner when the priority date reaches the visa bulletin regardless of the child aging out when the priority date comes up in the visa bulletin. The Child Protection Act only protects children who were under age 21 when the priority date reached the visa bulletin but due to administrative delay, the child turned 21 before the visa was granted. The Child Protection Act should protect children who are over age 21 but are very close to reaching the priority date. Children who turn 21 around the same time as the priority date is reached should be allowed to keep the priority date as the petitioner and go through the process with petitioner.

Those who are against family immigration believe that family immigration is not economically beneficial to the country; rather they believe that this “chain migration” leads to family helping family. The argue that, in contrast, employment immigration is economically beneficial because the immigrant is contributing to the economy. But isn’t there value to the reunification of family? Family based immigration allows families to be reunited, live their life together in the same country, work in the same country, and add value to the society. In the interest of family reunification and societal benefit, the petitioner should be allowed to petition for whomever they wish. Perhaps there should be a limit to how many people the petitioner can petition for rather than limiting categories to immediate family members. Of course, the person for whom the petition has been filed would be subject to the grounds of inadmissibility and immigration laws.

NumbersUSA, which advocates for stricter immigration laws, releases data on the number of family based immigrants coming to the United States. Over 5 years, the recent average of legal immigration was over 1 million people. NumbersUSA contends that one petitioner can actually bring 115 people. It is so ridiculous to even average out how many family members one petitioner can bring to the United States through “chain migration.” On its face, it is unreasonable to say that one person can bring 115 people, but consider other factors such as the length of time it takes to petition for a relative and the challenge of backlogs on the visa bulletin. For example, a United States citizen who petitions for a brother or sister in India is looking at a 13 year backlog that may get worse depending on unpredictable demands. Also, many relatives abroad are not interesting in immigrating because they are happy in the native country.

Some opponents of family based visa categories especially target the sibling and married sons and daughters categories. I doubt that family immigration category will change. The family immigration system essentially has remained same since 1965. The family immigration categories at the least should remain the same because they allow immediate family members to immigrate. However, comprehensive immigration reform should include expansion of the categories and clearing the current backlogs.



| Permalink