(From the ICIRR)
Family Unity Waiver would simplify process for close relatives of U.S. Citizens to gain legal status
Today, the Obama Administration announced that it is proposing a regulatory change that would enable certain close relatives of US citizens who qualify for legal status to more easily process their applications. The following is the statement of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR).
The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) applauds the Obama Administration for this Family Unity Waiver proposal, a significant step to enable spouses, sons, and daughters of US citizens to gain legal status without needing to face long-term separation from their families.
Under current procedures, these relatives in many cases need to pursue their applications in their native countries—but may trigger bars of up to 10 years if they leave the US. It is possible for these immigrants to seek waivers to these bars based on hardship to the US citizen relatives. However, applications can only be filed after the immigrants have departed—and if the waiver is denied, the immigrants are trapped outside the US away from their families.
“These families face a heart-breaking dilemma,” said ICIRR executive director Joshua Hoyt. “Do the immigrants proceed with getting their permanent status but separate from their families for up to 10 years—or do they remain in the US with their families but remain vulnerable to immigration detention and deportation?”
The Family Unity Waiver would enable these immigrants to apply and get decisions for their applications for hardship waivers before they leave the US. These immigrants would still need to go abroad to process their applications for residency. However, if their waivers are approved, they will have the assurance that when they leave the US they can return without triggering the bar. They will also not be stranded outside the US if their waiver applications are denied.
“We thank the Obama Administration for moving forward on this significant change that will benefit many immigrant families,” Hoyt added. “We also thank US Representative Luis Gutierrez for his key leadership role in advocating for these families.”
This change will help families like the Navas. Emiterio Nava came to the US at age 13 in 1993. He has a clean criminal record. He works full-time to support himself, his US citizen wife Ana, and their children, including a newborn. Ana has recently endured health issues that required major surgery. The Navas own their own home, which was recently burglarized. The burglary has left Ana traumatized and fearful of being alone if Emiterio leaves the US for the many months it will take to get the consulate to process his visa. With this change, Emiterio will be able to seek a waiver based on Ana’s hardship and know for certain whether he will be able to safely proceed abroad to get his visa and return to his family.
While the Family Unity Waiver may eventually help families like the Navas, it does not by itself change any existing legal standards, and does not entitle anyone to legal status or create any new program to apply for one. “Do NOT believe anyone who tells you that they can get you a green card now based on this announcement,” warned ICIRR policy director Fred Tsao. “This announcement is only the first step in changing a complicated process—it does not change anything yet.”
Families who want more information or need referrals for legal or other help can call ICIRR’s Family Support Hotline, 1-855-HELP-MY-FAMILY (1-855-435-7693). In addition, ICIRR will hold a training regarding the Family Unity Waiver at its Integration Summit on Saturday, February 4, 2012, at Malcolm X College; more details will be available at www.icirr.org.
The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights is a statewide coalition of more than 130 organizations dedicated to promoting the rights of immigrants and refugees to full and equal participation in the civic, cultural, social, and political life of our diverse society. For more information, visit www.icirr.org.