STATEMENT: CAP’s Kelley on Obama Administration Proposal to Minimize Separation of U.S. Families
Washington, D.C. — The Department of Homeland Security announced today in a Federal Register notice that it plans to promulgate a regulation, subject to notice and comment by the public, which would enable qualifying immigrants to apply for a waiver before leaving the United States, and Angela M. Kelley, the Center for American Progress’s Vice President of Immigration Policy and Advocacy, issued the following statement on the administration’s announcement:
Sense and sensibility describe today’s announcement by DHS that they are minimizing the bureaucracy for U.S. citizens by permitting hardship applications to be adjudicated in the United States, and not in foreign countries. American citizens deserve efficiency and effectiveness from their government and the DHS has taken a smart step by reducing the time that U.S. citizens must be separated from their spouses and children.
The announcement marks another step in DHS’s effort to restore rationality to an otherwise broken immigration system and is a win-win for American families and taxpayers. The administration is operating by the letter of the law and not opening up additional avenues for the undocumented to get legal status. The contemplated rule change would in no way alter the statutory definition of extreme hardship. And it doesn’t go as far as it could (or we would hope) since the new process will not extend to the spouses and children of legal permanent residents.
We strongly applaud the administration’s ongoing effort to make the system more humane. U.S.-citizen families who have been fearful of getting lost in the labyrinth of foreign consulates can come forward with greater confidence now that adjudications will happen in the United States. But the sad truth is that until Congress owns its responsibility to fix the legal architecture on which the system is built, millions of American families will continue to suffer.
Under current law, immigrant spouses and children of U.S. citizens who have been in the United States without authorization are barred from being admitted to the United States as legal permanent residents for either three or 10 years. However, immigrants who can demonstrate that this separation would cause extreme hardship to their U.S. citizen spouse or parent are eligible for a waiver. Currently, the immigrant spouse or child can only apply for the hardship waiver at a consulate after they leave the United States, which leads to lengthy family separations and is a strong disincentive for waiver-eligible immigrants to apply.
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