Backlog of family immigration cases poses continuing problem
By Sylvana Chan
Immigration reform has lain stagnant since the legislative recess in June. While the House of Representatives will reconvene in September, the future of immigration reform remains uncertain. Fervent discussions continue, with the earliest legislative sessions expected for October.
Asian Americans Advancing Justice, the nation’s largest legal and civil rights organization serving the Asian American community, supports immigration reform to eliminate the backlog of current family-sponsored immigrant visas and provide a more effective system for Asian Americans to reunite with their relatives abroad.
The U.S. family-based visa system grants visas that are grouped into two categories: immediate relatives and family preference. Immediate relatives have close family relationships with U.S. citizens and generally include spouses, parents, and unmarried children under 21 years of age. The family preference category are for specific, more distant, family relationships with a U.S. citizen and some specified relationships with lawful permanent residents or green card holders, including adult children and siblings of citizens, and spouses and unmarried children of green card holders.
The majority of Asians immigrating to the United States do so through the family-based immigration system. In 2012, 86 percent of immigrant visas issued for Asian countries were family-based.
Although the number of immigrant visas for immediate relatives is not limited, the annual ceiling for all family preference visas is 226,000 a year. This, combined with bureaucratic delay, force a current worldwide family backlog of 4.3 million applicants living apart from their U.S. relatives.
Of the existing 4.3 million applicants for these family-based visa numbers, nearly half are from Asian countries. These applicants wait years — sometimes decades — to receive their green cards. AAJC has urged the House to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill that strengthens the ability for U.S. citizens to reunite with their loved ones in a timely manner, stressing family reunification as a cornerstone of America’s immigration system.
In addition, family-based visa quotas are drastically outdated. AAJC has pointed out that the system has not been reformed in over 20 years, imposes an unacceptably narrow concept of family on ethnic groups, and is out of touch with the current needs of families.
Immigration reform will allow immigrant families to come to the United States in search of opportunity — working hard, paying taxes, buying homes and starting job-creating businesses — directly benefiting the U.S. economy.
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