Today, Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL), reacted to news that the final rule had been published governing waivers to the three and ten year immigration bars that keep families separated and prevent those who could apply to obtain permanent resident status under current law from doing so. When it goes into effect on March 4, 2013, the rule will give immediate family relatives (spouses, children, and parents) of U.S. citizens the ability to apply for a "provisional unlawful presence waiver" of the 3 and 10 year bar to reentry before leaving the country. As it stands today, undocumented immediate family members of U.S. citizens who qualify under the law for permanent resident status (a green card) can only apply for a waiver of the 3 or 10 year bar once they have left the United States and with no guarantee that they will be approved for the waiver. This prevents many who qualify for legal status from even applying and keeps families separated, which is bad for the immigrant and his or her immediate U.S. citizen family members. Rep. Gutierrez is the Chair of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and this waiver process is among the issues he has been asking the Obama Administration to address administratively for the last two years.
The following is a statement by Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez:
It is a small fix, but an absolutely necessary one. When we talk about a 'broken immigration system,' this is what we mean. We actually have barriers in the law that prevent people who qualify for legal status from doing so. This removes a barrier facing so many U.S. citizens who can legally apply for permanent residency for a spouse, child or parent but are scared to do so because their loved one is forced to leave the United States and their family could face a decade of separation.
I have had people in my own district, U.S. soldiers, who have applied for a green card for their spouse and the mother of their children, only to find out they will have to live in Ciudad Juarez for three years or ten years before being a family again at home in the U.S. It is a tragedy for them and another stupid and senseless aspect of U.S. immigration law that needs to be rectified.
This change in how and where paperwork is processed will be enormously helpful to U.S. families and is another example of how the President can use his administrative powers intelligently to solve problems. As we set about crafting and passing immigration reform in the U.S. Congress, this type of smart policy change sets the right tone. We need to reduce deportations, get people legally into the system and solve the many problems created by an immigration system two or three decades out-of-date.
We had been anxiously awaiting this announcement and it does not go into effect for another two months, but after March 4, many families in Chicago and around the country who qualify for legal status will be able to apply for the unlawful presence waiver without the risk that they will be banished from the United States for three years, or ten years, or more and not know about it until after they leave the country.