U.S. Representative Neil Abercrombie has joined with Congressman Mike Honda (D-CA) in introducing the Reuniting Families Act. The goal of the legislation is to reduce wait times in the U.S. immigration system that keep legal immigrants and their loved ones overseas separated for years. The measure would also address immigration provisions that prevent family members from obtaining visas. Honda is chairman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC). Abercrombie is CAPAC's Immigration Chair.
"Our country's family-based immigration system has not been updated in 20 years," said Abercrombie. "Frequently, it keeps spouses, children and their parents apart for decades, even when they have complied with all the rules. There are 5.8 million people in the United States who have waited for years to reunite with family members. That is simply unconscionable."
There were an estimated 15.2 million Asian Americans living in the United States in July 2007, 61% of them foreign born. 90% of legal immigration to the U.S. from Asia was family-based. Yet, this year, six Asian countries are among those with the worst backlogs for family reunification, including the Philippines, China and India. For example, it takes an estimated 15 years for unmarried adult children of a qualifying U.S. citizen to obtain a visa to come to the U.S from the Philippines; 22 years for married children and their family; and 22 years for siblings of a U.S. citizen. It takes five years for spouses of legal permanent residents and minor children.
"It is a tragic irony that in a country in which so many people talk about family values, we have allowed an immigration system to persist that prevents U.S. citizens and their families from being together." Abercrombie said.
"Legal, family-based immigration is one of the ways we keep America strong. Families pool resources to start and run businesses that create American jobs, purchase homes, and send their American children to college. Families provide care for young children, the sick and elderly, when other options are unaffordable. Families provide security for aging workforces, which is particularly important given questions about the future solidity of our social security system."
Reuniting Families Act Summary:
Recaptures unused and employment-based visas from fiscal years 1992-2007 and, for future years, "rolls over" unused visa allotment to the next year.
Reclassifies spouses & minor children of Green Card Holders as immediate relatives;
Addresses the decades-long backlog for certain countries by raising the per-country immigration limits from 7% to 10% of total admissions.
Promotes Family Unity by increasing discretion in addressing numerous hardships, including family separation.
Protects widows, widowers and orphans by allowing them to continue to wait in line for a visa after the death of the sponsoring relative.
Exempts Filipino Veterans from immigrant visa limits, and reduces visa wait times for children of Filipino World War II veterans.
Eliminates discrimination facing lesbian, gay, bisexual & transgender (LGBT) families throughout our immigration laws.