Last month I wrote an article about how recent trends in immigration enforcement have created extreme anxiety among immigrant communities. Since last month, the Obama Administration announced some exciting news and so, in lieu of my plan of discussing how families can prepare for the prolonged detention of their family members, this month I wanted to share how there is hope for immigrant families and what this new announcement means.
On January 6, 2012, the Obama Administration announced it intends to make changes in the process certain family members of U.S. citizens can apply for a “waiver.” The “waiver” is needed in the case of a person who entered the United States without inspection (i.e., “illegally”) and who remained living in the country without permission for an extended period of time. In a normal case, the person applying for the “waiver” would have to return to their home country to apply at a U.S. Consular Office. The waiver can take anywhere from 3 months to 18 months for a decision and the applicant has to wait out of the country for all this time.
This waiver process separates families for extended periods of time causing unnecessary suffering. The new process that the Obama Administration announced would permit the applicant to apply while they are still in the United States. There have been literally hundreds of thousands of individuals who are eligible to apply for these waivers but who have feared being separated from their families. This change announced by the Obama Administration will benefit those families and will likely encourage hundreds of thousands to come out of the shadows of being “illegal.”
This is a procedural change within the agency and not a change in the law. For this reason President Obama does not need approval from Congress to do this. However, a review period is still needed before the new process is implemented and will likely not be available until the end of 2012. Nonetheless, families who could benefit under this new process are encouraged to speak to an immigration attorney to determine what steps they can take now to prepare for the time the new waiver process is available.
While it is anticipated that President Obama’s political opponents will disapprove of this step, their oppositions will not be based on a consideration of the amount of good this offers to the United States citizens who are affected. This is a great move by the President and offers only positive improvements to an immigration system that is in desperate need of reform.