A project of the Center for Community Change

FIRM Applauds Obama Administration’s Proposal to Keep Families United

Rule Change Eases Prolonged Separations

The Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM) today applauded the Obama Administration’s proposed rule change allowing spouses and children of U.S. citizens to stay together in the United States while family members work to gain permanent U.S. residency.

Under current law, undocumented immigrants have to leave the United States and apply for a waiver to lessen the 3-year to 10-year bar they face before they can re-enter the country. Often, the process to obtain a waiver can take months or even years, meaning families have to endure severe prolonged separations.

The rule change would allow spouses and children of U.S. citizens to file their waivers in the United States. The action does not require congressional approval.

“In focusing on keeping families together, the Obama administration is moving in a positive direction to significantly ease the hardship families are going through now to obtain these waivers,” said Deepak Bhargava, executive director of the Center for Community Change. The Center is a member of FIRM. “Families should not be torn apart because of their immigration status. The proposal cuts through unnecessary bureaucracy and red tape and focuses on family unity.”

The rule change would help families like Miguel and Lorena Reyes of Idaho Falls, Idaho. Miguel Reyes had to go back to Mexico in August 2011 to apply for his waiver. He is still waiting for it. Meanwhile, Lorena Reyes, a U.S. citizen, is working hard to maintain a normal family life for the couple’s two-year-old daughter, Ruth.

“This immigration process has been so stressful and devastating for me and my family,” said Lorena Reyes, who told her story to the Alliance for a Just Society and the Idaho Community Action Network, both members of FIRM. “Our life is on hold, our family’s future is on hold, as we wait for his visa to be approved. I am struggling financially and also suffering emotionally and so is our daughter. I want my husband to come back home now to wait for his waiver.”

FIRM hopes the policy is extended to immigrants with lawful permanent resident status. Families should not have to wait in other countries for prolonged periods of time to be reunited with their families in the United States.

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