The issue of separated families of US legal residents: a proposed legislation

When a Legal Permanent Resident of the US marries a person residing outside the US it takes approximately four years before they can live in the US as a family! This is due to our current Immigration laws that has separated families rather than unify them. This coupled with the fact that millions of ‘undocumented aliens’ that were accorded legal status under the 1986 amnesty program has overwhelmed the current quota system by sponsoring their immediate relatives since the 90s. The current backlog stands at approximately 1.05 million spouses and minor children of Legal Permanent Residents of the US. Of this approximately 70% are ‘beneficiaries of legalized aliens’. The obvious question is what happens to them aliens that were legal to begin with, them that played by the rules? Simple: they got screwed!! All for being law abiding!

Current waiting times are four years and increasing and its our aim through APSR to renew efforts to have Congress pass legislation to allow visiting rights to separated spouses and minor children which is tearing our families apart! Currently spouses and minor children of Legal Permanent Residents are refused visiting visas for the fear they may never return to their home country after the visit since one of the spouses is resident in the US.

Legislative Background

A major immigration bill IMMACT90 passed in 1990 was aimed at overhauling the nations immigration laws. It did not improve the situation for legal permanent residents in their efforts to unify their family. Since then Congress has dealt with unification of spouses of Permanent Residents on three separate occasions. Each time after having introduced appropriate legislation it failed to turn into law despite bipartisan support.

Following are the details of the bills introduced:
HR 4275 and S 2385 in the 102nd Congress and HR 3182 and S 618 in the 103rd Congress. Most recently the JORDAN COMMISSION (1995) which convened to recommend appropriate legislation overwhelmingly supported family unification issues for legal permanent residents of the US. PSR testified both before Congress and the JORDAN COMMISSION. However to-date nothing has happened to resolve the issue.

It is however no mean task to convince Congress and keep them aware of our suffering. It is our personal opinion that Congress may ultimately be ripe to pass appropriate legislation to address this issue in the 105th Congress. Please support APSR in its lobbying efforts and write your Congressman.

You do not have to be a member of APSR to feel the pain of separation. This is a humanitarian issue!

We would like to introduce legislation in Congress to address the following issues affecting separated families of US LEGAL RESIDENTS:

1) Legislation to create visiting visas for spouse and minor children of US LEGAL PERMANENT RESIDENTS that are waiting for permanent visas to become available. Incorporate ‘DUAL INTENT’ provision into law to alleviate suffering of separated families. NO ALTERATION OF CURRENT QUOTA SYSTEM IS RECOMMENDED AT THIS TIME. The proposed legislation is not aimed at reforming the current LEGAL IMMIGRATION system.

2) Such visas are to be given for a period of 90 days minimum renewable upto 180 days with all restrictions of the ‘entitlement bar’ applicable as outlined in the IIRRA ACT OF 1996. It must be made clear to Congress at this time that the intent of this legislation is purely humanitarian not to beat the system!

Congress has already seen legislation introduced to address this issue specifically in the 102nd and 103rd Congress.

3) Currently there are 1.05 million spouse and minor children waiting to join their families permanently in the US. This is a direct result of the Legalization of Beneficiaries program. Address this issue through appropriate legislation. LEGAL RESIDENTS that have abided by the law at all times cannot be equated with those that have attained Legal Status through the amnesty program.

4) Implement recommendations of the JORDAN COMMISSION report of 1995 to unify separated families of LEGAL PERMANENT RESIDENTS with immediate effect. Congress cannot continue to ignore this issue and espouse the cause of HUMAN RIGHTS and FAMILY VALUES throughout the world! The right of families is to be together not separated by inhuman laws such as enacted by Congress.