There has been much discussion about ways that President Obama may implement some short term fixes to our nation’s broken immigration system. Of course, no changes have been adopted yet. We thought it might be a good idea to discuss the possible ways that change might occur.
1. EXPAND CURRENT PROGRAMS
Two years ago, the President authorized a temporary grant of deferred action for certain young people in the U.S. Deferred action is legal protection against deportation from the U.S. even though it does not lead to a “green card” or “U.S. citizenship.” This particular grant was called “Deferred Action for Certain Childhood Arrivals (DACA)” and has allowed countless young adults the change to get lawful work authorization, driver’s licenses, open bank and credit card accounts, and live without fear of people deported from the only country they have ever known. The President should authorize this program to include the Parents of U.S. citizens and Parents with DACA-eligible young people that parents and children are forcibly separated from one another only because the parent does not have status.
2. MAKE THE “EXTREME HARDSHIP” REQUIREMENT OF WAIVERS MORE REALISTIC
Currently, many U.S. citizens and their spouses are forced to hope and pray that their particular family situation is considered “extreme” enough to be granted a waiver so that the immigrant spouse can remain in the U.S. Often times, these couples have U.S. citizen children who would either have to remain in the U.S. with one citizen parent or “self-deport” with their non-citizen parent to a country not their own if a waiver is denied. Extreme hardship waivers are available to non-citizens who are married to U.S. citizens but because of an illegal or unlawful entry into the U.S. are not eligible for a “green card” without the approval of the waiver. The President should instruct U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services that guidelines for considering “extreme hardship” should include all relevant factors of a person’s life and not be narrowly construed to exclude applicants.
3. REDUCE THE 10 YEAR BAR
Currently certain immigrants become ineligible to apply for a visa to return legally to the U.S. unless 10 years have passed for infractions that do not necessarily having anything to do with a crime but relate to immigration violations. Congress should reduce the 10 years bars to time frames that do not mean a decade of separation from loved ones. These bars apply even to spouses of U.S. citizens or the parents of adult U.S. citizens.
4. FIX THE VISA QUOTAS TO REDUCE THE VISA BACKLOG
For many U.S. citizens, applying for an adult child or a sibling means several years of waiting to be together in the U.S. It’s even worse if your family is from India, China, Mexico, or the Philippines. The same is true for the spouses and minor children of lawful permanent residents who currently have about 2 year wait to be reunited with their loved ones in the U.S. Congress should take into account a more update to measure of the number of visas that can be allotted every to U.S. citizens and LPRs. Further, derivatives (spouses and children) should not be counted toward the overall visa quota. By counting the principal immigrant and their derivatives as one family unit towards the limited visa quota instead of individual units, this would free up many of the dearly sought for visas even if the visas were not increased.
5. ALLOW FOR MORE H-1B EXEMPTED EMPLOYERS
The H-1B visa is one of the most sought after work related visas for foreign graduates of U.S. colleges and universities. It’s their main opportunity to put to work the skills they have acquired in the U.S. However, because of the limited number of H-1B visas available, the program has become a lottery system where applicants cross their fingers and hope they get picked. Last year, for 65,000 visas about 172,000 applications were received. One exception to the lottery is if you will be employed at a company that is “affliated or related” to a non-profit entity such as a hospital or research institution. USCIS should include more orgnaziations within this exception to permit more individuals to work on H-1B vias at places like start-ups that are connected to universities.