Keeping families together

A new rule removes obstacles for a category of immigrants

The rule that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services recently announced brings relief to thousands of families, removing a regulatory obstacle for a sector of the undocumented population.

Until now, undocumented immigrants with a U.S. citizen close relative who were unable to adjust their status in the United States had to return to their country of origin to obtain an immigrant visa.

As part of the process, they must obtain a waiver forgiving their presence in the country undocumented for more than six months. Once they are abroad, these people could be denied the waiver, and as a consequence be unable to return to the U.S. for 10 years. The possibility of splitting up their family for long periods of time has discouraged thousands of people from seeking to regularize their immigration status.

Beginning March 4, it will no longer be necessary to be exposed to this uncertainty, since applicants will be able to apply for a waiver in the U.S. and have their exemption in hand when they leave the country to obtain the visa.

This rule change provides stability to a small group of immigrants by protecting their family integrity. The rejection of the waiver, if it takes place, will happen while the applicant is in the U.S.

Nevertheless, this policy change only fixes part of a piecemeal immigration system, without providing a consistent vision of how to bring millions of honest and hardworking people out of the shadows—people who from legal darkness contribute to the economy.

However, comprehensive immigration reform is the path to having a legal framework that addresses numerous punitive rules, like the one mentioned above, which were established as time went by.