WASHINGTON, D.C. (Jan. 3, 2012) — The U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Thursday announced that effective March 4, 2013, certain visa applicants will be able to file for family unity waivers, reducing immigration wait time and making it easier for families to stay together.
Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA-27), Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), and Congressman Mike Honda (CA-15), CAPAC Immigration Taskforce Chair, released the following statement:
“Today, the Obama Administration took a critical step forward in fixing our broken immigration system,” said Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA-32), CAPAC Chair. “There is no good reason to force families apart for seeking better lives in America. Asian immigrants have been disproportionately impacted by this process, sometimes waiting as long as 11-years to join their loved ones here. That’s why several Congressional leaders, myself included, have urged the President to make this change in support of family unity. I am thrilled to see it come to pass, and I thank President Obama for his leadership in helping families stay together.
“The final rule to allow certain visa applicants to file for family unity waivers within the U.S. is a positive step forward for our families,” said Congressman Mike Honda (CA-15), CAPAC Immigration Taskforce Chair. “The Reuniting Families Act, legislation that I introduced, follows suit with DHS’s final rule by reuniting families despite bars to reentry. This bill reduces the backlog of families trying to reunite with their loved ones, by classifying lawful permanent resident spouses, including same-sex partners, and children as ‘immediate relatives’. It also exempts them from numerical caps on family immigration.
“While the family unity waiver will benefit many, current immigration laws continue to tear families apart and separate American citizens from their loved ones. No family should be left out of the immigration system, and no person should be forced to choose between their spouse and their country. That is why we need a comprehensive approach to fix our broken immigration system and keep families intact.
“As CAPAC Immigration Taskforce Chair, I have worked closely with President Obama and the Department of Homeland Security. I advocated for fair, effective, and humane implementation of immigration policy, including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and the exercise of prosecutorial discretion with respect to same-sex, bi-national partners. I will continue to fight for family unity and inclusion as I work with my colleagues to draft comprehensive immigration reform legislation in the 113th Congress.”
Asian Americans are the most likely group to have family members impacted by the visa backlogs. While only comprising six percent of the U.S. population, Asian Americans sponsor more than one third of all family-based immigrants. Under current law, U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents (LPRs) can apply for a green card for their spouse or child. However, many families are forced to live apart for years, even decades, while waiting for the green card. The Obama Administration’s new rule enables certain eligible family members to apply for a provisional unlawful presence waiver (also called the family unity waiver) before leaving the United States for their visa interview, which must take place in their home country. An approved waiver will allow these family members to complete their travel and visa appointment in a short time and avoid additional wait times in home countries that separate them from loved ones in the U.S.
The Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) is comprised of Members of Congress of Asian and Pacific Islander descent and members who have a strong dedication to promoting the well-being of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. Currently chaired by Congresswoman Judy Chu, CAPAC has been addressing the needs of the AAPI community in all areas of American life since it was founded in 1994.