Eighth part of our ten part series examining the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s (AILA) publication of “What to Watch Out for on Immigration in 2011.”
Topic #8: Restrictions on Immigration That Hurt Families
Throughout history, the majority of legal immigration into the United States has comprised of individuals reuniting with their family members and workers obtaining jobs in American businesses. Both business and family immigration have benefited the country greatly in times of economic hardship.
Immigration law currently allows U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to sponsor other family members for immigrant visas, but because of the lack of immigration reform, there are tremendous backlogs. These backlogs can keep families from being reunited for up to 20 years.
Legislation is currently being proposed by lawmakers that would further restrict and even try to eliminate the family visa system. If passed, the legislation would dramatically alter U.S. immigration policy. The support of family helps immigrants better integrate and assimilate into American society. Families also benefit the overall U.S. economy by paying taxes, starting businesses, expanding our tax base, and broaden tax revenues. Additionally, the proposed laws would only send the message that the U.S. punishes individuals that have followed the law and worked to enter the country legally to be reunited with their family.
A points system was proposed in 2007 that would have replaced the need for family and employer sponsorship. Points would have been awarded for certain characteristics such as age, skills, education and English proficiency – then if you had enough points you could apply for a green card. AILA disagreed with the points system and found many inherent problems with it. If it had been passed it would have changed the fundamental immigration system, been difficult to implement and very vulnerable to fraud. Also, with the points system all immigrants are put into one lumped group, they are not separated by skill level which favors higher skilled workers and hurts family immigration. Lastly, the system would have given too much authority to the federal government to select who is best for jobs; as employers would no longer be the ones recruiting individuals based on specialized skills and knowledge.
AILA believes a policy is needed that recognizes the importance and economic contribution of family immigration.