April 25, 2013
After years of waiting for a Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) bill to fix the nation’s broken immigration system, the introduction of the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013” by the Gang of 8 bipartisan Senators on April 17, 2013, brings great hope to many in the immigrant community. The vast majority of provisions contained in the proposed law would significantly benefit the millions of undocumented individuals in the United States, reunite long-separated families, and spur economic progress for numerous businesses. A few provisions, however, are tremendously damaging and as such require individuals to immediately move forward before the passage of the law.
There are two provisions that are creating the greatest concern as they harm the unification of families. The first provision pertains to relative petitions for children. Under the current law, a United States citizen may file a relative petition for any married child regardless of age. Under the proposed law, however, US citizens would only be able to file a petition for a married child if the child is 30 years old or younger. A US citizen parent would no longer be eligible to file a relative petition for a married child who is 31 years old or older.
The second provision pertains to relative petitions for brothers and sisters. Currently, a US citizen may file a relative petition for a sibling, including half-siblings and step-siblings. A step-sibling is one wherein the marriage between the natural parent and step-parent occurs prior to the child’s 18th birthday. The proposed law would completely eliminate the sibling category, therefore no longer allowing any US citizen to petition their brother, sister, half-sibling, or step-sibling.
Because relative petitions for married children and siblings have historically been excessively long, many individuals have never filed petitions believing it was a waste of time and money. This has been somewhat understandable since the married children category for those from the Philippines is presently backlogged to 1992 and the sibling category backlogged to 1989.
The proposals to limit the married children category and eliminate the sibling category, however, now requires all individuals who have any interest in securing green cards for these family members to act immediately or risk entirely losing the possibility to do so. Many individuals will likely be pursuing the filing of these petitions in anticipation of the new law, so it is prudent for people with any interest to pursue filing these petitions as soon as possible.
The proposed changes to the immigration laws are a fantastic example of why individuals should file whatever petitions are available to them, regardless of the perceived lengthy waits, as it is never known what type of changes may occur to make the situation better or worse. For those who have pursued relative petitions despite knowing how excessively long the waiting periods are, passage of the proposed law should reward them by reducing the current waiting periods significantly and/or allowing them to obtain temporary visas until becoming eligible to obtain their green card. For those who have been too discouraged to pursue a petition believing the wait is too long, passage of the proposed law may regrettably eliminate any chance to reunite with their loved ones unless they move forward now.
Since it is never certain when a child may get married, either before age 31 or after, all US citizens who have any thought of petitioning a child should file their relative petitions as soon as possible. All US citizens wishing to petition a sibling should also seize the opportunity now before it may be too late. While the immigrant community is eagerly awaiting passage of a Comprehensive Immigration Reform, individuals should also be aware of the potential negative impact to family unification and move forward with protecting their rights and interests.