Family reunification has long been the cornerstone of our immigration system, and the Senate bill proposes significant changes to the family-based system. Many of the bill’s provisions are welcome and much-needed changes that will help millions of families. Importantly, the bill redefines “immediate relatives” to include spouses and minor children of green card holders (the so-called “2a” fix), which will exempt those family members from numerical caps and reunite them quickly. Another significant change is the elimination of the current family backlog of 4.3 million loved ones over a period of 8 to 10 years. In the meantime, some family members with approved petitions awaiting a green card will be able to live and work in the U.S. on a “V” visa. Also on the plus side, the bill proposes allowing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) discretion to waive grounds of inadmissibility if denying admission would result in hardship to an immigrant’s U.S. citizen or LPR parent, spouse, or child. These are all-important changes that will provide relief for many families in the Asian, Latino, African, and Caribbean communities.
However, the other proposed changes are cause for concern and raise many questions. Moving forward, U.S. citizens would no longer be able to sponsor their brothers or sisters (there is an 18-month grace period after enactment). And the family preference category for married adult children (“F3” category) would be limited to individuals 30 years old or younger. The bill does not include provisions to include LGBT couples and their families in our immigration system. It is envisioned that some of these individuals will still be able to come to the U.S. through the new merit-based system, which allocates points to individuals based on different criteria. For example, the bill proposes granting 10 points for being a brother or sister of a U.S. citizen. This is the same number of points awarded for having a Master’s Degree.
So, does the concept of family embedded in the Senate bill reflect the reality and needs of American families?
Do the proposed legal modifications constitute a fair and reasonable solution to the flaws of our current family-based immigration system?