The Senate’s immigration bill, S. 744, has been out for almost three weeks.  On Tuesday, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee filed over 300 proposed amendments to the bill.  On Thursday, the Committee began the hard work of considering changes to the bill through the amendment process.  What might be in store for Americans hoping to reunite with loved ones through family-based immigration?

Some members and advocates hope to strengthen to ability of U.S. citizens to reunite with their older married children or their brother and sisters.  S. 744 proposes eliminating the brother and sister category, and restricting petitions for adult married children to individuals over 31.  But imagine if you are a U.S. citizen whose only remaining relative is a brother in a country half a world away.  Suppose your family doesn’t follow Congress’ definition and you don’t have a spouse or a younger child to sponsor but you still need the love and support of your brother, and want to petition for him to come to the U.S.  Under the Senate base bill, your ability to reunite with your brother would be far more difficult.  Several amendments were filed by Senator Hirono to address the proposed changes to family-based immigration.  Chairman Leahy also filed an amendment to recognize LGBT couples and families and extend immigration benefits to them for the first time.

At the same time, other members are attempting to further limit the ability of family members to come to the U.S.  For example, Senator Sessions filed an amendment to eliminate the points assigned to siblings of U.S. citizens in the proposed merit-based system.  Similarly, Senator Cruz filed an amendment to overhaul much of the legal immigration system and call for the complete elimination of the category for adult married children.

How should Congress accommodate the evolving various definitions of “family”?

How would you amend the family provisions in S. 744 to ensure families have workable channels to become reunited?  

How valuable are your family members to your economic success and emotional well-being?

Should our immigration laws create exceptions for individual family situations?

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  • D Tuomi

    Reunite the families separated by Deportation. Lift the Bans, allow them to come back to their children and homes. This is a very sad situation they have to live with. Thank you..

  • Josie Gomez

    Congress should repeal the 3-10 year bars, families that have tried to go to the legal channel and get right with the law and find themselves stranded to returned home because of the 3-10 year bars. Waiver’s is not working because what they get is denials even if a person has never committed a crime except for overstaying their Visas. They have equities to get approval’s such family ties, long term employment, had spent 20 years in the US paying taxes contributes to the American society and it is a very harsh punishment and does not fit the crime. I am hoping and praying that they repeal or amend this law.
    There are millions of families that were already separated and these are mixed status families. Husband/Wives/Children are being torn apart. They need and must be reunited first, they destroyed emotionally and financially.

  • Sarah Blackwell

    We are in the current situation of having 10-12million people living here unlawfully in part because we allow people to sponsor adult sons/daughters and siblings, but do not provide sufficient visas to allow emigration within a reasonable period of time (e.g. 5 years). People take matters into their own hands, largely because they feel a promise has been broken.

    Unfortunately, it is extremely unlikely Congress would ever approve sufficient volume of visas to ensure adult sons/daughters and siblings wait no more than 5 years to get an immigrant visa.

    Consequently, as a general rule, US citizens and LPRs should not be allowed to sponsor adult sons/daughters and siblings. This would bring US immigration laws more in line with other countries.

    However, the law should allow for humanitarian exceptions if (for example) the sponsor can prove that at least 80% of immediate family (spouse, parents, siblings and children) are living lawfully in the U.S. and/or the relative they wish to sponsor is a dependent adult unable to support themselves. That is what is missing from the current bill.

    • EOshiro

      Our regrettable backlogs result from our failure to tackle immigration reform over the last 20 years. We need a system that is flexible and can easily adapt to the needs of our economy and society. However, eliminating avenues for talented, hard-working individuals from coming to the U.S., may not be in our long-term interests as a nation. Research shows that immigrants (adult married children and siblings included) who reunite with their loved ones here in the
      U.S. have an easier time integrating into our communities, demonstrate higher wage earnings and higher rates of self-employment, which in many cases produces jobs for other Americans, and exhibit upward mobility.

      What makes the U.S. attractive and competitive in the global market is our immigration system. We offer
      family unity and economic opportunities. Our immigration system isn’t a zero-sum game. What our policymakers are tasked with now is understanding the benefits of our diverse community and providing commonsense solutions that
      adhere to our values as a nation.

  • Angie Williams

    I think the integrity of the family needs to be protected at all costs, siblings and adult children are just as important to immediate family members. I do not have a problem with the elimination of these categories if there is something reasonable that takes it places and takes into account these very important family members. The preference categories might as well not exist as they are, with 10+ years of waiting and 50-60 in some cases. I think there shouldn’t be a quota on immediate family members (mom, dad, brothers and sisters, children, spouses). These people should be bale to petition for their immediate family. If that were the case and there was not a 10+ year wait with no ability to be with those same family members during that time I know my clients would jump at the opportunity to petition. In fact they petition under our system now even though the chances of a Mexican filing for a sibling in 2013 actually ever getting that visa are slim. Similarly, the 3-10 year ban is ridiculous and absolutely untenable for most people. There is no way you can ask a parent to be away from his or her child for that long. Finally the permanent bar for multiple entries and the forever bar for false claims to US citizenship should be eliminate. There almost nothing that isn’t forgivable at some point and it is ridiculous that checking a box on an I-9 falls into the same forever ban as being a terrorist, committing genocide and being a nazi.

  • Rowen Murphy

    I am a 50 year old American woman- exiled in the UK with my British same sex partner because the US discriminates against LGBT. She is my spouse- yet she cannot immigrate to the US like a heterosexual spouse. I had to leave my parents, sisters, brothers, friends, job, home and the country I’ve been born and raised in
    worked in, paid taxes in, for over 34 years because of this countinued discrimination. There are no jobs in the UK for me- no opportunity.
    I am an immigrant in the UK- a country I don’t want to be in but am forced to live in- this is forced exile of my own country to be with my spouse.I am just one of many American LGBT citizens exiled in other countries- many with children born in the US- unable to return to the US because of
    this discrimination. All citizens of the US should have the same opportunity to sponsor their spouses and families- we all want to return to the US-the land of opportunity for us too.