Last Friday, President Obama took a small, but important, first step in eliminating the painful separation of American families because of twisted immigration laws. Right now, the spouse of a United States citizen cannot apply for a green card in the U.S. if they originally entered without proper inspection by an immigration officer. To obtain lawful status the immigrant must leave the U.S. and apply for a visa at a U.S. embassy in their home country. However, this sets up a Catch-22 because once the immigrant leaves the U.S. he or she is barred from returning for up to 10 years unless he or she is granted a waiver proving the U.S. citizen spouse or parent will suffer extreme hardship as a result of this forced and extended separation.
This waiver, known as an unlawful presence waiver, can take months, even years to process because of bureaucratic backlogs. In the meantime the family is separated, the foreign spouse may be stuck in a dangerous place like Ciudad Juarez, Mexico where many immigrants have lost their lives and there is no way of predicting if or when the family will ever be reunited. Under this new rule, families will be able to stay together while the waiver is being processed. This is exactly what Americans support - the protection of American families and honoring that bond.
Although the new rule as proposed isn t perfect, it's an important step forward keeping families together and fixing our broken immigration system.