AILA Commends DHS Decision to Amend Immigration Waiver Process

Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 12033055 (posted Mar. 30, 2012)"

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Friday, March 30, 2012

CONTACTS:
George Tzamaras
202-507-7649
gtzamaras@aila.org

or
Amanda Walkins
202-507-7618
awalkins@aila.org

AILA Commends DHS Decision to Amend Immigration Waiver Process

Change Can Help Reduce the Time Spouses and Children Are Separated from U.S. Citizen Relatives While They Complete the Green Card Process

WASHINGTON, DC - The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) commends the Department of Homeland Security's proposal to change its processes to enable spouses and children of U.S. citizens physically present in the United States to apply within the U.S. for the waiver they need to become U.S. permanent residents. The current procedure requires the spouse or child to leave the United States, file the waiver application in the home country, and wait for processing while separated from their U.S. citizen loved ones.

The proposal would permit immediate family of U.S. citizens to apply for a provisional waiver of unlawful presence while remaining in the U.S., thereby minimizing the time they would be separated from their families during the process. To obtain the waiver, applicants would still need to meet the strict letter of the law which requires them to prove that family separation will cause their American citizen spouse or parent extreme hardship.

If the waiver is granted, the foreign national must leave the U.S. and apply for and receive an immigrant visa abroad before returning to the U.S. The change will give countless American families a chance to stay together safely and legally.

"Today's proposed change, permitting the waiver request to be decided stateside, is a positive step for keeping families together. It would result in a significant change in process for many individuals and, if implemented, will literally save lives. People have been kidnapped and murdered waiting for waivers in Juarez, Mexico, and other countries," said Eleanor Pelta, President of AILA. "It's a move that will be less destructive to families and bring about a fairer and more streamlined waiver process.

"Unfortunately USCIS's proposed rule would exclude many people who are stuck in the same situation, and would provide for procedures that may undercut the very efficiencies that a revised process would provide. That doesn't make any sense," continued Pelta. "The proposed rule only applies to a limited group of applicants, namely the immediate relatives of U.S. citizens who can show extreme hardship to a U.S. citizen spouse or parent. This leaves out broad categories of close family members who also have to wait abroad for their waiver, including the spouses and children of people who have green cards and the adult children of U.S. citizens. It also needlessly keeps review of the agency's decisions and other pieces of the process outside the U.S., thus undercutting some of the very reasons for the process change in some cases." In February, AILA, joined by over 40 other organizations, offered several recommendations to improve the provisional waiver plan. AILA will submit formal comments during the 60-day comment period.

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The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members.