Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 13021152 (posted Feb. 11, 2013)"
FAMILY AND EMPLOYMENT BASED IMMIGRATION
Reform cannot be a zero-sum game. America benefits the most when the family-and employment-based systems are each working effectively. Without meaningfully addressing visa backlogs, in both family and employment based categories, people will continue to endure long backlogs-often well over a decade-that keep their families separated and job openings unfilled.
How will the President and Congress ensure that any legislation continues America's historic commitment to bringing families together and ensures that Americans do not have to choose between their country and taking care of their elderly parents or building a life with their children and siblings?
Some in Congress have called for the reduction of visas for family-based immigration or for eliminating categories of family members from being eligible. This approach is premised on the assumption that America can only absorb a fixed number of immigrants at a given time when, in fact, our nation's needs are constantly changing-sometimes expanding and other times contracting. Our immigration system must be flexible and capable of meeting the needs of American businesses, families, and the economy.
Both the Senate's and President's blueprint state the need to address the backlogs in the immigration system that keep family apart:
"Keep Families together. The proposal seeks to eliminate existing backlogs in the family-sponsored immigration system by recapturing unused visas and temporarily increasing annual visa numbers." (President)
"Our new immigration system must be more focused on recognizing the important characteristics which will help build the American economy and strengthen American families. Additionally, we must reduce backlogs in the family and employment visa categories so that future immigrants view our future legal immigration system as the exclusive means for entry into the United States." (Senate)
Family-based immigration is the pillar of our immigration system. As a country, we have long recognized that keeping families strong and unified is a core national value and interest. Currently, family visas are only available to limited close family members of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents: spouses, children, parents, and siblings (for U.S. citizens). Due to backlogs in certain categories, families endure years, even decades, in line for the chance at reunification.