House Immigration Subcommittee Hearing on Nuclear Family Separation

On 3/14/13 at 1:30pm Eastern the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security of the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on “The Separation of Nuclear Families under U.S. Immigration Law.”

Witness List:

Mr. Randall Emery
President, American Families United

Mr. Mathi Mugilan Paguth Arivalan
Lawful Permanent Resident

Mr. Demetrios Papademetriou
President, Migration Policy Institute

Ms. Clarissa Martinez-De-Castro
Director, Immigration and National Campaigns
National Council of La Raza

3:52pm Rep. Gowdy (R-SC) begins his opening statement. He discusses the importance of individuals having family support. Discusses the family green card backlogs, which creates lengthy wait times for family members. He cites a study indicating that LPR individuals should not have to wait more than one year for a spouse of minor child, but the current wait time can be as much as 2.5 years. Discusses the threat of marriage fraud for LPRs who get married after becoming an LPR.

3:56pm Rep. Lofgren (D-CA) begins her opening statement. Notes that this is the fifth hearing in this Congress focusing on immigration. She notes that family reunification has been the bedrock of U.S. immigration since 1965 and it was not an accident. It is families that make the nation work because they support us. The system further limits immigration to 7% per country which creates odd results because Iceland and India have the same number of visas allocated. We have seen some improvements in the amount of time that spouses and minor children are separated, but I still think what does America gain when these families are separated? Previously a member of the Judiciary mentioned an adult son or daughter as chain migration-and I do not agree with that. Our problems have been aggravated by changes made in the law in 1996-one example is the 3 and 10 year bars. I said at the time that it would just create more unlawful immigration and it is unsatisfactory to say I told you so. If you leave for 10 years when your child is 5, when you return your child will be 15, and people refuse to do that. The MPI has indicated that if not for the 1996 act many people currently without papers would be authorized.

4:03pm Mr. Emery, president of American Families United begins his statement. 4:08pm Mr. Paguth Arivalan begins his statement. 4:13pm Mr. Papademetriou begins his statement. 4:18pm Ms. Martinez-De-Castro begins her statement.

4:23pm Rep. King (R-IA) begins his questions for the panel
Q: When I hear discussion about restoring the rule of law by suspending the rule of law it's hard for me to wrap my hear about. Does your organization have a position on what the population of the U.S. should be in the next generation or two? And what should the legal limits of immigration be?
Martinez-De-Castro A: There's about 1 million people immigrants coming in every year-that is 0.3% of the current American population, so I think we have the ability to raise those numbers slightly to respond to needs for employment and family based immigration
Q: Are you familiar with Milton Freedman's statement that an "open border" system is not compatible with a welfare statement?
Martinez-De-Castro A: Our organization does not support open borders, so it is not necessary to go down the road because that's what we're not talking about here. Emery A: We believe our laws should respect our values, but we don't have a specific position on the numbers of immigrants that should be allowed to enter legally. There should be due process waiver reform.

4:30pm Rep. Lofgren begins her questions
Q: Sometimes people talk about chain migration and people petitioning for grandparents and aunts and uncles, etc…
Papademetriou A: USC's can petition for minor children and parents with unlimited visas & unmarried adult children, married adult children, and siblings with limited visas.
Q: Congress makes the laws, we made a mistake in 1996 and now we have a chance to remedy them. It is important that we have a system that it be honest and it works. Talking on 4th preference, the backlog in that category-if you petition for a brother or sister in Mexico it could be 150 years, that strikes me as fraud to the petitioner.
Papademetriou A: I think waits for more than 10 years don't make any particular sense because they violate a number of principles.
Q: I think it's easy to assume that some of our most famous high skilled immigrants didn't come as children like the co-founders of Google and Yahoo. Balance is important, we don't need to fight each other.

4:36pm Rep. Labrado (R-ID) begins his questions
Q: On suggested fixes to F-2a is to allow spouses and minor children of LPRs to be treated as immediate relatives. Do you think that encourages fraud?
Emery A: Do we find a whole lot of fraud with people coming on H-1B visas, I don't think so. Q: I don't disagree with your policy prescription, but we have to think about future flow implications. When you change a law you will encourage certain behaviors. If we know in the immediate relative categories there is a lot of fraud is that something we should consider before changing the definition?
Martinez A: We can pose the same question with a program like Medicare-just because there is fraud doesn't mean we do away with the system. We try to make the changes we can to make it most effective. We're not talking about more or less immigration, we're talking about regulating the immigration that is happening and is in our best interest to make sure its going through legal channels. So an expansion of the program would create the incentives to encourage people to go through the system the way that we want.
Q: Are there any categories in the family based system that we should eliminate?
Martinez A: If you are a person whose only family in the world is a brother or sister that is your immediate family.
Q: If that's your only famil
y member, why did you leave them? If we are going to increase certain visa categories don't we need to seriously consider the limits on other categories? Martinez A: Each program we have encourages people to stand in a line that they might have the hope to go through. The arbitrary decision to take those lines away is encouraging bad decisions.

Rep. Jackson-Lee (D-TX) begins her questions.
Q: None of us describe our nation as a welfare state, we describe it as a land of opportunity. Is America overwhelmed by immigrants?
Papademetriou A: No, we take far fewer immigrants than most other countries on a per capita basis. The issue is not more or fewer it is a system that makes sense, with clear rules that make sense. We don't ask people to do things that are completely unnatural in their daily lives.
Q: If we have a system that establishes the rules do you think immigrants will follow the rules?
Martinez A: If the rules are clear and fair people have an incentive to follow them. When you think about undocumented people who have risked their lives literally to come here-if there was a real line that people could wait in people would choose it. When you put in a balance the risk to your life and the financial cost, a legal avenue will be incentivized.

4:48pm Rep. Amodei (R-NV) begins questions.
Q: What role should national interest play in creating immigration policy?
Papademetriou A: It's a critical role, but I don't see it as against national interest in keeping nuclear families together.

4:53pm Rep. Gutierrez (D-IL) begins questions.
Q: I think this is a hard panel to beat because it fills our record with the necessity of American citizens and keeping their families together. I'm a strong supporter in the institution of marriage and our immigration system undermines marriage. I want to say to Chairman Goodlatte thank you for your Christian Science monitor interview because it filled me with hope that we can find a bipartisan solution. Now I want to ask how many people have been deported in the last four years?
Martinez A: 1.6 million people deported. This is the biggest spike we've seen in deportation of any previous administration. We need enforcement of immigration laws, but in order to restore the rule of law we can't continue doing enforcement only policies. We must deal with the people and families that are here, 2/3 of whom have been here for more than 10 years.
Q: We spend $18 billion a year on enforcement, what does that mean?
A: $14 billion for all federal enforcement agencies combined (FBI, DEA) as opposed to $18 billion spent on immigration enforcement.
Q: I wanted to try to have a balance that enforcement is expanding. I joined Rep. Jackson-Lee last weekend in Houston and I've heard the compelling stories on family separation.

End of Hearing

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 13030851.