Momentum for Immigration Reform Continues to Build

Wednesday, May 20, 2009
George Tzamaras

  • Sens. Menendez, Gillibrand, Kennedy and Schumer introduce "The Reuniting Families Act" in the Senate
  • Judiciary Immigration Subcommittee holds its second Hearing "Securing the Borders and America's Points of Entry, What Remains to Be Done"
  • The Police Foundation releases a report titled "The Role of Local Police: Striking a
  • Balance Between Immigration Enforcement and Civil Liberties"
  • The National Foundation for American Policy releases two studies today: "Common Sense and Common Interests" and "A Commission to Regulate Immigration? A Bad Idea Whose Time Should Not Come"
  • White House announces meeting on immigration reform with Congressional leaders for June 8

WASHINGTON, DC - The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) welcomes several developments today that signal that immigration reform is gaining momentum!

AILA commends US Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Charles Schumer (D-NY) for introducing legislation today that seeks to restore America's commitment to family unity. The Reuniting Families Act would help legal immigrants reunite with their families and end decade-long waiting times for legal immigrant visas. "This is momentous day for all Americans who understand the dire need for immigration," said Charles H. Kuck, president of AILA. "This important legislation promotes timely reunification of families by recapturing unused visas and eliminating the tragically long family immigration backlogs."

The legislation would reinforce our commitment to families and reduce current wait times in the family immigration system by:

  • Helping an estimated 322,000 spouses and children under the age of 21 of lawful permanent residents who are waiting in line to reunite with their families by reclassifying them as immediate relatives
  • Addressing the decades-long backlogs for certain countries by raising the per-country immigration limits from 7 percent to 10 percent of total admissions
  • Protecting widows, widowers and orphans by allowing them to continue to wait in line for a visa after the death of the sponsoring relative.
  • Recapturing an estimated 400,000 family-sponsored and employment-based visas that went unused between 1992 and 2007.
  • Respecting the contribution of Filipino World War II veterans by reducing their children's waiting times for an immigrant visa.
  • Promoting family unity by allowing more people who are already eligible for an immigrant visa to efficiently use our legal family immigration system.
  • Providing equal treatment for stepchildren and biological children by allowing stepchildren under the age of 21 to immigrate upon their parents' marriage (current age limit is 18).

In addition to this important legislation, the Senate Judiciary Immigration Subcommittee today launched an aggressive effort to press for passage of comprehensive immigration legislation, with Subcommittee Chairman Charles Schumer, D-NY, saying conditions are ripe for Congressional action. Schumer also announced an agenda of hearings for the coming months and said he is "cautiously optimistic that we can pass strong, fair, practical and effective immigration reform this year."

Further, a report released today by the nonpartisan Police Foundation criticized efforts to have local law enforcement agencies enforce federal immigration laws. The group said the report "finds that immigration enforcement by local police undermines their core public safety mission, diverts scarce resources, increases their exposure to liability and litigation, and exacerbates fear in communities already distrustful of police."

Also, the National Foundation of American Policy released two studies earlier today. One study titled, "Common Sense, Common Interests," recommends combining fully portable work permits - not tied to a specific employer - with bilateral administrative agreements. The second study, "A Commission to Regulate Immigration? A Bad Idea Whose Time Should Not Come," concludes that creating a commission to establish the annual level of temporary visas and green cards for high and low-skilled workers would result in unaccountable officials with the enormous power to change the law based on little more than their personal preference.

And finally, the White House today announced that it will hold a high-level meeting with Congressional leaders on June 8th to discuss plans for immigration reform.

These important developments all keep the momentum building towards an immigration overhaul that is desperately needed by our country. AILA pledges itself to working closely with Congress and the Administration to make sure that immigration reform moves forward to a successful conclusion in the months ahead!


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.

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 09052030.