The Obama administration announced Friday that it will propose new rules
to fix one of the key problems in immigration law, sparing thousands of American citizens from prolonged separation from family members. This action doesn't require Congressional approval, but can be done through tweaking regulations and providing waivers to illegal immigrant family members of citizens.
One of the snags in the process of applying for permanent residency, or a green card, as a spouse or child of a citizen has been that the law requires any person here illegally to return to their home country to receive a visa. But then they are barred from returning to the U.S. for at least three years and up to a decade. Waivers of this waiting period have been available under law, but have been difficult to obtain. The result: Many family members here illegally stay here illegally, risking deportation.
Now, Citizenship and Immigration Services proposes to allow the immigrants to obtain a provisional waiver in the United States, before they leave for their countries to pick up their visas. Having the waiver in hand will allow them to depart knowing that they will almost certainly be able to return, officials said. The agency is also seeking to sharply streamline the process to cut down the wait times for visas to a few weeks at most.
“The goal is to substantially reduce the time that the U.S. citizen is separated from the spouse or child when that separation would yield an extreme hardship,” said Alejandro Mayorkas, the director of the immigration agency.
On Friday, the agency will publish a formal notice in the Federal Register that it is preparing a new regulation governing the waivers. But agency officials, speaking on condition of anonymity on Thursday before the proposal was formally announced, stressed that this was only the beginning of a long regulatory process that they hoped to complete by issuing a new rule before the end of this year.
This is another "we can't wait" action by the White House, in light of the fact that there won't be any movement whatsoever on immigration reform out of this Congress. As with most of the executive actions Obama has taken in recent months, there really isn't a way for Congress to prevent this action. But don't expect that to prevent some Republican committee chair in the House from having hearings over this latest "unconstitutional power grab" by the administration.