Immigration Change Will Ease Family Separations
Obama administration officials unveiled rules on Wednesday that will allow many American citizens — perhaps hundreds of thousands — to avoid long separations from immediate family members who are illegal immigrants as they apply to become legal residents.
Connect With Us on Twitter
Follow @NYTNational for breaking news and headlines.
Twitter List: Reporters and Editors
The rules, announced by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, create a waiver that bypasses an arcane Catch-22 in immigration law. It had presented Americans with the prospect of being separated for up to a decade from immigrant spouses, children or parents who were applying for the legal documents known as green cards.
Until now, the risks for those immigrants of leaving the United States to return to their native countries to pick up their visas, even ones that were already approved, had been so great that countless families decided not to apply, adding to the numbers of immigrants living illegally in this country.
The immigration authorities will begin accepting applications for the waivers on March 3. Administration officials first announced the policy change a year ago, but they have been receiving public comments and making revisions before publishing the final rules.
It is generally straightforward for American citizens to obtain green cards for foreign-born spouses or minor children, and in some cases for parents. But if the immigrants entered the United States illegally, they must return to their native countries to receive their visas from American consulates there. However, under a 1996 statute, once illegal immigrants leave this country, they are barred automatically from returning for at least three and as many as 10 years