Earlier this week marked President Obama’s second term in office and his inauguration speech seemed to lay out what he wanted to focus on in his next four years. What may have caught many people in Reading’s attention is that Obama talked about immigration. It is clear that Obama has wanted to change immigration law in the United States, especially after his executive orders granting deferred deportation and temporary resident status to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, but it is expected that one of the major initiatives that the president will tackle will be a comprehensive immigration reform.
One aspect of the expected reform will be a pathway to citizenship for the approximately 11 million individuals who are living in the United States without legal permission. Within Pennsylvania alone, it is believed that there are 160,000 undocumented immigrants, many of whom would benefit from an immigration reform.
Beyond tackling undocumented immigration, however, many are calling for a reform of the family-based immigration program. Currently, American citizens and permanent residents can petition for their family members to join them in the United States, but there is a limit of 225,000 family visas issued each year. Since there are often more people petitioning than visas available, there are decade-long backlogs that make it especially difficult for families to reunite.
Living apart from family members can be extremely difficult, but it is a reality for many residents in Reading. While a change to the immigration system could make life tremendously better for many people, unless there is an increase in the number of family visas, many people will continue to wait years before their family members can finally join them in the United States.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, “A range of details surround Obama’s overhaul of immigration rules,” Michael Matza, Jan. 22, 2013
You can find out more about our family-based immigration practice by visiting our website.