Imagine a country that categorically denies citizenship to specific groups of people. It doesn't matter how long they and their families have lived in the country, how well they speak the language or how completely they have integrated into society; no matter what they do, they can never become citizens. While some people in Lancaster may doubt that there ever was such a country, they may be shocked to learn that the United States routinely prohibited immigration from specific regions of the world. Those that weren't prohibited were seriously restricted by quota systems.
It cannot be argued that September 11, 2001, did not radically change how we have thought about national safety and many people in Reading can count the ways how our nation has changed since that day. The government must walk a very careful line, however, ensuring that it does not overly discriminate against specific groups of people while keeping us safe from future attacks. It seems that was the thought behind the previously undisclosed Controlled Application Review and Resolution Program. Unfortunately, it appears the program may have failed to remain free of prejudice.
In a recent decision by the full United States Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, young Albanian women who live alone do meet the definition of a "social group" and, thus, can be given asylum in the United States, so long as they meet the other criteria required of them. Although this ruling does not directly affect Reading, it does provide some guidance to immigration judges adjudicating asylum applications in Pennsylvania.
There are an incredible number of people living in Lancaster who are in varying stages of immigration. From those people who moved here to reunite with family members to those who moved here from work, the immigration system has generally allowed those people who were married to move together. Until the federal government recognized same-sex marriages as valid, however, only opposite-sex spouses could immigrate together. If a same-sex couple wanted to immigrate, both of them would need to get jobs and employment-based immigration visas for the same area. There was no guarantee that both would be approved and they could not apply together, meaning many families had to live apart from each other for extended periods of time.
There are many different ways that immigrants arrive in Reading. They may be individuals seeking asylum from their home countries, they could be individuals who are sponsored by their employers or they could be using family-based immigration to reconnect with family members living in Pennsylvania. With immigration reform looming, there are some who fear that family-based immigration may soon become a thing of the past.