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Amendments That Matter: Family Immigration

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If you think the Senate Judiciary Committee’s markup of the Gang of 8 bill has been intense so far, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. As the SJC moves into Titles II and III of the bill—which cover everything from E-Verify to detention policy to family immigration to agricultural workers, not to mention the path to citizenship itself—we’re highlighting some of the major areas we expect to see addressed, and the amendments we’re particularly hopeful about or upset by within each one. That’s why we’ve started this “Amendments that Matter” blog series. Below is a guest post from the Asian American Justice Center, on family immigration provisions in the Gang of 8 Senate bill.

The bipartisan “Gang of Eight” immigration bill is a compromise bill that proposes a number of changes to the legal immigration process, in particular the family-based system. This week, all eyes will be on Title II, “Immigrant Visas,” and what groups of individuals will be able to come to the U.S. moving forward. Under the current base bill, S. 744 The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, the category for U.S. citizens to petition for their siblings will be eliminated after 18 months of enactment, and the ability for U.S. citizens to sponsor their married sons and daughters will be capped at age 31.

Family immigrants, including married adult sons and daughters of all ages and siblings of U.S. citizens, play a crucial role in the U.S. economy as business entrepreneurs, creating jobs for Americans, as well as critical workers for our diverse workforce. Family unity has always been the cornerstone of our immigration system because we, as a nation, understand the positive impact of the family unit on our communities, economy, and our standing in the global market.

We commend Sen. Mazie Hirono’s (D-Hawaii) leadership on family immigration. As the only immigrant on the Senate Judiciary Committee and in the full U.S. Senate, Sen. Hirono has filed a number of amendments to strengthen the family-based immigration system.  With this in mind, we will be looking out for the following positive amendments:

  • Hirono 6: The amendment restores the F4 (brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens) visa category and removes the age restriction on the F3 (married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens) category for family-sponsored visas. By restoring these two categories, the U.S. becomes more attractive to potential low- and high-wage workers who will help boost our economy, stabilize and grow our communities, and ensure the U.S. stays competitive in the global market.
  • Hirono 10: The amendment would take into account the extreme hardships that some immigrants will experience due to the prolonged separation from their brother, sister, and adult son or daughter. By reallocating six percent of the worldwide visas for family-sponsored immigrants, the amendment provides meaningful family reunification for siblings and adult sons and daughters with their loved ones here in the U.S.
  • Hirono 5: The amendment would allow U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents (LPRs) to sponsor up to two members of their family to immigrate to the U.S. if the petitioner has not previously sponsored any other family members. This amendment would offer U.S. citizens and LPRs to have a meaningful avenue for reuniting with their loved ones, given the merit-based system’s heavy weight on academic achievement and employment prospects.

However, we will also be monitoring the mark-up for “poison pill” amendments that seek to gut the family-based system:

  • Sessions 48: The amendment would remove brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens from the point allocation under the proposed merit-based immigration program. The amendment would severely hinder the ability of immigrant families to effectively contribute to our economy and fully integrate into our communities. To add insult to injury, the amendment grossly discounts to the economic benefits that siblings have our families, local communities and our overall economy.
  • Cruz 4: The amendment would eliminate diversity visa and country caps, while changing the family- and employment-based visas. The amendment is a mixed bag, and there is no indication that families would fare better under this proposed system. Additionally, this amendment cuts directly to the core of the base bill, and is likely to be voted down by the committee and the Gang of 8.