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New Immigration Rule Aims to Keep Families Together

Photo courtesy of the We Belong Together campaign on Flickr.

Immigrant families with a spouse, child or parent who is a U.S. citizen will no longer be torn from each other when a family member who is an aspiring citizen begins the process of obtaining lawful permanent resident status in the United States, under a new federal rule on immigration announced Wednesday.

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano says the rule, which takes effect March 4:

Facilitates the legal immigration process and reduces the amount of time that U.S. citizens are separated from their immediate relatives who are in the process of obtaining an immigrant visa.

Currently undocumented immigrants in the United States who begin the process of acquiring permanent residency status must return to their native country and apply for a U.S. visa and sometimes must wait from three to as many as 10 years before being allowed to return.

Under the new rule, an aspiring citizen whose U.S. family is dependent upon him or her for things like sick care, raising children and paying bills may apply for a family unity waiver while still in the United States. While he or she may be required to leave the country to obtain a visa, it will likely be just a matter of weeks before being allowed to reunite with the family, the New York Times reported, quoting officials.

Alejandro Mayorkas, the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), says:

The law is designed to avoid extreme hardship to U.S. citizens, which is precisely what this rule achieves. The change will have a significant impact on American families by greatly reducing the time family members are separated from those they rely upon.      

Read more about the new rule from The New York Times and ABC News/Univision.

Last month, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said the union movement in 2013 will focus immigration reform that creates a common-sense immigration process with a road map to citizenship “for aspiring Americans who love this country and call it home.”

He noted that current immigration policy breaks up families, stifles opportunities for new American immigrants and allows low-end employers to take advantage of workers and pursue a "race to the bottom" in wages and labor standards. This affects union members, our communities and workers everywhere. 

Find out more about the union movement and immigration.

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