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Family reunification should be at the core of immigration law

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Charito, 83, wanted to file an immigrant petition for Ramona, her 48-year-old daughter, to come to the United States. She was informed that since her daughter was considered single as a result of the “annulment” of her marriage, it would be faster to petition her.

But Charito was told that this petition would take approximately 15 years. She burst into tears, lamenting that by the time the visa is made available to her daughter, she would be close to 98 years old.

Ramona’s US citizen-father filed a prior petition for her in 1996. Ramona waited 14 years for her visa to be processed. Unfortunately, when her petition’s priority date became current last year, her father suffered a heart attack and died. It was only recently that Charito re-filed a new petition.

Charito is hoping that during her lifetime, immigration rules will change and that she will be reunited with her daughter in the US  before nature takes its course.

Visa Bulletin

Unless the person being petitioned is a minor child, parent, spouse or fiancé, the waiting period for an immigrant visa can take five, 10 or even 20 years. The reason for this protracted wait is that there are more visa applicants than the number of visas available each year.

For December 2011, the US Department of State is processing visa petitions for Filipino nationals that were filed on or before March 1, 1997, July 8, 1992 and September 8, 1988 for unmarried children, married children and siblings of US citizens, respectively. The longest waiting period is 23 years for siblings of US citizens. For married children the wait is approximately 19 years.

Resolving the Backlog

The family is the cornerstone of US immigration. But the policy of the current administration does not seem to recognize the importance of reuniting even the closest family members. When there is family unity, a stronger immigrant society emerges, resulting in a strong economic base. The US really needs to revisit its family immigrant policy.

One legislator in Illinois, Representative Luis Gutierrez, is a strong advocate of family unity. Considering that comprehensive immigration reform may be difficult to pass, he and other supporters have proposed adding more visas for family preferences. This proposal was actually incorporated in the recent H.R. 3012, which increased the visa quota of each country from seven to 15 percent. This proposal is expected to decrease the backlog and hopefully the 18-year wait may be reduced to 10 years.

This bill was passed overwhelmingly in the House of Representatives but it is being held in the Senate. A few days ago, Senator Grassley proposed amendments to the bill to delete the proposal to increase the visa quota for family immigration. Whether Senator Grassley will prevail remains to be seen. His amendment will have a negative impact on family petitions.

A broken system

There are perennial cases of undocumented immigrants, usually family members who try to enter through the backdoor. There is no excuse for violating existing laws. But in reality, the desire to be reunited with family members compel many to use extra-legal means.

This Christmas day, balikbayans who are able to celebrate the holidays with their families should feel blessed and be grateful. For not all who are abroad are able to reunite with their families for varying reasons. Aling Charito is one example.  She has health issues and financial restrictions that hinder her from returning to the Philippines to be with her children.

We all should be thankful wherever we may be this season, especially if we are with our loved ones. Family is not just the cornerstone of immigration. It is the very foundation of our existence, the source of our strength and the reason for our being. Merry Christmas to all!

(Tancinco may be reached at law@tancinco.com or at 887 7177 or 721 1963)


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  • Anonymous

    Why does everyone want to immigrate out of the Philippines –  there must be a million Pinoys leaving permanently every year – plus the OFWs.  What is wrong with us?  Why is our biggest export our people?

    • Anonymous

      why? The Philippines is over populated that’s why. That is the number 1 reason. The Gov’t and the Church talks more than they act. Can you imagine Manila, 20 years from now? 

      • Anonymous

        Have to assume the best and the brightest are the ones being accepted for immigration – that would cause a dumbing down of our country – does not speak well of those of us who are left!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KTRC4X36S44A3U6QPNNPT2FKHQ Eric

    The problem with the Filipinos in the U.S. is that they are the RUPUBLICAN PARTY  which is a party of RACIST! This is what you GOT for voting them back to control the Congress!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KTRC4X36S44A3U6QPNNPT2FKHQ Eric

    The Problem with Fiplipinos in the U.S. is that they keep on voting REPUBLICANS  which are RACIST AND ANTI IMMIGRANTS! Don’t blame the system, blame your self!

    • Anonymous

      Well a lot of filipinos are prejudice, why do you think they are voting for Republicans?  

  • Anonymous

    BE CAREFUL FOR WHAT YOU WISH

  • Joel Wischkaemper

    A variety of groups, including the Mexican Nationals, have manipulated and taken advantage of the immigration laws of this country, and frankly, I don’t believe anything should change.

  • Anonymous

    For us waiting in line legally for our visa petitions to be current and hope for this infinite waiting game to end, is like daydreaming for the Philippines to become a 1st world country (kahit 2nd pa leche). Its not gonna happen in this lifetime people. Numerous immigration bills were already passed to congress with the intent of having a “no child left behind policy” but once the bill is enacted, the interpretation of the law becomes muddled, with both REPS and DEMS using this for their campaigns when election time comes but nothing positive really happens. So, I’ve realized that waiting 10-20 years is too much for me. It’s time to move on..maybe try other countries like Australia and Canada who has free health care,cheaper education,house mortgage…and just start living my life. 

    I hope you too will do the same. ciao! :)

  • Anonymous

    I wish Lola Charito and Ramona all the best and I hope they reunite again ASAP. I have mixed thoughts and emotions about this article, If there is anything that needs to be change, it’s the filipino perception on the USA. If you are skilled,smart and young, then US is the place to be but if you are old and poor, Canada is the best place to migrate.  



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