If you share the Trump administration’s view of family reunification of immigrants in the country, it’s as simple as filling out a few forms and then countless extended family members can stay as long as they wish. That’s far from the reality that immigrants and their families face, caught in a grinding bureaucracy that can take decades before anyone can legally immigrate.
As a recent article in Marketplace points out, there’s normally very little that can be considered quick or easy when it comes to family migration. A 66-year-old woman living in California (“Ella”) is cited as an example. She has been waiting for six years for her adult children in the Philippines to join her in the U.S. She came to the country in 1991 when she brought one of her children to the country for medical treatment. The child suffers from a rare genetic disorder which has permanently disabled her and made her unable to care for herself.
When they left the Philippines, Ella left behind three small children who stayed with extended family. She thought that within a year she would return to her homeland, but her child needed multiple surgeries and Ella remained in the U.S. She works as an insurance agent and has become part of the community. Ella obtained a green card in 2012 and filed petitions to bring her son and two daughters to the U.S.
Those children, now in their 30’s, are still waiting. They’re joined by close to four million others trying to immigrate into the country.
There isn’t a limit on the number of spouses, minor children or parents of U.S. citizens who can come to the U.S. annually, but there are limits on the number of family-based immigrant visas for other types of relatives, including siblings and adult children.
Depending on where the potential immigrants are from and the relation to the green card holder, the wait to complete the process could take a short time or decades. Related immigrants from a single country cannot account for more than 7% of all family-based visas issued each year. If family members are from nations like Mexico, China, the Philippines or India, the wait could be 20 to 25 years.
If Ella became a citizen while her children were young, it might have taken a year for them to legally live in the U.S. Once they turned 21, they were considered adults and put in the back of the line, which could mean a long wait of a decade or more. If they marry, the wait could be two decades. Ella’s children have children of their own, but they haven’t married because married adult children have a lower priority to come into this country.
Ella hopes her college-educated children will have better job opportunities in the U.S. than in the Philippines and will be able to make more money, even if it takes another six years of waiting. She’ll be 73 in six years and says she’d like someone to look after her, and her disabled daughter, by then.
Time isn’t the only obstacle. The process to legally get children into the U.S. could cost thousands of dollars in legal fees. Sponsors would also have to earn enough to show they can support their relatives after they come to the U.S. by establishing through tax returns that they’re earning at least 125% of the poverty line. This varies, depending on the household, and it currently ranges from $20,575 for a household of two to $52,975 for a household of eight.
Though the process is slow and expensive, family reunification does work. About two-thirds of those coming to the U.S. legally each year do it through family reunification.
If you live in Fayette County, Kentucky, or the surrounding area and you have any questions about family reunification or need legal representation to help you get family members to the U.S., Carman & Fullerton can help you whether you speak English, Spanish or another language. Your future and that of your family is at stake, so contact us today.