Unions diverge on new immigration rules

by Duane Campbell

English: Eliseo Medina, Executive Vice Preside...

Image via Wikipedia

The Obama Administration acted on Friday to permit the husbands, wives, and children of U.S. citizens to adjust their status and to allow them to gain Green Cards or permission to become a resident alien.   This is a return to the policy before the 1996  Republican sponsored Immigration Act.

The primary beneficiaries of the  Obama administration’s move are families in which some members are US citizens and some aren’t.  At present some family members must return to their home country for up to 10 years while they apply for U.S. residency as a 1996 law – approved by a Republican-led Congress – mandates.

The proposed change will undergo a review but doesn’t require congressional approval. Under the so-called “hardship waiver,” illegal immigrants who are married or otherwise related to US citizens would be able to pick up the waiver before leaving the United States and then be allowed to return almost immediately after picking up visas in their home countries.  This policy used to be known as advanced parole.

According to an article in the New York Times, for Sat. Jan. 7,  by Julia Preston  the union representing ICE agents is resisting this policy change.  It has not allowed its members to participate in training to implement the new rule.   Chris Crane, the president of the American Federation of Government Employees claims that new rule amounts to violating the law.  ( This was the law prior to 1996) Crane, of AFGE, is working closely with Lamar Smith, the Texas Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and a Republican leader on opposition to immigration reform.

In examining individual cases that may not be representative I note that   the current practice with ICE is that residents from White ( European) countries are commonly allowed to adjust their status while remaining in the U.S.  Residents from non White countries, particularly Latin American and Asian, are required to return to their home countries and apply for immigration- a process that can take up to a decade. The reason for the difference ?  Persons from mostly European countries ( and Australia), do not have a significant backlog of applications for immigration  thus, their cases can be resolved in a  matter of months- not so for Mexican, Philippinos, Chinese and similar groups.

SEIU Vice President Eliseo Medina praised the new rules on Friday.  Here is the SEIU statement on the issue.

SEIU applauds today’s announcement by the Obama Administration to knock down bureaucratic obstacles for U.S. citizens who currently face hardship because their spouses cannot remain in the country legally.

The decision makes a small but significant change. It will allow spouses and a small number of adult children to apply for a hardship waiver from inside the U.S. instead of facing the risk of returning to their home countries to apply and being denied reentry into the U.S. for as long as 10 years. The risks, uncertainties and delays that come with applying for the visa from abroad create unnecessary burdens on families in hardship cases.

To qualify for the waiver, the U.S. citizen must show that she would suffer “extreme hardship” if forced to remain separated from a spouse or parent. Typical examples include U.S. citizens who are sick or disabled and are being cared for or supported by their immigrant spouse or parent.

The policy change to let immigrants in hardship cases remain in the U.S. while their applications for hardship wavers are reviewed was welcomed by SEIU’s International Secretary-Treasurer Eliseo Medina in the following statement:

“Outdated laws and procedures should not keep families apart. The new process will lessen the burden on U.S. citizens, whose family members are afraid or unable to leave the country specifically because of the hardships they face. For example, a wife who is taking care of her citizen husband, a permanently disabled war veteran, will not have to choose between providing for her husband or leaving the country to apply for a green card, which carries the risk of being denied reentry for up to 10 years.

“This streamlined procedure also makes budgeting sense. Instead of having U.S. State Department officers posted overseas to shuttle applications back to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security here in Washington, the process and the costs will be cut.

“The Obama Administration is applying smart governing principles to a very simple problem and deserves credit for moving ahead in the absence of comprehensive immigration legislation from Congress. While just one small bureaucratic change will make a difference in the lives of families facing hardships, comprehensive reforms could vastly improve our economic, national and family security.

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4 Responses

  1. Hardships? You want to talk about hardships? How about the millions of AMERICANS not being able to find work while over 10 million illegal aliens continue to suck the blood out of OUR country. It is sickening that Obama and the so called working man’s friend the Democrats turn their backs on the AMERICAN people.They can go to hell along with the SEIU.

    Rick Proud member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers

  2. Well. You raise several points. First, it is indeed a crisis that some 15 million U.S. workers are out of work. And some 10 million do not have full time work. That is a crisis that labor needs to face.
    To some degree, immigrants take these jobs. For millions of jobs, U.S. workers would not do the work. But, other work, such as carpenters, certainly there are U.S. workers out of work while immigrant crews do the work. That is how the employers want it. They call it free trade.
    for more details see this piece. How US Policies Fueled Mexico’s Great Migration
    The Nation
    David Bacon | January 4, 2012
    And earlier pieces on this blog by David Bacon.

    • David, like so many you muddy the water. There are immigrants and there are illegal aliens. We allow one million immigrants in the country every year thru various visas. Far to many in these economic times. Obama is catering to the illegals. I live just north of Chicago. Illegals are overwhelming our hospitals, filling our jails, and destroying our school system. Our social system is designed to help the poor and elderly, not people that are in the country illegally. When are THEY going to be held accountable? Let THEM explain it to their spouse our children why they are being sent back to their country of origin. It is not the American middle classes cross to bear. I urge you to go to http://www.numbersusa.com and watch Roy Becks video on the eventual effects of illegal immigration by using gumballs to demonstrate how our country is being destroyed

  3. When I checked the national AFGE web-site I saw no mention of this issue. John Gage is the National President of AFGE, while Chris Crane must be president of the AFGE local representing ICE employees. I would be surprised if national AFGE opposes this sensible and humanitarian reform. But stranger things have happened in the labor movement!

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