Family-Based Migration

Family-based Migration

By Rebecca Tompkins

According to the Immigration Forum, family-based immigration is the primary basis for legal immigration in the United States.Under the current immigration law, U.S citizens and lawful citizens are allowed to sponsor certain family members who apply for a green card. Today, family visas account for about 65 percent of legal immigration each year.

“Limiting the number of family members you can just bring to the U.S, to, say, a mother, father and child, you really cut people off from how the world really works,” says Dr. Bethany Welch, Executive Director of the Aquinas Center in Philadelphia.

When applying for a family visa, applicants are split into two groups. One group is for immediate relatives, which includes spouses of U.S. citizens, unmarried children under 21 of U.S. citizens, and orphans adopted abroad. The second group is for the family preference categories that includes unmarried children of U.S. citizens, married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens and their spouses, and minor children.

These two groups must be able to fit within an overall ceiling for family-based immigration of 480,000 visas annually. This number of visas is not allowed to be exceeded due to Congress who set the limit in 1990.

According to the Immigration Forum, there is a cap on non-immediate relatives, but immediate relatives are not capped. Since immediate relatives do not have a cap, the number of visas is then subtracted from the 480,000 cap.

In 2017, according to the National Immigration Forum there were 4.7 million applicants that were part of the family preference category. And more than 3.9 million of those applicants were on the wait list.

As of January 2018, the U.S government had just started processing cases of brother and sisters of U.S. citizens who had filed applicants more than 13 years ago.

“It’s not a quick process either. With the family unification process, even once someone immigrates it typically takes 10, 15, 20 years for other people to come and join their families,” said Dr. Jennifer Bulcock, Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Assistant Director of the Center on Immigration at Cabrini University.

As the backlogs continue to grow, more and more families are having to make the decision to remain separated for several years or have family members enter illegally.

“With my father not being able to get a green card, this has affected my family because here we are unable to do as many things that we were able to do back in Mexico. Here there is more obstacles, I mean we have more opportunity but at the same time more obstacles,” said Xochitl Juarez, an International Business Major at Cabrini University.

The Columban Mission Center was founded in 1918 and has a special commitment to marginalized communities.  The Columbans serve in 16 countries advocating for economic justice, environmental justice, migrations and peace and demilitarization.

“The Border awareness experience is the main program that we offer to visitors, we arrange for their lodging at the Columban Center and then we rent vans to transport them to sites in both Mexico and here in the United States that have to do with the reality or social and ecological reality of the border life’s, especially as it realties to migration issues,” said Father Robert Mosher, Director of the Columban Mission Center.

Every week thousands of migrants cross the border, having gotten caught by the border patrol and are awaiting their trial or who are detained by ice and who are seeking asylum. The Columban Center

“We have about 50 hospitality centers most of them in El Paso, but also in coordination with another 20 or so in the city of La Cruces and even all the way up to Albuquerque. These are all coordinated from a single response to the present of thousands of migrants here every week and that arrive at these shelters every day" said Father Robert Mosher.

When Xochitl and her family arrived in the U.S it was hard for her and her family to adapt, her father who is on a work visa didn’t understand a lot of English. When she came to the U.S she had to learn English to help her father understand.

“It was hard when I first came and had to learn English and at the same time besides learning English. I had to learn English for me and my parents because yes, my dad had been working here, but he doesn’t interact as much with people, so his English is very low. He would understand what you are saying but he wouldn’t be able to go to the doctor by himself, talk to the police by himself. There was a lot of stuff that he wasn’t able to do and when we moved here, I had to learn and deal with this kind of stuff that I was not ready for, but I had to be ready for,” said Xochitl.

The Columban Mission Center helps give the migrants who cross the border a little of their life back. They let the woman help clean or cook if they want and they let the children play. The Mission Center also helps the migrants who are trying to get to family that are already in the U.S.

“When people arrive the first thing, they get is a warm welcome, and they are told that they can leave this place at any time they like, and this is not a U.S government facility so they should feel free to come and go. Then we tell them that we are going to interview them and take down all the information on the forums that ICE has given them. So, we can then call their relatives or a friend that is sponsoring you in another part of the country so they can arrange a plane, train or bus ticket from El Paso Texas to where ever they are going,” said Father Bob Mosher.

“People from all sorts of backgrounds are coming together in a compassionate response to the migrants here, El Paso is a very compassionate community in that sense it has not been difficult although it is challenging at times. It’s not difficult to find people who will prepare hot meals or take people to the bus station or the airport,” said Father Robert Mosher.

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