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THE MUSINGS OF A TRADITIONAL SOUTHERN DEMOCRAT

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Location: Douglas, Coffee Co., The Other Georgia, United States

Sid in his law office where he sits when meeting with clients. Observant eyes will notice the statuette of one of Sid's favorite Democrats.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Program Benefiting Some Immigrants Extends Visa Wait for Others

From The New York Times:

Many thousands of Americans seeking green cards for foreign spouses or other immediate relatives have been separated from them for a year or more because of swelling bureaucratic delays at a federal immigration agency in recent months.

The long waits came when the agency, Citizenship and Immigration Services, shifted attention and resources to a program President Obama started in 2012 to give deportation deferrals to young undocumented immigrants, according to administration officials and official data.

The trouble that American citizens have faced gaining permanent resident visas for their families raises questions about the agency’s priorities and its readiness to handle what could become a far bigger task. After Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio said on Thursday that the House was not likely to act on an immigration overhaul this year, immigrant advocates are turning up their pressure on Mr. Obama to expand the deferral program to include many more of the 11.7 million immigrants in the country illegally.
 
Until recently, an American could obtain a green card for a spouse, child or parent — probably the easiest document in the immigration system — in five months or less. But over the past year, waits for approvals of those resident visas stretched to 15 months, and more than 500,000 applications became stuck in the pipeline, playing havoc with international moves and children’s schools and keeping families apart.
 
“U.S. citizens petitioning for green cards for immediate relatives are a high, if not the highest, priority in the way Congress set up the immigration system,” said Gregory Chen, director of advocacy for the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the national bar association. “This is a problem that needs to be fixed quickly.”
 
Because there are no annual limits on green cards for citizens’ immediate relatives, there are no systemic backlogs. But initial approvals are centralized at the immigration agency in the United States. After that step, generally the longest, the visas must also pass through the State Department and foreign consulates. The law prohibits foreigners who want to become residents from entering as tourists while their documents are in process.
 
After Mr. Obama announced the deferral program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, in 2012, he gave Citizenship and Immigration Services only two months to get it running. Agency officials scrambled. As of last week, 521,815 youths had received deferrals, with the agency handling more than 2,000 applications a day.
 
The agency drew rare praise from immigrants and advocates for the efficiency of the program, which is highly popular among Latinos. It has been widely regarded as a successful dress rehearsal for a larger legalization.
 
But soon after the deferrals were underway, Americans with green card applications felt the impact.

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