No Mothers, No Muslims: The New US Immigration System

Late last month, the Trump White House released its legislative framework for immigration reform. Its sticking points are familiar ones: the $25bn that President Trump wants to use to build the border wall he has promised his supporters; and a path to citizenship for beneficiaries of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act (DACA), whose fates hang in the balance as the US wrangles over who to let through its borders. The White House framework also seeks to eviscerate visa quotas for “family reunification,” via which parents and siblings of US citizens can migrate to the US (disparagingly termed “chain migration”) and completely eliminate the Diversity Visa Lottery.

The White House framework will not be passed unchanged; other bills also aiming at immigration reform have already been or will soon be introduced in the legislature. Internal administrative memos are further suggesting their own changes to immigration regulations. While none of these have yet made it to a vote, a look at their cumulative contents provides a view of the drastically altered immigration regime that would-be US immigrants could face in just a few months. Pre-empting some of these changes can enable those affected to take action now and avoid disappointment and discrimination later.

The most significant changes will likely occur in the family immigration category. Even while Democrats have expressed opposition to limiting the “family re-unification” visa quotas to only spouses and children, it is quite likely that they will acquiesce to at least some cuts to the category. The reason is simple: to make significant gains in 2018, Democrats must make gains among white working-class voters. These voters have routinely expressed an animosity towards immigration in general and towards “chain migration” in particular. Signing off on cuts in this category, Democrats may decide, will endear them to this key demographic.

The consequence for current US citizens who have family members (parents and siblings) whom they would like to sponsor for an immigrant visa are grave. If the White House proposal is followed, they will no longer be able to do so for anyone except spouses and children under 18. It is imperative, therefore, that those US citizens and legal permanent residents (green card holders) who are intending to file immigrant petitions for parents and siblings do so immediately. Forms filed prior to the passage of any reform bill (even a day before) will be evaluated and processed under the old rules. The required forms are all available on the website for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) and can be filed without the assistance of a lawyer. An incompletely filed petition is better than none at all.

By Rafia Zakaria for ALIJAZEERA
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