By Robert L. Reeves and Eric R. Welsh

The holidays and the coming of the New Year should be a time for togetherness, reflection, hope, and dreams for a better future.  For many immigrant families, this is a time to celebrate hardships overcome and unity finally accomplished.  Sadly, though, for some families, this time of year brings sad reminders of families divided or futures uncertain, lives cast into jeopardy by processing delays, backlogs, or unfair enforcement of immigration laws.  Here at Reeves & Associates, we are dedicated to bringing families together and fighting to resolve every person’s immigration status.  Looking back upon 2011 and looking forward to the year ahead, we are optimistic about opportunities for families to be reunited under progressive immigration policies.  We encourage all persons seeking lawful immigration status in the U.S. to make a New Year’s Resolution to step out of the shadows, reach out to family abroad, and aim to make 2012 the year to resolve your immigration problems and reunite your family.

This next year is a presidential election year, a time that always brings immigration issues to the forefront.  In his bid for the presidency, and in his State of the Union addresses, President Obama pledged to bring aliens without status “out of the shadows,” and promised comprehensive immigration changes to unite families and keep families intact.  Republican front-runner Newt Gingrich has endorsed a legalization process for longtime alien residents with extensive family ties.  He has suggested establishing local citizen review boards that could grant legal status to undocumented immigrants with strong community ties.  During a recent presidential debate, Governor Perry from Texas suggested that any person who opposes educating undocumented children does not “have a heart.”

Although 2011 did not bring us the comprehensive immigration reform that we’ve been waiting for Congress to pass, the Obama administration has taken other actions in an effort to promote a more fair and just immigration policy.  Beginning in the summer of 2011, the Department of Homeland Security began to put into effect a new policy of “prosecutorial discretion.”  The new program provides guidelines to immigration enforcement officers in an effort to focus the Department’s resources on “high priority” cases involving serious criminal issues or national security interests, and to evaluate “low priority” cases for more favorable treatment.  The Department has advised its officers against prosecuting “low priority” cases, and has also undertaken to review all cases currently pending before the immigration courts.  The Department has pledged to consider all requests made on a case-by-case basis to determine whether an immigration court case should be closed, and whether the alien involved should receive a work permit.  The Department will consider factors such as length of residence in the United States, ties to family in the U.S. and potential hardship to family members, the extent of the alien’s education in the United States, and many other equities that favor permitting the low-risk alien to remain with his or her family in the U.S.  This new policy, still in its infancy, provides renewed hope for fairness and empathy from the agencies charged with enforcing American immigration laws.

Moreover, while comprehensive reform is still forthcoming, the Congress has demonstrated a willingness to ease some of the tensions that keep families apart.  In a rare demonstration of bipartisan support for immigration reform, the House of Representatives overwhelming voted in a favor of a bill that would increase country caps for family and employment-sponsored immigrants, and would eliminate per-country quotas on employer-sponsored petitions.  If this bill becomes law, nationals from Mexico, the Philippines, India, and China could benefit dramatically.

This is a time for celebration and reflection, but also a time to look ahead and plan for the future.  We look forward to a year of families reunited, problems resolved, and dreams attained.  Here at Reeves & Associates, we wish everyone Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year!

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