The Obama administration is proposing to make it easier for illegal aliens who are family members of American citizens to apply for legal permanent residency, according to the Los Angeles Times.
On Monday, the Department of Homeland Security will post for public comment an administrative change intended to reduce the time illegal immigrants would have to spend away from their families while applying for legal status, officials said. The current system requires the applicant to first leave the U.S. to seek a legal visa, but under the proposed change illegal immigrants could claim the time apart from a spouse, child or parent would create “extreme hardship” and allow them to remain in the U.S. as they begin the process.
Once approved, the person would be required to briefly leave the country to pick up the legal visa abroad.
Currently, families are often separated for several months as they await resolution of their applications. The change could reduce that time apart to one week in some cases, officials said. The White House hopes the new procedures could be in place by the end of the year.
The proposal is the latest in a series of changes the White House is making to immigration procedures that are designed to focus efforts on illegal aliens who pose a threat to public safety.
House Republicans say President Obama is making an end run around Congress.
“President Obama and his administration are bending long established rules to put illegal immigrants ahead of the interests of American citizens,” said Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. “It seems President Obama plays by his own rules."
U.S. immigration officials responded that the change affects only how the applications are processed, not whether the legal status ultimately is granted.
“I don’t think that criticism is warranted at all,” said Alejandro Mayorkas, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. “What we are doing is reducing the time of separation, not changing the standard of obtaining a waiver.”
Immigration officials do not know how many of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. would qualify for a waiver, Mayorkas said. Experts said that more than 1 million people could benefit from the changes.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) posted the new proposal in the Federal Register today. The current proposal published today is not in effect and not available until USCIS publishes a final rule with an effective date in the Federal Register. The public will now have 60 days to critique the proposal. USCIS will consider all public comments on today's proposal rule before publishing the final rule with an effective date.
Read the full story in the Los Angeles Times.
Updated: Fri, Mar 30th 2012 @ 2:10pm EDT