Since Congress has stalled comprehensive immigration reform for the past three years, the President has been able to provide some relief to foreign nationals who are contributing to the U.S. economy and communities, but who do not have lawful immigration status. This relief includes Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and the recently announced executive action which has unfortunately stalled in the courts.
However, the President continues to move forward with his new immigration action which would expand a waiver program that allows undocumented foreign nationals to remain in the U.S. while they wait for the U.S. government to complete their green card processing.
The Current Provisional Hardship Waiver
The current version of the hardship waiver was also implemented by the President through an executive action back in 2013. The current version allows undocumented foreign nationals who have a U.S. citizen parent or spouse to remain in the U.S. if they can demonstrate that their absence for three or ten years (depending on how long they have been in the U.S. without immigration status) would cause extreme hardship to their U.S. citizen relative.
The President’s Changes to the Waiver
Via his executive action, the President would expand eligibility for the provisional waiver to allow hundreds of thousands of more foreign nationals to qualify for it. Specifically, he proposed to allow foreign nationals who are the beneficiaries of family-based immigration petitions, employment-based immigration petitions, and the diversity program to qualify. Additionally, certain special immigrants would also be eligible.
The President feels that expansion of the waiver is required due to the catch-22 U.S. immigration law imposes on undocumented foreign nationals. Current laws state that if a foreign national spends more than six months but less than one year in the U.S. without immigration status, once that person leaves the country he/she will be subject to a three-year bar to reentry. This bar increases to ten years if the person is without status in the U.S. for one year or longer. Thus, the President’s idea for expansion of the stateside waiver will allow these foreign nationals to bypass the bar and remain in the U.S. while their immigration cases move through the system.
Reaction to the Proposed Change
Per federal regulations, the public has 60 days to comment on the proposed rule. A number of anti-immigrant groups have already loudly voiced their opposition to the change, calling it bad policy or even a slap in the face to foreign nationals who have maintained their lawful immigration status during their stay in the United States.
The President’s proposed expansion of the provisional waiver is certainly a step in the right direction in terms of enacting comprehensive immigration reform. It is unfortunate that Congress continues to drag its feet on this critically important issue, but hopefully the President’s commitment will be mirrored sooner rather than later. Continue to check back with our blog for the most up to date news on this lawsuit and all other immigration-related issues.
Additional Blog Posts:
The Government’s War on H-1Bs, ImmigRantings, October 11, 2012
Obama Signs Immigration Policy Memo, ImmigRantings, June 15, 2012
Problems with the H-1B visa: From Work Horse to Show Pony, ImmigRantings, February 13, 2012