The Obama administration is proposing a new rule which would make it easier for illegal immigrants with immediate family members that are U.S. citizens to apply for their own legal residency. The proposal would allow the illegal immigrants to remain in the country while going through the application process. Typically an applicant must return to their native country while awaiting their residency visa. This change could affect up to 1 million people out of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States today.
Although this new proposal has already stirred up some criticism among Republicans, the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Alejandro Mayorkas, states, “I don’t think that criticism is warranted at all. What we are doing is reducing the time of separation, not changing the standard of obtaining a waiver.” Yet, Javier Ortiz, a Republican strategist, doesn’t buy it. He states, “It looks like the president is pandering to Hispanic voters. I would argue that Hispanics are smarter than that and they know he has failed to bring forward comprehensive immigration reform.”
Yet for many illegal immigrants the dangers of returning to their home countries outweigh the dangers of living in the U.S. illegally. Mexican immigrants are required to return to the U.S. consulate in Juarez, Mexico to obtain their legal documents. However this city alone saw 2,000 homicides in 2011 as a result of drug cartel violence. According to Lisa Battan, a Boulder, Colorado immigration attorney, her clients, Abel Aguirre de la Cruz and his wife, Jessica Martinez, a U.S. citizen, were carjacked at gunpoint with their infant child in November of 2010 in Fresnillo, Mexico while going through the application process. On March 15th, 20 months after their first application was processed, the consulate in Juarez requested more information.
Many avoid applying for legal status out of fear of being rejected and subsequently deported. According to Battan, the current system is “encouraging people to remain illegal.” As a result this proposal could provide great benefits for split families.