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New immigration rules are a simple but needed tweak

March 31, 2012|By Sandra Hernandez
  • Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. (J. Scott Applewhite / Associated…)

Next week the Obama administration will move forward with a plan to reduce the amount of time undocumented immigrants married to U.S. citizens spend away from their families while applying to legalize their status.

The Times' editorial board wrote in support of the plan. It's a simple fix that essentially streamlinies how applications are processed, and it only applies to spouses and children of U.S. citizens.

Under the current system, the immigrants who qualify for a visa, and ultimately a green card, must return to their homeland to pick it up. But the problem is that the moment they leave the U.S., they trigger an automatic sanction that bars them from returning for up to 10 years. Some immigrants can secure a special waiver to return, but they must demonstrate that their absences will create extreme hardship to a U.S. citizen parent or spouse.

The change is actually quite modest, yet you wouldn’t know it from the way opponents are denouncing the proposal. Rep. Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, has accused the administration of attempting to enact a “backdoor amnesty.” That seems like a stretch given that the new rule doesn’t ease requirements or allow anyone to jump to the front of the line.

The public now gets 60 days to comment on the proposal.

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