Comprehensive Immigration Reform Through Senate Bill S. 744

Results of Senate Judiciary Committee Amendments Affecting Family Unity

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Improved family unity is a Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) principle for immigration reform. As introduced, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (S. 744) would reduce family separation due to lengthy visa wait times and immigration enforcement actions. However, the bill also would eliminate the ability of U.S. citizens to seek visas for some relatives, making family unity a mixed bag in S. 744.

In a “mark-up” process spanning three weeks, the Senate Judiciary Committee considered amendments to the bill, including amendments related to family unity, listed below. On May 21, after considering nearly 200 amendments, the Judiciary Committee voted to approve S. 744 as amended, sending the bill to the debate and consideration on the Senate floor.

LIRS supports the following amendments to S. 744:

  • Hirono 6: Restores the ability of U.S. citizens to petition for siblings and adult married children over the age of 31 through the family-based immigration system. Not introduced.
  • Hirono 7: Restores the sibling and older adult married children categories ten years after the enactment of S. 744, making the elimination of these categories temporary. Not introduced.
  • Hirono 8: Increases the age of married adult children of U.S. citizens who qualify for a visa in the family-based immigration system under S.744 from 31 to 39. Not introduced.
  • Hirono 9: Provides certain siblings and adult married children of U.S. citizens the full benefits of a V visa, which is available to people with pending family visa applications, allowing the applicants to work and await a decision with their relatives in the United States. Not introduced.
  • Hirono 10: Reserves some family visas for siblings and children of U.S. citizens. To qualify for these visas, the family must show that reunification would alleviate extreme hardship to the petitioning U.S. citizen. Failed.

The following amendments would limit family-based immigration and threaten family unity during immigration enforcement:

  • Cruz 4: Overhauls the legal immigration system by decreasing the number of family-based visas available and eliminating unused visa roll-over. Failed.
  • Sessions 1: Replaces the family-, merit-, and employment-based immigration systems with a single process available to no more than 1.2 million people per year. Only children and spouses of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents would be able to enter the country. Failed.
  • Session 48: The new merit-based point system created in S. 744 allots points for family relationships. This amendment eliminates points granted to siblings of U.S. citizens. Not introduced.
  • Sessions 24: While the pathway to citizenship in S. 744 is only open to those currently in the United States, that requirement can be waived for people abroad who have a child, spouse, or parent in the United States who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. This amendment would eliminate that waiver. Not introduced.
  • Grassley 21: Eliminates discretion granted by S.744 to immigration judges and Department of Homeland Security officials to forego deportations that would cause hardship to spouses, parents, and children who are lawful permanent residents or U.S. citizens. Not introduced.