January 6, 2012 NEWS RELEASE — LIRS Welcomes New Policy to Protect American Families

Press Contact: Fabio Lomelino, Assistant Director for Media Relations
410-230-2721, lirspress@lirs.org

BALTIMORE, January 6, 2012–Today the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced it would make a policy change that would encourage some undocumented immigrant children and spouses to come out of the shadows to permanently reunify with their U.S. citizen family members. Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) welcomes this reform as it would make it easier for thousands of American families with mixed immigration status to remain permanently together.

While many individuals wait overseas for their family-based green card to become available, some are already living in the United States, working and contributing to their communities. Rigid visa caps force families to wait years or even decades to reunite.

Under the current policy, when a family-based green card becomes available, undocumented immigrants have to return to their country of origin to receive the visa. To be able to return to the United States, they must obtain a waiver from the government. However, if the government denies them the waiver, they risk being barred from returning to the United States for three or ten years.

DHS’s proposed change would enable undocumented immigrants with a U.S. citizen spouse or parent to interview for a provisional waiver while inside the United States. If they are eligible to receive the waiver, they would then return to their home country for final green card processing.

Although the revised policy would exclude interviews in the United States for immigrants who have family members with green cards and would not help undocumented parents with U.S. citizen children, the updated policy is a common sense improvement to U.S. immigration policy.

“The current policy forces undocumented immigrants to remain in the shadows for fear of extended separation from their families,” said Eric B. Sigmon, LIRS Director for Advocacy.

“The proposed policy would encourage immigrants to come forward, get right with the law, receive their green card, and permanently reunite with their loves ones.”

LIRS works with Congress and the Administration to promote legislation and policies that end the unnecessary separation of families. In April 2011 LIRS joined over 70 organizations in a letter to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano calling for policy changes to make it easier for families to reunite.

“The United States prides itself on being a nation that supports family values, but the current immigration system separates families on a daily basis,” added Linda Hartke, LIRS President & CEO.  “The country still desperately needs an overhaul to U.S. immigration laws, but today’s announcement represents a positive step to help keep American families together.

About LIRS

LIRS welcomes refugees and migrants on behalf of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. LIRS is nationally recognized for its leadership advocating on behalf of refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied children, immigrants in detention, families fractured by migration and other vulnerable populations, and for providing services to migrants through over 60 grassroots legal and social service partners across the United States.