New Cutoff Date For Family Visa Backlog Proposed By Menendez And Hagel

New Cutoff Date For Family Visa Backlog Proposed By Menendez And Hagel

Measure would protect hundreds of thousands of family members legally waiting in line for visas

Washington - U.S. Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Chuck Hagel (R-NE) today introduced an amendment to the Border Security and Immigration Reform Act of 2007 that would alter the Act's proposed remedy for the backlog of family-based visa applicants, strengthening the ability of families to reunify.

The amendment will be one of the first voted upon when the Senate returns after Memorial Day.

Border Security and Immigration Reform Act of 2007:



"Would clear the backlog of only those people who applied for legal permanent residency before May 1, 2005.

"Would essentially place together all family visa applicants who have been waiting to enter the country legally but applied after that date behind those who are here in an undocumented status.

"An estimated 833,000 applicants would be impacted by this gap in the backlog-clearing plan.

"All those impacted by the gap are family members of American citizens and permanent residents.

Menendez-Hagel amendment:



"Would move the cutoff date to January 1, 2007, the same cut-off date currently set for the legalization of undocumented immigrants.

"Would add 110,000 green cards per year to ensure that the additional applicants would not cause the backlog clearing process to exceed the eight year deadline.

"Co-sponsored by Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Christopher J. Dodd (D-CT) and Barack Obama (D-IL).

"This legislation unfairly says that those who followed the rules will lose their place in line," said Menendez. "This legislation unfairly says that those who followed the rules will have to wait at least an additional eight years before they even become eligible to compete for the newly proposed merit-based green cards.

Menendez continued: "We must make sure that people who played by the rules and legally applied to immigrate here are not arbitrarily placed at a disadvantage in respect to those who are in this country in an undocumented status."


Full text of Sen. Menendez's comments as prepared for delivery:

This legislation curtails the ability of American citizens or permanent residents to petition for their families to be reunified here in America.

Right now, this unfair bill sets different standards for two groups of people.

One that has followed the rules by having their relative that is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent residents petition to bring them into this country legally.

And one that has entered or remained in our country without proper documentation.

Yet this legislation, as it stands now, would punish those who followed the rules.

The Menendez/Hagel amendment simply states that, at a minimum, the two groups should be treated equally under this bill. My amendment is about fundamental fairness.

All this amendment does, is make sure that both groups will face the same cutoff date.

Right now, those who are in our nation in an undocumented status are allowed to potentially earn permanent residency so long as they entered this country before January 1, 2007.

All this amendment does, is say that those who followed the rules should have that same date - January 1, 2007.

All this amendment does, is apply the same standard, the same cutoff date to those who did follow the rules, so that those who did obey our laws and who legally applied for their green card can potentially earn permanent residency so long as they applied for their visa before January 1, 2007.

This is a complicated issue, so let me explain exactly what this legislation, as currently drafted does.

Right now, there is a family backlog of people who have applied for legal permanent residency. This legislation, as currently drafted, does away with several of the family categories such as adult children of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents and siblings of citizens. These categories will be grandfathered in and dealt with as part of clearing the backlog during the first eight years only if they filed their application before May 1, 2005. It is important to pay attention to the May 1st, 2005, date, which is nearly two years before the cutoff date for people who are here in an undocumented status.

However, an estimated 833,000 people who have played by the rules but who happened to apply after May 1, 2005 will not be cleared as part of the family backlog and as a result, will lose their chance to immigrate under current rules.

So, the legislation, as currently drafted, says that if you legally applied for a visa on or after May 1, 2005, you have to compete to enter under a totally new system.

But right now, the legislation also says that if you overstayed a visa or came into this country without proper documentation before January 1, 2007, you will be able become a lawful permanent resident sometime between year nine and thirteen. But if you applied for a visa and followed all the rules, there is NO guarantee that you would EVER be able to become a lawful permanent resident.

My amendment would remedy this injustice by moving the cutoff date for those who legally applied for visas to January 1, 2007, which is the same cut-off date that is currently set for the legalization of the undocumented immigrants. My amendment would also add 110,000 green cards a year to ensure that we don't start creating a new backlog or cause the eight year deadline for clearing the family backlog to slip by a few years.

Why shouldn't legal applicants be able to keep their place in line if they applied before January 1, 2007?

Clearly, this legislation, as it is currently written, is unfair to those who legally applied for a visa.

This legislation unfairly says that those who followed the rules will lose their place in line.

This legislation unfairly says that those who followed the rules will have to wait at least an additional eight years before they even become eligible to compete - let me say that again, compete - for the newly proposed merit-based green cards.

This legislation unfairly says that those who followed the rules would have to wait a total of ten years before they are eligible to compete under a new and different system, with a different set of rules and no guarantee that they will ever be given a visa to immigrate to our country.

Clearly, we must, at a minimum, allow those who played by the rules to have the same cutoff date - January 1, 2007.

Not only is it unfair to make people who followed the rules wait longer than those who chose not to, it is also wrong to make people who applied under our current system to have to reapply under a completely different one. Those who applied on May 1, 2005 or after applied under our current immigration system that values family ties and employment at a premium.

However, under this bill they would now be subject to a completely different standard that is primarily concerned with education and skill levels. This is like changing the rules of the game halfway through the game. People who applied after May 1, 2005 would not only lose credit for the up to two-plus years they have been waiting for a visa, they would also have to apply under a completely different system than the one they originally applied for.

Let's think of how fundamentally unfair that is. Imagine you are a lawful permanent U.S. resident and you have fought for your country, you may have shed blood for your country and in some cases, you may have died for your country. In fact, a non-citizen, Lance Corporal Jose Gutierrez, originally of Guatemala was the very first U.S. combat casualty in the war with Iraq.

LPRs are also protecting our airports, our seaports, and our borders. They risk their lives daily in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other places around the world to protect us here at home.

You have petitioned to have your sister come to join you and live in America. Under this bill, you would lose that right if you filed on or after May 1, 2005.

It is hard to imagine that one would have that right taken away from them.

Here is another case for you to consider. You are a U.S. citizen and have paid your taxes, served your nation, attend your church, and make a good living. You have petitioned to have your adult child come to America, but did so after the arbitrary date of May 1, 2005. Under this bill, the U.S. citizen would lose that right. However, those who are undocumented in the country after that May 1, 2005 date actually get a benefit.

Hard to imagine, but it is true.

Right now, this bill is unfair and nonsensical, capriciously punishing those who followed the rules and legally applied for green cards.

We must make sure that people who played by the rules and legally applied to immigrate here are not arbitrarily placed at a disadvantage in respect to those who are in this country in an undocumented status.

As I've said many times before, comprehensive immigration reform must be tough, practical, and fair. We must be tough on border security, be practical by providing a pathway to earned citizenship, but at the same time we must be fair by rewarding those who followed our laws.

We must remain true to the principles we set forth in the beginning of this debate that any immigration reform be tough, practical, and fair. I urge my colleagues to support this family values Menendez/Hagel amendment and in doing so ensure that we appropriately punish those who have broken our laws, without punishing those who have followed them.

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