Nuclear Family Reinification

The United States cannot absorb everyone who wants to come to this country. Therefore, limits and preferences must be established to decide who comes, and how many. Omnibus immigration reform efforts by former House Immigration Subcommittee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), and Senate Immigration Subcommittee Chairman Alan Simpson (R-WY), were key to restoring public support for our legal immigration system. Unfortunately, those efforts, which paralleled the recommendations of the blue ribbon Commission on Immigration Reform, headed by the late Barbara Jordan, have been amended to eliminate a new system of priorities.

The current system allows petitions for not only nuclear family members--spouses and minor children--but also parents, adult children, married children, brothers and sisters, and grandchildren. These extended family categories cause an unending, expanding chain of migration and unprecedented levels of annual immigration. The consequence has been a huge backlog, with waiting lists extending 10 to 20 years. The backlog and the hope to immigrate on the basis of the broad admission standard in turn encourages illegal immigration, as people decide to await their hoped for green cards illegally in the U.S.

Our immigration system is unfair to aspiring immigrants and to the American people and is at odds with our national interests. We must follow the Jordan Commission's recommendation to eliminate unwieldy categories and the false expectations they foster in order to restore credibility to the system.

Priority for Nuclear Families

Current immigration reform efforts have recognized the importance of the nuclear family and have provided for admission of the spouse and unmarried children of U.S. citizens. An individual granted permission to enter as a Lawful Permanent Resident may continue to bring his/her spouse and minor children immediately into the United States. In addition, provision has been made for citizens to petition for parents under certain restrictions.

However, the efforts to cut off automatic immigration privileges for extended family members, thereby ending the chain migration effect, have proven unsuccessful. While, it is fair to immigrants and U.S. citizens to keep nuclear families together, in FAIR's view, it is not the responsibility of the American people or government to reunite an immigrant's extended family after that individual has made a personal choice to immigrate here. Furthermore, by eliminating the extended relative categories, the waiting list of spouses and minor children of citizens and immigrants could be shortened. Under the porposed reforms, extended family members would have to apply for immigration to the U.S. based on their own merit, not because they are related to someone.

Emphasis on the nuclear family would repair our immigration system in important ways:

  • Backlogs of spouses and children would be reduced or eliminated.
  • No false expectations would be perpetuated.
  • An incentive for illegal immigration would be removed.
  • The system would become more responsive to changing national needs.

True reform of our immigration system will require tough choices and determination. We must implement the principles and actions recommended by the Jordan Commission, which are supported by the overwhelming majority of the American people.


Updated 7/02