Grant green cards to immigrants' spouses and children
The Senate is considering an immigration reform bill that would put members of immigrant families in competition with skilled workers for permanent residency.
IMMIGRATION reform legislation before Congress was intended as a compromise between increased border enforcement and a road to citizenship for currently illegal aliens. Unfortunately, it includes a system of limiting future immigration by rewarding specialized job skills and higher education over family ties. The two considerations should not be pitted against each other in an otherwise worthwhile bill.
The legislation is aimed at reducing a backlog of 4 million visa applications within eight years by setting aside 440,000 green cards -- for permanent residency -- each year for those applicants. The proposal would judge the applicants on a 100-point scale, with employment skills counting for up to 47 points, education up to 28 points, knowledge of English and U.S. civics for 15 points and family ties for only 10 points.
That could be a blow to thousands of immigrants in Hawaii and millions on the mainland whose goal is to bring parents, siblings or children to the United States. Immigration policy has emphasized family reunion for decades, and the radical shift could be devastating to families.
Such a system is needless. The immigration service already grants temporary work permits based on five levels of ability and education, and it awards 160,000 green cards on the basis of employer sponsorship. Immigrants with family ties should not be thrust into that mix.
Hawaii's congressional delegation is understandably concerned about the proposal. "The success of any community -- and any nation -- is family unity," said Sen. Daniel Inouye. "The final shape of the measure and how it addresses family reunification will strongly influence how I will vote."
The Bush administration reportedly added the point system to the compromise legislation approved by a bipartisan group of a dozen senators earlier this month. Joel D. Kaplan, the White House deputy chief of staff, said it was based on the view that current policy is "very heavily weighted" to family ties, while the point system was "geared to making sure we were competitive in the 21st century."
An amendment introduced last week by Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., and Robert Menendez, D-N.J., would eliminate much of the problem by reclassifying spouses and minor children of legal immigrants as "immediate relatives," removing them from competition for green cards with skilled and educated workers.
If that becomes law, adequate funding still would be needed to reduce the backlog of at least five years that family members wait for their green cards, said Karen K. Narasaki, president of the Asian American Justice Center, which supports the amendment. "In order for the reform to achieve the goal of reducing the push to come illegally," she said, "we must reduce the time that spouses and minor children are separate from each other."