By Robert L. Reeves & Nancy E. Miller

The holidays are a time for being with family.  I was reminded of that recently when I was accompanying a client to his interview for his green card. When I asked, if he had plans for the holidays, his face lit up.  “Oh yes” he replied, “I’m going home to be with my son and my grandchildren.”  His eyes brighten when he talked about the presents he was going to bring his grandchildren and how they would come running to greet him.  He had a big smile as he talked about being able to enjoy having them sit on his lap. 

I returned his smile, happy to be able to have brought such happiness to my client on the eve of the holidays.  I thought about how many families travel great distances at this time of year to be together.  Families feel the pull to be together at this time of the year more than at most other times.  They want to share their religious observances.  They want to feel united.   They want to greet the new year together and share their hope that the next year will be better than the last.
Then I thought of the families who can not be together for the holidays this year because of the harshness of many of the immigration laws.  I thought of the U.S. citizens who face a draconian choice resulting from the denial of their spouse’s waiver for using someone else’s name to come to the U.S. These people are forced to choose between separating from their  loved spouse in order to remain in the United States and care for an old or sick parent or leaving that parent in order to accompany their beloved spouse to their home country. I thought of the immigrants who made a mistake years, or even decades ago, that resulted in a criminal conviction, and are now facing removal even though they have been good and responsible citizens since they paid their debt to society.  I thought of the people who have been waiting for years for the priority date on their family or employment petition to become current so that they could obtain status and live legally in the U.S. with their families.  I thought of the people who went home for an immigrant visa interview and are now trapped by bureaucratic red tape or incorrect interpretations of laws. 

We are a nation of immigrants.  We must work together to make the immigration laws more fair.  Reuniting families and keeping families together must be the overriding priority of all immigration laws. 

It has always been R&A’s goal to help families legally live together in the United States.  We are pleased that our firm has been able to help as many people as we have.  However, we recognize that more needs to be done.  Congress needs to pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform so that the laws are more reasonable and responsive to the needs of both the immigrant community and society at large. These changes in law need to reflect a recognition that this country has always benefited by welcoming immigrants.  Citizenship & Immigration Services and the Consulates need to adjudicate applications and petitions fairly and in a timely manner. 

All of us at R&A pledge that in 2010 we will continue to work to help reunite families in the United States.  Best wishes for a Happy, Healthy New Year for families everywhere.