A project of the Center for Community Change

Immigration Backlogs Put Lives on Hold

This week, the Houston Chronicle ran an article about Visa backlogs and their real effect on people’s lives. Our broken immigration system affects mothers, fathers, children, families, spouses and everything in between. Despite America’s insistence that family is the cornerstone of society, our policies continue to separate families everyday.

In the midst of all the policy talk, the red tape and the bureaucracy it can be easy to forget what we are really discussing. Its not paperwork, its people’s lives. Their families. Their children.

Elias Mama is happy to be spending Father’s Day with his wife and 4-year-old daughter. But he had to fly to Israel to do it.

Mama, the 51-year-old owner of a Houston garage, is among millions of legal immigrant families whose lives are on hold while their cases move slowly through a complex immigration system.

Last August, before his four-year wait to become a U.S. citizen ended early this year, Mama took his wife on an emergency trip to see her ailing mother in Israel.

When they flew home in September, U.S. immigration officials at the Atlanta airport ordered his wife to return to Israel because her tourist visa had expired while he was waiting for citizenship.

That lapse means Mama’s wife now faces a penalty of up to 10 years before she can again enter the country legally.

“We’re talking about people’s lives, not paperwork,” said Mama, who left Israel 20 years ago.

“We’re talking about life, family, kids. She’s suffering there (in Israel), and I’m here.

“Why?”

Part of it is the fact that Mama’s wife allowed her visa to expire.

But the other cause of his woes is that there is a current backlog of about 4 million applications for visas pending, as well as about 1 million citizenship applications, according to U.S. government officials.

Click here to read the full article.

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