Activists Press US Gov't on Processing of Immigrant Families

Several pro-immigrant organizations demanded on Thursday that the Obama administration implement the proposal for a new procedure that would allow the spouses and children of U.S. citizens to remain in the country while their immigration situation is regularized. On Jan. 6, the president and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS, announced their intention to change the policy obligating undocumented immigrants without papers requested by relatives to leave the country to adjust their status, a process that could take between 3 and 10 years.

The new procedure is designed to alleviate the extreme hardship that U.S. citizens experience due to the prolonged separation from their family members, USCIS chief Alejandro Mayorkas said during the announcement.

Although in some cases the federal government can authorize a pardon, which takes many years to process and allows immigrants to return to the United States to reunite with their family, they have to prove that the separation caused hardship.

Under the new proposal, which still has not entered into force, it would be easier for families to avoid these punishments by requesting "family unity protection" with the aim of not having to leave the country while their papers are being processed.

"What we're seeking is the rapid implementation of the exemption and above all that it be broadened, because many families will remain outside (its scope). There's still time until tomorrow (Friday) to comment on the changes we consider necessary," Javier Valdez, a representative from the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM), said Thursday in a telephone press conference.

FIRM and the Alliance for a Just Society also released on Thursday the report entitled "Promesas que Mantener" (Promises to Keep), which gathers 19 stories of immigrants and their families who are facing separation and which shows the importance of changing the process.

About 400,000 people are deported from the United States every year and since 2008 1.2 million immigrants have been forced to leave the country.

According to a report by the Applied Research Center, at least 5,100 U.S. children in the country have been placed with the social services because their parents have been detained or deported.

Also, about 5.5 million minors, of whom 80 were born in the country, have at least one parent who is undocumented.

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