Just as Congress was out the door for a two-week Easter recess on Friday, the Obama administration announced it is moving forward with the rulemaking process to allow illegal immigrant spouses and children with U.S. citizen relatives to stay in the United States while the federal government decides on their waiver request.
Currently, illegal immigrants must leave the country before they can ask the federal government to waive the 3- and 10-year bars on legally coming back to the United States.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) said that those using proposed rule would have to demonstrate an argument of “extreme hardship” to stay in the U.S. while their case is being decided.
“The law is designed to avoid extreme hardship to U.S. citizens, which is precisely what this proposed rule will more effectively achieve,” said USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas. “The current process can subject U.S. citizens to months of separation from family members who are waiting for their cases to be processed overseas. The proposed change will have tremendous impact on families by significantly reducing the time of separation.”
House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) quickly criticized the proposal.
“President Obama is bending long established immigration laws to grant backdoor amnesty to potentially millions of illegal immigrants,” Smith said. “Congress has defeated amnesty attempts several times in recent years. According to a recent poll, two-thirds of Americans want to see immigration laws enforced, not ignored. Once again, President Obama is rewarding law breakers and disrespecting the rule of law.”
The UCIS is accepting public comment on the proposed rule from today through June 1. In the meantime, the agency stressed that individuals should not apply for provisional unlawful presence waivers.
“Congress instituted the 3- and 10-year bars in 1996 to provide a penalty for immigrants who had been illegally present in the U.S. for long periods of time,” Smith said. “While the waiver of these bars is legal under current law, it is not intended to be applied to millions of illegal immigrants.”