A family-based approach to immigration reform

Immigration reform is not a choice between family-based and employment-sponsored immigration. The United States derives the greatest economic and social benefits from a robust immigration system that utilizes both employment-based and family-based visas, in a well-balanced fashion. To attract workers for all sectors, we must protect and enhance family immigration.
Efficient, fair and effective avenues for legal, family-based immigration will keep America strong. Families come to the U.S. in search of opportunity with the purpose of becoming active members of our society. They purchase homes, start and run businesses that create American jobs, and send their American children to college to obtain the skills they need to contribute to our economy and strengthen American industries. Families pool resources and pitch in to care for young children, the sick, and elderly, so that breadwinners can contribute to America’s economy. We also know that those who enter the United States through kinship ties are more likely to become permanent members of our community.
I plan to do my part to modernize our legal immigration system by reintroducing the Reuniting Families Act (RFA) next week. This commonsense bill reduces family immigration visa backlogs and promotes humane and timely reunification of immigrant families.
First, RFA would recapture unused employment-based and family-sponsored visas lost to bureaucratic delay. For future fiscal years, unused visa numbers will “roll over” to the next fiscal year. Second, this bill helps spouses and children under the age of 21 of lawful permanent residents – who are waiting in line to reunite with their families – by reclassifying them as “immediate relatives.” RFA addresses the decades-long backlogs for certain countries by raising the per-country immigration limits from 7 percent to 15 percent of total admissions and limiting the maximum wait period for a green card to ten years. This bill will increase the government’s discretion and flexibility in addressing numerous hardships, including family separation, caused by the 3-year and 10-year bars, as well as protects widows, widowers and orphans by allowing them to continue to wait in line for a visa even after the death of the sponsoring relative. Finally, RFA eliminates the discrimination facing same-sex couples by allowing them to sponsor their foreign-born partners for immigration to the U.S.
We urgently need a legal immigration system that keeps families together. A practical and well-functioning family-based immigration system is the key to growing our communities and our economy by honoring our family values and reuniting families.

Honda is a member of the House Appropriations Committee.

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