Critics of immigration reform like to state that those in the United States without documentation have cut in line and their conduct is unfair to those who “play by the rules.” Not unlike Iranian elections, if the rules are unfair, it is unfair to make people play by them. Here is a small example. There are wait lists for different categories of people to become permanent residents with some variation between countries. The Department of State publishes these wait lists in its Visa Bulletin. Let’s look a the numbers for Mexico. Let’s examine the category is children of permanent residents from Mexico. In the early 1990’s many people became permanent residents. Naturally, they wanted to bring their children with them. So, playing by the rules, they petitioned for their children. There was a natural expectation that their children would be able to reunite with their parents. It has been nearly 20 years since these people petitioned and their children cannot reunite yet. When a child turns 21, under immigration law he is no longer a child. He morphs to “son or daughter.” The vast majority of those petitioned in the early 1990’s are now over 21. As a technical matter, unmarried sons and daughters of permanent residents are in the 3rd family sponsored preference. In June 2009, the Department of State and USCIS were processing petitions filed in October 22, 1992. The newest numbers, for July 2009, show that these agencies are processing petitions filed on July 1, 1991. This means that in one month the wait list has not shortened, but rather lengthened by 479 days, nearly a year and four months.
I know what the crafty among you are saying – if the parent had become a citizen this wait list would have evaporated. It is the failure of the parents to learn English and acculturate that is the cause of the delay. Here are the facts: In June 2009, the government was processing petitions from citizens for Mexican sons and daughters, the First Preference, filed on October 8, 1992. For July 2009, the processing date is January 1, 1991. The number has retrogressed 646 days, or a year and nine months. Looking at the numbers, you may notice that becoming a citizen has no effect on when a petition will become current, i.e., reach the head of the wait list. Sons and daughters of permanent residents and sons and daughters of citizens both must have filed on or before July 1, 1991. At what point do you stop expecting people to honor a system where after 20 years there is not even a prospect that your family will be reunited?