If you are a US Citizen married to an immigrant, why can't you just sponsor your immigrant spouse and legalize the right way?
Our spouses have immigration infractions. Many of these infractions occurred years ago, when they either came legally and overstayed or crossed over the border for a better life. Because of these infractions when trying to go through the proper route to legalize, they incur what are called immigration bars that deny them from legalizing and force them to leave the country and be barred for years at a time. Current law doesn't give any weight to the fact that a US Citizen is involved and now affected also by forcing the immigrant spouse out of the country, essentially tearing apart families. Many US Citizens who have longstanding roots find their lives and jobs turned upside down as they are also forced to leave with their children in order to keep their marriages intact.
Can't your spouse just leave the US and re-apply to enter the right way?
As soon as an immigrant who has overstayed or who has a past immigration infraction on their record leaves, they incur what is known as an immigration bar. These bars can range anywhere from 3, 5, 10 years or even permanently for life depending on the infraction. This is the reason why there are so many undocumented immigrants in the country, because our current system encourages them not to become legal or leave the country, else they incur a bar preventing them from returning.
How many families are affected by the current immigration bars?
Based on previous census data, we estimate that there are at least 500,000 US Citizens married to immigrants who are unable to fix their status and properly legalize.
Why aren't these families in the news as much as other affected immigrants, like the DREAMers or TPS recipients?
Great question and there are various reasons behind the lack of voice for this particular group of US Citizens married to immigrants:
- US Citizens often face ridicule, embarrassment, and backlash from their families due to their relationships with an immigrant facing these barriers. As a result, they usually keep their stories and hardships in the shadows.
- Often when a US Citizen is either separated from their spouse in separate countries, or even exiled outside the US, there is a high chance of dangerous threats such as kidnapping, extortion, and violence if the country they are residing in is dangerous. Many of these countries assume those with a US Citizen status to be wealthy, and so they are prime targets for these threats. Due to this, many families keep their issue private.
- US Citizens have longstanding roots in the United States and as a result, are less prone to be outspoken because they have so much to lose both financially and with their deep rooted families that have lived for generations in the US. This is the only country they know as home.
- Many other immigrant rights groups often link US Citizens to the "unlimited cap" of sponsoring an immigrant spouse. Many Americans still believe the "green card" myth of an instant marriage fixing any issues. This is why most do not understand why there would be an issue for a US Citizen sponsoring someone and ultimately why it is not well known.
- Many US Citizens with these issues are uninformed and attempt to apply for waivers that they believe will fix their issue, when they will not as there are no waivers available or if there are, they are still denied due to the extreme requirements they must have for approval. Also, during this process most families who apply do not want any attention or focus on their story as often they feel it will lead to a denial. In the end, the time and money spent on this waiver process often leaves these couples to heartbreak and often divorce with no where left to go.
What can I do to help?
The best way to help is to subscribe to our mailing list to keep abreast of calls to action. If you would like to become more directly involved feel free to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.