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Press Statement: Senate Introduces Family Immigration Bill

By May 20, 2009No Comments

For immediate release
May 20, 2009

EunSook Lee, NAKASEC, 323.937.3703 x205
Becky Belcore, KRCC, 773.588.9158
Dae Joong Yoon, KRC, 323.937.3718

Keeping Families Together
Senate Introduces Long-Awaited Family Immigration Bill

(Los Angeles, CA) The National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC) and its affiliates – the Korean American Resource & Cultural Center (KRCC) in Chicago and the Korean Resource Center (KRC) in Los Angeles – welcome the introduction of the “Reuniting Families Act” by Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Edward Kennedy (D-MA), and Charles Schumer (D-NY). This legislation recognizes the contributions of immigrants and the importance of families in strengthening our country. By reducing the unbearably long periods of families being separated and improving the outdated family immigration system, countless families will not be forced to wait years – often decades – to reunify with loved ones.

Specific provisions in the bill include:
– Recapture of unused and unclaimed visas from 1992 to 2007 to be placed back in the pool of current visas for families and employers and utilize, unused visas in the future would “roll over” to the next year;
– Re-classify children and spouses of lawful permanent residents as “immediate relatives,” which allows them to immediately qualify for a visa;
– Allow widows and widowers, and their children, to continue their immigration applications, in cases where the petitioner has died;
– Increase in the per country limits of family and employment-based visas from 7% to 10% of certain countries with extremely long backlogs;
– Increase the Attorney General’s discretion to waive barriers for immigrants, who if are denied to be with their U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse, parent or children, would result in hardship to that U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident; and
– Exempt children of certain World War II Filipino veterans from numerical caps on visas.

Family is at the core of immigration and of America. Families are also the most important social unit of any society; in times of personal or economic hardships, we each rely on our families. We learn core values of fairness and equality to maxims such as “love thy neighbor” and “the golden rule of do unto others as you would have them do unto you” – that ground each and every one of us into becoming successful and socially responsible.

The Reuniting Families Act will provide relief to tens of thousands of Korean Americans enduring painfully long periods of separation from family members. The urgent need for this bill is highlighted through the case of Hang Youk from Texas, whose entire family’s hopes and dreams for a stable life and permanent residence in the United States disappeared in a split second. On the night of June 2, 2000, his father, Tae Youk, was murdered on the floor of a convenience store in Ranchester, Texas. His family was no longer eligible for the green cards that they were months away from receiving through sponsorship from his father. Tae first came to the United States from South Korea to earn a doctorate degree in Theology at the Houston Graduate School of Theology. He decided to settle in the U.S. when a church offered him a job and a green card for him and the rest of his family. They came in 1998, during which time Hang enrolled at the University of Houston and studied accounting. Without even sufficient time to mourn the loss of his father, they were immediately faced with the grave uncertainty and fear of unstable status in the United States.

Senators Menendez, Gillibrand, Kennedy, and Schumer have done the right thing by putting a spotlight on the importance of preserving and strengthening the family based immigration system. NAKASEC and its affiliates are committed to advancing policy solutions that keep families together. To that end, we will educate, organize, and mobilize our community members to build support for family immigration and comprehensive immigration reform.