CBJC’s Immigrant Justice Project Helps a Family from Peru Reunite for the New Year
by Caitlin Miner-Le Grand, Esq. February 18, 2022
Caitlin Miner-Le Grand is the Deputy Director for the Immigrant Justice Project.
*Disclaimer: Please note that pseudonyms have been used to protect the identity of CBJC program recipients.
2022 will be an unforgettable year for a client of the Immigrant Justice Project (IJP), Ms. Doe. For the first time in almost fifteen years, she celebrated the New Year with all three of her children–her two oldest children who recently flew in from Peru and her youngest son who was born and resides with her in the United States. In December 2021, her two older children received U3 visas after attending consular interviews in Peru. Three years from now, Ms. Doe and her two children will be eligible to apply for lawful permanent residence. This family reunification is just one of a recent string of IJP clients welcoming children long-separated by distance, borders, and immigration status. It’s a bright spot after a year marked by COVID-related restrictions and uncertainty.
Many clients of IJP are survivors of domestic violence who have applied for U nonimmigrant status after cooperating with law enforcement. While some people come to the United States with their children, others choose to leave their children with caretakers before undertaking the uncertain journey. One of the benefits of applications for U and T nonimmigrant status is that individuals can include their minor, unmarried children. Their age is frozen at the time of the application–a useful and necessary feature, as most recent U visa approvals are for cases filed 6 years ago. The long delay is due to immigration law, which limits U visa approvals to 10,000 per year. Because applications are generally processed chronologically, this 10,000 cap has created an exceptionally long wait time. This is due to the statutory cap for U visa approvals, limiting them to 10,000 per fiscal year. (Based on figured recently released by USCIS, recent applicants could face a 15 year wait before receiving U nonimmigrant status.) While recent policy changes promise to shorten wait times for U visa applicants in the United States to receive work permits while their U visa applications are pending, children abroad must wait until the final U approval to be allowed to lawfully enter the country and reunite with their families.
COVID-related embassy closures abroad have created further delays and roadblocks, keeping families apart even longer. Recently, IJP client Ms. Martin, was overjoyed to welcome her 23 year old son to the United States, five years after applying for U nonimmigrant status and including him in her application. Unfortunately, her younger daughter remains in Ecuador, as the embassy has been closed for two years and as a result, is unable to schedule the required biometrics appointment to record her fingerprints. Embassies have opened and closed in unpredictable ways due to COVID surges, and government agencies issuing passports and other documents follow similar patterns, making the problem worse.
The Biden Administration stated that family reunification is one of its immigration priorities. Among other initiatives, it re-introduced an Obama-era program allowing for families with certain pending immigration applications to seek admission for their minor children in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. While these are welcome developments, they are still slow-moving. As the days and years go by, many separated families sustain their family relationships through video chats, photos, and hope. The Immigrant Justice Project continues to support its clients through legal representation, outreach, and advocacy. Our team shares the hope of our clients and we work diligently to help reunite more families.
This communication is for the general education and knowledge of our readers. Because all legal problems involve their own specific set of facts, this informational resource is not and should not be used as a substitute for independent legal advice. This informational resource also is not intended to create, and its receipt does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Please contact competent, independent legal counsel for an assessment of your particular legal concerns, or contact our Legal Hotline (212.626.7383 or https://www.citybarjusticecenter.org/legal-hotline/) to determine whether you qualify for assistance from the City Bar Justice Center.
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