Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

White House Eases Path to Residency for Some Illegal Immigrants

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

White House Eases Path to Residency for Some Illegal Immigrants

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- Illegal immigrants who are immediate relatives of American citizens will have an easier path to permanent residency under a new Obama administration rule that could affect as many as 1 million of the estimated 11 million people unlawfully in the United States.

The rule issued Wednesday by the Department of Homeland Security aims to reduce the time illegal immigrants are separated from their U.S. families while seeking legal status, officials said.

Beginning March 4, illegal immigrants who can demonstrate that time apart from an American spouse, child or parent would create "extreme hardship" can apply for a visa without leaving the United States. Once approved, applicants would be required to leave briefly in order to return to their native country and pick up their visa. Sources said the administration might expand the changes to include relatives of lawful permanent residents.

The change, first proposed in April, is the latest Obama administration move to use executive powers to revise immigration procedures without Congress passing a law. In August, the administration began a program to halt deportation of young people brought to the United States unlawfully as children.

"This is a continuation of usurping Congress' control over immigration," said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington think tank that supports tighter immigration controls. "This waiver rule is a small piece of this broader effort to go around Congress."

The new procedures could reduce a family's time apart to one week in some cases, officials said. In recent years, a few relatives of U.S. citizens have been killed in violence in foreign countries while waiting for their applications to be resolved, a process that could take a year or longer.

"It's going to be a better future for me," said Analy Olivas, 21, from Claremont, Calif., who crossed the border illegally from Mexico with her family when she was 8 and eventually married a U.S. citizen. She didn't think she could bear to be separated from her 4- year-old son, Naythan, for an extended period, adding: "If I kept on going through the process, I was going to have to leave the country. …

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