‘Reduce illegal immigration by reuniting nuclear families of legal immigrants,’ expert says

Immigration law expert available for comment

“There’s an easy way to put a serious dent in illegal immigration and reunite the families of legal immigrants at the same time,” says Stephen H. Legomsky, professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis. “Congress should exempt the spouses and young children of our legal immigrants from numerical ceilings, just as we now exempt the spouses and children of U.S. citizens.”

Stephen Legomsky
Stephen Legomsky

Legomsky made these remarks in his recent testimony before the U.S. House immigration subcommittee. Legomsky is the author of America’s leading law school textbook on immigration law and has advised both Republican and Democratic administrations and several foreign governments on immigration, refugee and citizenship issues.

Legomsky is available to discuss current immigration law issues. His comments on the plight of the families of legal permanent residents follow:

• “If you are lawfully admitted as a permanent resident, and you then marry a non-U.S. citizen or have a child who is not a U.S. citizen, your new spouse and your newborn child will have to wait to join you. The current wait is more than five years — more than six years if they are Mexicans. This wait occurs because Congress has capped the number of spouses and children of permanent residents who may be admitted per year.”

• “There are lots of reasons to worry about these long waiting periods, but two of them stand out. One is humanitarian. Newlyweds are separated for the first five or six years of their marriages. Newborn children are kept away from one or both of their parents for the first five or six years of the children’s lives. Humanitarian concerns aside, these long separations practically beg people to violate the immigration laws.”

• “Human nature will have to be remade before new spouses willingly separate for the first five or six years of their marriages or parents willingly separate from their newborn children for the first five or six years of their lives. Illegal immigration becomes an irresistible option.”

• “Reuniting these nuclear families would not increase total legal immigration; it would alter only the timing. The spouses and children would be admitted now rather than later. To minimize any one-time initial disruption, Congress could phase in the change over several years.”

Editor’s note: Legomsky is available for phone, e-mail and broadcast interviews through June 15 and from June 21-25. Washington University has VYVX and ISDN lines available for news interviews. Legomsky will be available via e-mail from June 16-20 and after June 25.