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The Plus One Policy: An Autonomous Model of Family Reunification

38 Pages Posted: 29 Mar 2010 Last revised: 7 Jul 2011

Jessica Feinberg

Mercer University - Walter F. George School of Law

Date Written: March 29, 2010


Citizens who share close, important relationships with non-citizens often face significant obstacles if they wish to continue these relationships on a permanent basis within the United States. In order to lawfully immigrate to the United States, non-citizen loved ones must fit within one of the narrowly defined admission categories established by the Immigration and Nationality Act. The majority of individuals able to immigrate can do so because they share relationships with United States citizens that render them eligible under the “family reunification” admission category. Unfortunately, immigration law’s definition of family includes only relationships that could fit within the “traditional family unit.” Thus, many citizens find themselves unable to reunite with the people they value most. This Article proposes adding a new category to immigration law’s current family reunification scheme. The “Plus One Policy” would allow an adult United States citizen to sponsor one important individual in her life who does not fit within any of the pre-existing family reunification provisions. The Plus One Policy seeks to supplement the current purely “bounded model” of family reunification, in which the government categorically decides which relationships are most valuable to its citizens, with an “autonomous model,” whereby citizens decide for themselves which relationships they value most. Not only would such a model demonstrate that the United States recognizes and respects the wide variety of domestic and global conceptions of family, it would also further the humane and practical goals of family reunification law.

Keywords: Immigration, Family, Civil Rights

Suggested Citation

Feinberg, Jessica, The Plus One Policy: An Autonomous Model of Family Reunification (March 29, 2010). Nevada Law Review, Vol. 11, p. 629, 2011 . Available at SSRN:

Jessica Feinberg (Contact Author)

Mercer University - Walter F. George School of Law ( email )

1021 Georgia Ave
Macon, GA 31207-0001
United States

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