The Scandal of Refugee Family Reunification
41 Pages Posted: 26 Jun 2014 Last revised: 15 Jun 2016
Date Written: January 30, 2015
Headlines have highlighted the plight of unaccompanied children seeking asylum at our southern border. Some political pundits have called this a “crisis,” casting blame for the migrant influx on our outdated and confusing immigration policies. Yet further away from the border, another group of migrants — all of whom have already resettled here — confronts a more routine crisis perpetrated by our bureaucracy. Refugees, who are legally resettled in the United States by the tens of thousands each year, often arrive without intact family units. Many have been forced to leave spouses or children behind in conflict zones or refugee camps. To reunite with these loved ones, refugees must petition to bring them through the U.S. immigration system via special processes meant to accommodate a refugee’s status as a victim of persecution. Yet through stringent documentation requirements and bureaucratic inertia, these processes often end up penalizing refugees for their lack of resources. Ironically, refugees’ vulnerability and past persecution — which form the very basis for their status in the United States — subsequently prevent them from navigating an immigration process specially designed for them. This Note provides an overview of this complex system and identifies many of the flaws that keep refugee families apart. It then offers a number of reforms designed to streamline this cumbersome bureaucracy and protect refugees’ family members seeking to be reunited on American soil.
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