Immigration Waivers and the Psychological Effects on Family Members Throughout Their Loved One’s Legalization Process
Southern University Law Review Journal, Volume 46, Issue 2, 2019
38 Pages Posted: 18 Apr 2019 Last revised: 19 May 2019
Date Written: April 1, 2019
Over 11 million undocumented individuals live in the United States. Every day, immigrants flood to this country in search of the “American Dream.” Men, women, and children risk their lives to escape crime, drug use, gang-related territorial control, and poverty. Congress recognized the importance of family unification when it created immigration laws promoting family unity. The I-601 Hardship Waiver affords illegal immigrants a method for legalization. Immigrants must establish extreme hardship to a United States citizen spouse, parent, or child to qualify for a waiver of inadmissibility. One factor to determine extreme hardship is an immigrant’s ties to the United States. Other factors are those affecting the qualifying relative including financial considerations, education, physical and mental conditions, ties to and outside the United States, and conditions in the country in which the citizen relative would relocate if the waiver were denied. Once extreme hardship is established, it is a favorable factor for the United States Citizens and Immigration Services to consider. Sometimes, it is the determinative factor.
This Article focuses on the psychological stress qualifying relatives experience throughout their loved one’s legalization process. The author, a licensed clinical social worker, conducts psychosocial evaluations of immigrant relatives. The evaluations serve as evidence of extreme hardship. She concludes, based upon her experience and research, that lack of definition of the term “extreme hardship” is causing unnecessary delays, inconsistent results, or family disruption pertaining to approval or denial of waivers. Relatives experience anxiety, depression, trauma, and fear — the emotions that foster approval of waivers — due to the subjective nature of the process. Thus, the family-based goals of the immigration laws are thwarted because of the legislature intended to keep families together. Congress can remedy the problem by defining extreme hardship, removing the waiver’s subjectivity, reforming immigration laws, or giving more credence to a relative’s mental health, which would improve the relative’s emotional state and promote family unity.
Keywords: Hardship Evaluation, Immigration Waiver, Extreme Hardship, Immigrant Relatives’ Psychological Stress, Immigration Laws and Family Unity, I-601 Hardship Waiver
JEL Classification: K37, K30, 128, 118, 112, 110, 114, 119, 130, 131, 139, F50, F59
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation