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How Long IS That “Line?”

One common theme you hear from immigration opponents is that people who want to come to the United States should “wait their turn in line,” or that people who came here without authorization should “go to the back of the line.”  It’s as if there is one “line” somewhere that all immigrants have to use to wait their turn.  But did you ever stop to wonder how long that “line” really is?  Well, the Department of State just released its yearly report on the visa backlog – the mythical “line” – and the numbers are staggering.

As of November 1, 2016, there were 4,259,573 people in the family-based visa “line.”  Each one of those people is the spouse, son, daughter, brother, or sister of someone who is in the United States legally as a citizen or permanent resident.  Each one of these people has filed the necessary paperwork to come to the United States legally.  But because Congress has kept the number of family-based visas so low, and limited the percentage by country, it often takes years and years for people to reach the head of their particular line.  For one country (the Philippines), visa wait time for brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens is more than 20 years.

Think about that for a minute.  More than 20 years for a family member of a U.S. citizen to come to this country.

Congress could fix this problem easily by raising the limit on family-based visas so that these family members of U.S. citizens or permanent residents, some of whom have been waiting in their “line” for years, can actually get through the door.  Until they do, the “line” is just one more example of America’s broken immigration system.

So, the next time someone says something about immigrants “waiting in line,” ask them if they know anything about how long the “line” actually is, and whether they think it’s fair that family members of U.S. citizens or permanent residents who do things “the right way” have to wait for so many years.  Ask them how many years they would wait if they had a wife, husband, parent, brother, or sister in the United States that they wanted to join.

Until people have the facts, the system will never change.