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Deportation Relief Welcome, But Visa Backlogs Remain

Visa backlogs in the U.S. immigration system remain a top priority for Asian-American families seeking to reunite after decades apart.

In recent years, immigration has served as the primary driver of Asian-American population growth, which is why many were hopeful about their families' futures when one key issue was addressed in President Obama's executive action plan for immigration -- the visa backlog.

“We have been waiting patiently, and today, many more families can sleep soundly and without fear,” said Mee Moua, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, in a statement reacting to the President's “But there is much more work to be done."

Of the 19.4 Asian Americans in the U.S. right now, an estimated 11 million are immigrants, but only 1.3 million are believed to be undocumented. According to a recent Pew Research Center analysis of Census data, international migration accounted for 61 percent of the Asian-American population change between 2012 and 2013. But often, because of cost, bureaucracy and a number of factors, families immigrate in waves -- a few members at a time. Recent stories reveal the wait to reunite can last decades.

For families kept apart by bureaucracy and procedure, Obama's issuing of a Presidential Memorandum on visa modernization -- directing an interagency group to recommend ways to reduce burdens on employers and families, and to eliminate fraud and redundancies -- was welcome news.

Moua estimates half a million Asian Americans will benefit from the President's plan for deportation relief, but stresses that another 1.8 million people in Asian countries have been waiting decades for a family sponsored visa.

"It’s incredibly painful to wait decades to see your children, brothers, sisters and parents. In many cases, it’s financially difficult to support family in both the United States and abroad," said Moua. "We are still expecting meaningful change in fixing the visa backlog and for the administration to prioritize reuniting families. ”


--Amna Nawaz