Chu Renews Fight to Reunite Legal Immigrants With Families

Rep. Judy Chu stands at the podium outside the Capitol building in Washington on Wednesday to reintroduce her Reuniting Families Act, which stalled in the previous Congress. Courtesy Photo

Rep. Judy Chu, the House Democrat whose 27th District includes South Pasadena, gathered with immigrant families and several national immigration-reform advocates outside the Capitol building in Washington on Wednesday to reintroduce her Reuniting Families Act.

The bill seeks to ease the road to the U.S. for family members of immigrants currently in the country legally. In particular, Chu’s office said, its aims are to reduce visa backlogs to provide “humane and timely” reunifications, provide equality for LGBTQ families and increase the number of diversity visas.

“We know that (President) Trump wants to go back to a system that prioritizes white immigrants over everyone else. But instead of basing our immigration system on the color of your skin, we believe it should be based on what is best for our country and our economy,’’ Chu said.

“Thanks to family immigration, many new immigrants can rely on their parents to help raise their kids while they hold down a job, or can find financing for their business through their family when a bank says no. That’s true merit to me. And it’s why immigrants rely on less government assistance, start businesses in higher numbers and own more homes than native born individuals.

She said there are an estimated 4 million family members of legal immigrants currently backlogged.

Chu originally introduced the bill in February 2018, but it did not make it past the Judiciary Committee in the then-Republican-controlled House in the 115th Congress. In such cases, a bill must be reintroduced in subsequent congresses. Democrats regained control of the House in the November 2018 elections for the 116th Congress.

Chu has derided Trump before in the area of immigration, saying his policies seek to “undermine” immigration to the U.S. of non-Europeans.

“Our current family-based immigration laws were born from the civil rights era, when America had the moral strength and political will to sweep away the laws that enforced prejudice,’’ Chu said back in 2018, referring to the “xenophobic” Immigration Act of 1924, which heavily favored immigration of Nordic Europeans while limiting or banning people from other nations.’’

Trump is trying to turn back clock on those 1965 reforms, Chu has said.

“With his comments about preferring immigrants from Norway, President Trump is trying to undermine this system of legal immigration and make America white again,’’ Chu said last year. “He derisively describes family immigration as ‘chain migration.’ Notably, at his (2018) State of the Union, Trump claimed that one immigrant could bring in an unlimited number of distant relatives. This is not true. The truth is there are no visas for grandparents, aunts, uncles, or cousins.’’

Under this second iteration of Chu’s bill, specific reforms would:

•Recapture unused employment-based and family-sponsored visas from fiscal years 1992-2015. For future years, unused visa numbers will automatically “roll over” to the next fiscal year.

•Reclassify spouses, permanent partners and children under the age of 21 of lawful permanent residents who are waiting in line to reunite with their families as “immediate relatives,” a category not subject to annual numerical limits.

•Eliminate discrimination facing LGBTQ families throughout immigration laws, including making sure that all children born to U.S. citizen parents have acquired citizenship regardless of a biological relationship.

•Honor the contribution of Filipino World War II veterans by reducing their children’s waiting times for family-based visas.

•Increase the number of diversity visas from 50,000 to 80,000 green cards annually.

•Increase the government’s discretion to keep families together and waive grounds of inadmissibility or deportability for humanitarian purposes, family unity or the public interest. This could be used to prevent deportations and sponsor previously deported family members to come back.

Chu, chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, was joined at Wednesday’s announcement by Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), the 1st Vice-Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus; John C. Yang, president and executive director of Asian American Advancing Justice (AAJC); and Glenn D. Magpantay, executive director of the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance, among others.