Nearly two years since the announcement of the provisional waiver of inadmissibility, known as the I-601A extreme hardship waiver, we have learned quite a bit about the people that need this waiver and the way the government is processing them. Here are the top five things we have learned:
- The process has transformed lives. We have witnessed families emerge from desperation and hopelessness to seize the opportunity to take charge of their lives. Freed of the fear that a trip to a consulate abroad would mean a lengthy separation, families are empowered and made optimistic that their dreams can be realized and that the law and the U.S. recognize their value.
- CIS has gotten better at this. When the program started in April 2013, I-130 petitions became very backlogged, with delays of over a year. Since then, the government has significantly reduced the processing time for I-130 petitions to about five months, as of the time of this blog.
- People should never presume that their hardship is not enough. This point reminds us of the Bob Dylan line “I have never gotten used to it, I just learned to turn it off.” People who live with many forms of pain have become so used to it that they think it is normal or appropriate. Detailed conversations with compassionate counsel can elicit many factors relevant for an extreme hardship determination. Extreme hardship is never the same from one person to another. There is no substitute for taking the time to learn about people and what makes them tick. Documenting extreme hardship is the most personal of tasks and requires the time and compassion necessary to understand where people are coming from.
- We are reminded why we love our job. Facebook has given us a front seat view of the process. We now can watch through photos, videos and status updates the thrill that a client has when they return home after several years of not seeing their family. We can see the happy reunions and the good luck wishes from friends in the U.S. We see grandparents meeting their grandchildren for the first time. We share the client’s nerves as they prepare to enter the Embassy. And we get to see the moment that they return to the U.S. on their immigrant visas. It does not end there however. We get to hear about their lives, buying a house, changing jobs,having a baby, and returning home for the holidays for years to come.
- Expanding the provisional waiver would be great. The provisional waiver only applies to the immediate relatives of U.S. citizens. Expanding it to be available for the spouses and children of permanent residents, for example, or the adult children of citizens, as has been suggested in some reports, would multiply the benefit that has been given through the provisional waiver.