Roughly 4.2 million immigrants are still waiting to enter the country legally, as wait times for lawful, family-sponsored visas continue to climb despite Obama’s executive immigration action last week.
Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders make up 40 percent of those 4.2 million people waiting to legally enter the country, according to Southern California Public Radio (SCPR). Mexico has the highest number of people waiting to enter the country lawfully, while other countries with long wait times include the Philippines, India, Vietnam and China.
“They want to feel the American dream,” Carlota Lasmarias told SCPR of her younger brother and sister, who have been waiting to come to the United States from the Philippines since the mid-1990’s. “I told them: it’s nice here for your children to grow up here.”
Stewart Kwoh, executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, told the radio station that wait times for legal family-sponsored visas could take more than two decades.
“For a brother or sister of a U.S. citizen, it might take 22 years,” Kwoh told SCPR. “For some other Asian countries, it might take 10 years. It’s a horrible situation for many families.”
Many had hoped that President Obama would address the massive backlog of family visas with his executive action last week, which offers deportation protection and work permits for roughly 5 million of the country’s 11 million illegal immigrants. However, the President did not directly address the issue, instead creating a task force that will look to loosen the backlog jam.
Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-Pasadena) has pledged to work with the new task force to provide relief to the millions waiting their turn.
“The job is still not yet done on family visas,” Chu told SCPR.
That may be little consolation to Carlota Lasmarias, whose father sponsored her younger brother and sister to come to the United States nearly 20 years ago. Now that her father has passed away, Lasmarias does not know if she will ever be able to bring her siblings to the United States.
“The government should give the people waiting so long a chance to come here,” she told the radio station.