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Legal Immigrants Still Have Long Waiting Period

The recent changes by President Barack Obama with respect to illegal immigrants has infuriated not only politicians but also those individuals who have spent years and years waiting for their visas and immigration papers.

America issues 226,000 visas a year. Newcomers to the US have to wait for a long time because Congress has sorted applicants into priority groups. The top priority is given to the immediate relatives of US citizens who include spouses, parents and unmarried children under the age of 21. It takes much longer for visas to be issued to other eligible relatives such as siblings and adult children.

Congress also allots a limited number of visas according to nations. People from Mexico and Philippines have to wait almost 20 years for a visa. As of November 2014, there were more than 4.4 million people still waiting for visas to be issued to them.

This long waiting time for people who apply through the legal process is in stark contrast to the sudden change of fate for illegal immigrations through President Obama’s action. Nearly 5 million illegal immigrants are to be granted work permits and temporary permission to stay.

Filipinos have the second-longest visa waiting list after Mexicans. Leonila Bides from the Philippines had to wait for more than 14 years for her visa. “It’s very unfair to us because we go in a legal way,” said Esperanza Espinola, 56, on Dec. 5 as she prepared to pick up her sister from the airport. “We have to wait a long time. But it’s OK. Because that’s the way it should be.”

The National Federation of Filipino American Associations has indicated that while Filipinos are frustrated with these long wait-times, the President’s action is right and could even benefit some Filipinos who have been living in the US illegally.

“Our own community’s divided about this. Not everybody agrees with Obama’s action,” said Jon Melegrito, communications director. “I think it’s a humanitarian issue. You don’t want to separate families.”

On the other hand, there are some who think it is extremely unfair that relatives of US citizens have to wait years for legal entry to the US while with the recent changes in immigration law, millions of illegal immigrants have been reprieved from deportation.

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