Omar al-Muqdad – a prominent journalist, documentary filmmaker, and former Syrian refugee – writes a regular blog for CMS titled, “Dispatches from the Global Crisis in Refugee Protection.” This series covers the Syrian Civil War, the experiences of Syria’s immense and far-flung refugee population, the global crisis in refugee protection, religious persecution, and US refugee and immigration policies. Mr. al-Muqdad’s work has been featured by the BBC, CNN, and in many other media outlets. Resettled in the United States in 2012, Mr. al-Muqdad became a US citizen in Spring 2018. CMS features this series in its weekly Migration Update and on its website.
This paper offers estimates and a profile of the 1.55 million US residents potentially eligible for a family-based immigration visa based on a qualifying relationship to a US citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR) living in their household. It finds that this population – which is strongly correlated to the 3.7 million persons in family-based visa backlogs – has established long and strong roots in the United States, with US-born citizen children, mortgages, health insurance, and median income and labor force participation rates that exceed those of the overall US population. The paper offers several recommendations to reduce family-based backlogs. First, it calls for Congress to pass and the administration to implement legislation that provides a path to LPR status for persons in long-term backlogs. This legislation should: 1) define the spouses and minor unmarried children of LPRs as “immediate relatives” not subject to numerical limits, 2) not count the derivative family members of principal visa beneficiaries against per country and annual quotas, and 3) raise per country caps. The administration should also re-issue the visas of legal immigrants who emigrate each year, particularly those who formally abandon LPR status. Finally, Congress should also advance the cutoff date for the US registry program.