U.S. National Archives/Flickr
A green-card holder crossing the border with his family at Calexico, California, in 1973.
President Obama took another step toward immigration reform yesterday, issuing a new rule designed to keep families from being separated while they go through the process of getting green cards. Under the old rule, anyone who entered the country illegally and then established a family here had to pick up their papers in their native country. That meant leaving the United States -- and their families -- for somewhere between three and 10 years. The new rules allow for a waiver of that requirement.
For those people and their families, the change announced by President Obama matters a great deal. From the New York Times:
Until now, the risks for those immigrants of leaving the United States to return to their native countries to pick up their visas, even ones that were already approved, had been so great that countless families decided not to apply, adding to the numbers of immigrants living illegally in this country. . . .
Like many Americans, Ms. Torres said she expected no difficulty gaining legal documents for her husband once they were married. But after learning about the convoluted visa process, she said, "We have waited because we were just terrified of the separation."
In broader political terms, Obama's decision shows that he is willing to do what he can by executive authority, with or without Congress. Back in June, he issued a new rule that allowed for suspending deportations of young immigrants who were brought to this country as children. As you might expect, conservatives are a couple shades of enraged over it.