Chain migration: Winter Haven man still waiting on green card for daughter

By Stephanie Claytor, Reporter
Last Updated: Friday, February 02, 2018, 6:48 PM EST

One of the many topics covered by President Donald Trump during his State of the Union address on Jan. 30 was the White House's proposed framework for immigration reform. That framework includes drastic cuts to he refers to as "chain migration," or family-sponsored immigrant visas.

  • Long waits for green card applicants
  • Wait time for sponsoring siblings from the Philippines is 25-30 years
  • White House framework would end sponsoring parents, siblings, other children

Nathan Smith, of Mulberry, and his father, Godfrey Small of Winter Haven, are parts of just one family involved in the process.

Smith was born in the United States, while Small is a legal permanent resident. He left behind a daughter in Barbados when he moved to the United States.

Small is now working to get his daughter a green card. She’s been on the waiting list for more than four years.

“It’s been quite a challenge, because it’s not a fast track system,” said Smith.

His immigration attorney, Renee Pobjecky, said the wait is even longer for people from other parts of the world.

“If you’re sponsoring a brother or sister from the Philippines, right now the wait time is between 25 and 30 years for that person to come to the United States,” said Pobjecky.

Smith needs his sister here to care for their aging father.

“My sister would be the perfect person to be able to take care of him, make sure he has what he needs, just keep the full unit together," said Smith. "Then all of his kids would be in the U.S. I think that’s where he wants to be at this stage in life, having his family around him."

A more 'merit-based' system

President Trump’s proposal would no longer allow U.S. citizens to sponsor immigrant visas for their parents, siblings or adult children. It would limit sponsorships to spouses, and minor children.

The president's proposed framework aims to cut back on chain migration and eliminate the visa lottery in order to create a more merit-based system. He said in the age of terrorism, these programs presented risks America can no longer afford.

Trump also proposed to provide a path to citizenship for 1.8 mill undocumented immigrants brought here as children, known collectively as "dreamers."

Fortunately, Smith’s attorney said the proposal wouldn’t impact his sister, since she’s already in line.

“It would prevent new applications from being filed,” Pobjecky said. "So for the next 20 years, we’ll probably still see new immigrants coming in under that category, but just no new applications being filed."

According to the Cato Institute, the White House’s proposal would eventually cut the number of legal immigrants by half a million a year.

Not the first attempt at reform

Pobjecky herself has pushed for immigration reform in Washington before.

In 2013, she said the Democrats offered to get rid of the sponsorship of siblings. She’s not sure they’ll agree to cutting the sponsorships of visas for parents and adult children, though.

“I think that will be a tougher sale, but knowing that President Trump is a business person, I think he threw everything in with the kitchen sink, and now we need the two parties to come together maybe in the middle to come up with a compromise,” Pobjecky said.

She remains optimistic that this time, some type of reform will pass.