WASHINGTON, D.C.—House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler today delivered the following remarks, as prepared, during a markup of the American Families United Act of 2022 (H.R. 2920):
"H.R. 2920, the “American Families United Act of 2022” is bipartisan legislation to fix barriers in our legal immigration system that separate U.S. citizens from their spouses and children.
"Earlier this Congress, the Immigration Subcommittee held a hearing that shined a light on how our immigration laws are particularly harsh for U.S. citizens with undocumented spouses and children. For example, under current law, many U.S. citizens cannot sponsor their spouses and children for a green card.
"In large part, this is because there are very limited discretionary waivers of inadmissibility or deportability and significant bars for “unlawful presence.” As a result, many family members are virtually shut out of the system with no means of obtaining lawful status.
"Today, 1.7 million U.S. citizens are married to an undocumented person. Roughly a quarter of them have been married for 20 years or longer, while more than half have been married for ten years or longer.
"Among the many people facing hardship because these restrictive immigration laws are my constituent, Dr. Kevin Kells, who has lived apart from his wife for over 15 years. In 1998, before they met, Dr. Kells’ wife travelled to the United States to attend a high school graduation party. She didn’t speak English, but the driver of her car told the border officer that she was born in the United States. Her record now shows that she made a false claim to U.S. citizenship and she is permanently barred from the United States.
"Under current law, there is no ability for Dr. Kells to obtain a green card or lawful status for his wife. Nor are there options for many others, given the limited discretion of immigration judges and officers to waive the consequences of past acts—even those that were based on honest mistakes made decades ago.
"H.R. 2920 is a bipartisan compromise—introduced by Representatives Veronica Escobar and David Valadao. It provides a narrow solution that would give Dr. Kells and other separated American families an opportunity to sponsor their family members. This bill would simply provide immigration judges and officers the discretion that they need to waive certain grounds of inadmissibility or deportability—on a case-by-case basis—for the spouses and children of U.S. citizens.
"To be clear, this bill does not address all of the issues affecting family reunification. For example, it would not provide discretion for immigration judges and officers to help the undocumented parents of millions of U.S. citizen children. We have passed bills through the House—including the Build Back Better Act—to give relief to these worthy individuals. Sadly, that legislation is stalled in the Senate, but we will continue to fight for relief for all.
"In the meantime, we can also put forward solutions where there is common ground with our colleagues on the other side of the aisle. I am pleased to support this bipartisan solution that would take a significant step toward reuniting countless mixed status families.
"I would like to thank Ms. Escobar and Mr. Valadao, for their leadership and for working together to support American families, and I urge my colleagues to support this important legislation."