But many thousands have been waiting for years to get visas. Mostly, the problems are backlogs, complex rules and bureaucracy.
Angeles Barberena is from Mexico. She is still waiting after 17 years. She filed petition papers years ago. She has paid all her fees and penalties, pays her taxes and pays tuition for her son at an American college.
“It has been so long and we did everything by the rule,” she said.
The number of people who qualify for visas is much greater than the number of visas issued. The largest group includes those with family ties to American citizens.
Congress limits the number the number of visas for each country. China, India, Mexico and the Philippines have the most people waiting. Many wait for a decade or more.
The Senate bill says the backlog of legal immigrants must be cleared before undocumented immigrants can get green cards. This is expected to take up to ten years.
Legal immigrants here more than 5 years would become eligible right away. Good news for Ms. Barberena.
Limits on the number of spouses and children allowed in would be removed.
All the improvements in the Senate bill for legal residents are not part of the talk in the House of Representatives yet. There is a lot of hostility in the House to expanding the number of legal immigrants. Some House members believe reform would cost American workers jobs and would flood the country with foreigners.
A member of the House said, “What is the impact of these huge numbers the Senate bill wants to foist upon the American people? You are going to have a huge influx of people who are competing for jobs. These are American jobs for American citizens.”
The House has agreed to nothing in the Senate bill yet. It is going to be very hard to pass real immigration reform.