WASHINGTON, March 31 (UPI) -- An Obama administration plan could give 1 million undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship by easing restrictions for close relatives of U.S. citizens.
The plan applies to spouses, children and parents of U.S. citizens who are in the country illegally, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday. They would be able to apply for waivers to remain in the country while pursuing a change in their status, arguing that separation would pose an "extreme hardship."
Under current law, illegal residents must leave the United States to apply for visas. Those who have overstayed visas can be barred from re-entering the country for three to 10 years, depending on how long they were in the country illegally.
Lawyers say many relatives of U.S. citizens do not seek legal status because they fear separation. Lisa Battan, a lawyer in Boulder, Colo., said current rules are "encouraging people to remain illegal."
President Barack Obama has enforced immigration laws, deporting a record number of undocumented immigrants. He has also favored other options, including the Dream Act -- rejected in the Senate killed -- which would give young people who have spent most of their lives in the United States an opportunity to become citizens if they attend college or join the military.