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Future Of Family Visas Worries Immigration Activists

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Michael Tomsic

 Immigration advocates in Charlotte are waiting anxiously for a group of U.S. senators known as the "Gang of Eight" to unveil their plan for immigration reform.

That plan may create a path to citizenship for immigrants in the country illegally. But advocates are concerned that immigrants may also lose something as part of a deal – a chance to reunite with their families.

At issue are two kinds of family visas: the ones for siblings and for married adult children of immigrants who became U.S citizens. 

The Washington Post reports the senators working on the plan may eliminate both visas and give them to skilled workers instead. 

Cat Bao Le is the director of the Southeast Asian Coalition in Charlotte. She says such a plan would disproportionately affect women. 

"70 percent of immigrant women in the U.S. become permanent residents through family visas; it's not employment visas," she says. "A lot of times these countries where people are coming from, they don't have access to education equally for men and for women, for example."

Bao Le says getting rid of the two types of family visas would also have a big impact on Asian-Americans. The State Department reports it has a backlog of more than 4 million people applying for family visas, and nearly half are from Asian countries.

Bao Le says she'd rather see Congress focus on clearing that backlog as part of immigration reform.