A Pakistani American mother and daughter smile at the camera. Both have long black hair and are wearing short-sleeved shirts.

My family has been waiting decades to be reunited, and unless something is done about the immigration backlogs, we will wait still several more.

Over 20 years ago, my uncle sponsored my mother to come to the United States. I was just a baby, but my sister Maryam was already almost 13 years old. It took my family another decade before we got past the immigration backlog and received the necessary papers to come to the U.S., but by then Maryam was too old to be petitioned in with me and my parents. She was forced to stay behind in Pakistan while the rest of us immigrated here.

In 2010, my mother naturalized and applied for my sister to come here, but the backlog for married adult children, which was already an eight year wait at the time, has continued to increase. Now Maryam still has at least another eleven years before she can rejoin our family here, even after waiting three years for her current petition to process (and decades more for the opportunity to gain status in the U.S.). After years of waiting, our family is still counting the months until we can reunite.

The wait time for people in situations like my sister’s continues to grow. Even aside from all the opportunities she has missed (to work, study and live in a safer, more developed environment), the immigration backlog has prevented our family from being together—to rejoice in happy moments and to support each other in unhappy ones. I have missed out on the opportunity to watch my nephews and niece grow up. Phone conversations, letters, and emails can never replace having your family near—to hug, hold, and be by your side.

Ending this separation of families must become a main priority in immigration reform; please sign the petition and tell Congress and the President you support fair and just immigration reform so that families like mine can finally be reunited.

Guest Blogger Meeran Mahmud is a staff attorney at APALC.

This post originally appeared on APALC’s blog.