What is “chain migration”? Director of USCIS refers to legal family immigration as “a problem”

Over the weekend Fox news published an article entitled: White House releases ‘explosive’ tally of green cards issued in ‘chain migration’. In this “Exclusive” about chain migration, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Lee Cissna is quoted as saying:

“For years, we’ve known that large numbers of immigrants have been coming based on petitions from previous immigrants, but this is the first time we really kind of see the whole scope of the problem. And legislators or policymakers at DHS can do what they need to do address the problem.”  

First of all chain migration is legal, not a “problem”

Chain migration is defined as : the process of foreign nationals immigrating to a new country under laws permitting their reunification with family members already living in the destination country. Simply put, this policy means immigrants who are already here, petitioning to get their family members in, as well.

It should be no surprise to anyone that family is a large source of immigration in the US, as it was designed that way. In fact the 601A waiver was just EXPANDED in August of 2016 in the name of family unity. This law was put into place in order to help immigrants who could establish extreme hardship to a U.S. citizen, or lawful permanent resident (LPR) spouse or parent.

When the Director of the Immigration Service for our country calls legal immigration a problem, that’s a problem

This is not some newly discovered “leak” of “illegals” coming into the country (though profound arguments can be made for allowing undocumented immigrants to seek refuge in the United States, separate from this blog post).

Family immigration was set up to support new members of this society who work and contribute, so that they could better adapt to being a part of the fabric of our nation.

Family immigration was expanded to better support hard working immigrants who had proven their value to our country by jumping through various  hoops and frequently waiting years and years to become lawful permanent residents or US citizens.

Perhaps Trump is trying to reframe something that has been around for a long time as a new “threat” in order to cut a deal on the Dreamers

In the article it stated “President Trump has urged congressional Democrats to address chain migration in any compromise on the so-called ‘Dreamers’  — immigrants brought here as children who will face deportation in March if a deal on their disposition is not reached.”

How in one year did we go from EXPANDING family immigration options, on both humanitarian and economic grounds (with the logic that families who are established in the US can support and pave the way to the successful integration of new Americans), to repackaging it with the restrictionist term “chain migration” and calling it a “problem” ???

Immigration policy historically has been a roller coaster ride. The 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act was once signed into law — explicitly stopping immigration of an ethnic group. The law remained for seven decades.

The so-called chain migration “problem” impacts certain races as well, particularly Latino and Asian.

Hard to believe we’re just a generation removed from a Republican President who so strongly believed in both legal chain migration as well as amnesty.  .  .


Written by: Harlan York

Immigration Attorney Harlan York is Former Chair, Immigration Section, NJ State Bar Association and Former Co-Chair, NY State Bar Association CFLS Immigration Committee. Mr. York appeared on National Television on CBS This Morning with Charlie Rose and Primer Impacto on Univision, as well as Telemundo, NBC, and PBS. He was honored as First Ever Immigration Lawyer of The Year in NJ by Best Lawyers.

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