In-Depth: Sponsoring Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) reintroduced this bill from the 115th Congress to end chain migration, which he says puts a "strain" on the U.S.' immigration system:
"With weekly jobless claims at their lowest since 1969, our economy continues to thrive under the Trump Administration. This growth has the unfortunate side effect of incentivizing those from other countries to come here – and come here illegally – in pursuit of greater opportunity. The strain on our immigration system starts at the border – frequently being flooded by thousands of people in caravans, who see not only the economic potential available to them in our country, but also our inability to detain and deport them... I have put forward a bill that would limit chain migration in favor of a system that prioritizes the reunification of spouses and minor children of naturalized citizens and lawful permanent residents. The Nuclear Family Priority Act would limit family-sponsored immigrant categories to the nuclear family by ensuring that immigrants with distant relatives already in the U.S. aren’t able to jump the line simply because of those familial connections. There is a process in place for newcomers to come to our country – and to do so legally."
In the past, Rep. Hice has referred to the need to “reform an antiquated immigration selection process and prioritize keeping nuclear families intact.” Rep. Hice has introduced this bill in three consecutive Congresses (114th, 115th, and 116th), saying:
“Part of the problem the Nuclear Family Priority Act addresses is the false sense of assurance that legal status will be granted to the extended family of legal immigrants, regardless of their ability to contribute to our nation. This legislation does not hinder the efforts of legal immigrants to reunite with their immediate families in America, but instead prevents abuse of our overwhelmed immigration system.”
NumbersUSA supports this bill, writing:
"[T]he Nuclear Family Priority Act would eliminate the three chain migration categories -- parents, adult siblings, and adult children -- and create a special non-working visa for parents. The legislation would directly decrease overall immigration by more than 111,800 per year (1.118 million a decade). This would indirectly reduce the numbers by even more over time as there would be fewer recent immigrants who are the ones most likely to bring people into the country as spouses or parents of U.S. citizens."
Cecilia Muñoz, director of the Domestic Policy Council in the Obama White House and currently a vice president at New America, a Washington D.C.-based think tank, argues that scaremongering about chain migration overstates its impact:
"[A]llowing American citizens to reunite with their closest family members [is] a premise that dates back to a 1965 civil rights-focused law that established family reunification rather than racially based quotas as the basis for immigration to the United States. Under this law, when you fall in love and marry that guy you met while working in Shanghai, our immigration law is set up so that you can bring him home. And his 2-year-old. And when your family grows and you’d like his parents to help with child care, while it takes quite a few years, you’d ultimately be able to bring them, too. If we had a family immigration system without limits, this structure could theoretically lead to the dreaded chain migration. In addition to allowing you to bring that Chinese spouse, his child and ultimately his parents, once your spouse is a U.S. citizen, he can petition for his sister and her family. And in theory, once her spouse becomes a citizen, he could do the same for his siblings. But we don’t have an unlimited system. In fact, back in 1988, the federal agency then known as the General Accounting Office found that the immigration system’s waiting lists make chain migration a theory that doesn’t really happen in practice. This is because each link in the chain takes years—and sometimes decades—to complete. Bluntly put, America isn’t being overrun by Chinese- and Mexican-born grandmas. The GAO made this judgment because, back in the late ’80s, the waiting list for a typical family visa was six to 12 years, depending on the country. Now those waiting lists are much longer. It takes five years for your Chinese spouse to become a U.S. citizen and petition for his sister. The family visa system is badly backlogged; the U.S. is currently processing sibling visa requests for China that were filed in 2004, making the total wait for a visa just shy of two decades. For Mexico and the Philippines, the total wait now exceeds 25 years. Chain migration, put another way, is a myth—it takes too long for a chain to form."
This bill has 11 Republican cosponsors in the current session of Congress. Last session, it had 16 Republican cosponsors in the House.
Of Note: Since the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, the U.S. has prioritized admitting immigrants with relatives already in the country. According to the Dept. of Homeland Security, about 7 million of the 11 million immigrants who obtained green cards from 2007-2016 did so through family relations.
"Chain migration," or family reunification, is a process by which U.S. citizens and green card holders can receive visas for extended family members to immigrate to the U.S. The Dept. of Homeland Security has a hierarchical list, giving preference to unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens first, followed by spouses and children of “alien” residents, married sons, daughters, and/or grandchildren of U.S. citizens and brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews of U.S. citizens who are at least 21 years old.
Under current law, family sponsored immigrant visas are limited to 226,000 per year.
Summary by Eric Revell(Photo Credit: Bestgreenscreen / iStock)