Immigration Law

Experts Debunk Trump's False 'Chain Migration' Claims

Miriam Valverde, Politifact, Jan. 31, 2018 - "President Donald Trump in his State of the Union address called for tighter control of legal immigration and for an end to "chain migration."  "Under the current broken system, a single immigrant can bring in virtually unlimited numbers of distant relatives," Trump said Jan. 30. "Under our plan, we focus on the immediate family by limiting sponsorships to spouses and minor children." ... But there is a long queue for certain relatives seeking to come through family sponsorship. For brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens, the waiting period for a visa is over 13 years. ... But there are limits on the number of visas issued per year per family category.  More than 3.9 million people were in line for a visa as of Nov. 1, 2017, according to the U.S. State Department. Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens fall under a "fourth-preference" category, which had 2.3 million people waiting for a visa — the wait period is over 13 years for immigrants from most nations, but even longer for some countries with heavy demand, such as Mexico and the Philippines.  Siblings in the Philippines would have to wait at least 23 years for a visa, and Mexican siblings at least 20 years.  "As a practical matter, because of these long backlogs there is not as much chain migration as President Trump claims," said Stephen W. Yale-Loehr, a professor of immigration law practice at Cornell Law School.  Trump said "a single immigrant can bring in unlimited numbers of distant relatives." ... Trump’s statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate it Mostly False."

Philip Bump, Washington Post, Feb. 6, 2018 - "As is so often the case with his discussion of immigrants, President Trump’s State of the Union description of “chain migration” — the process by which people in the United States can sponsor family members to join them — was long on fearmongering and short on accuracy.  “The fourth and final pillar protects the nuclear family by ending chain migration,” Trump said of his multipart immigration restructuring proposal. “Under the current broken system, a single immigrant can bring in virtually unlimited numbers of distant relatives. Under our plan, we focus on the immediate family by limiting sponsorships to spouses and minor children. This vital reform is necessary, not just for our economy, but for our security and our future.”  The idea that curtailing a process to bring in members of an immigrant’s nuclear family protects the nuclear family is one thing. But there is simply no way to defend the claim that “a single immigrant can bring in virtually unlimited numbers of distant relatives.” ... Immigrants can’t come to the United States and sponsor 20 cousins who arrive four months later, the sort of ease-of-entry that Trump and the White House seem to imply. At best, an immigrant could bring in a spouse or child — after likely waiting an extended period for that application to be approved.  “You’re looking at years and years of waiting in this legal line,” [past president and past general counsel of the Washington, D.C.-based American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), David W.] Leopold said. “For anyone to say that the continuation of sponsorship based on family relationship is going to lead to an influx of people is either lying or doesn’t understand how the system works.” "