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Daniel M. Kowalski, Jan. 4, 2018 - "At this time of year, those of us with healthy families are comforted by the strength and security we find in their fold. Much of our local, state and federal laws revolve around strengthening and protecting families.
Since LBJ signed the modern Immigration and Nationality Act in 1965, family unity and family reunification have been the bedrock and cornerstones of our immigration policy — and rightly so, as they reflect core American values. The 1965 Act eliminated the overtly racist national-origins quota system and set no cap on the number of green cards for “immediate relatives,” meaning the spouses, parents and minor children of American citizens.
Family-based immigration has had a profoundly beneficial effect on American life in every realm: economic, cultural and social. All of us can count relatives, friends, neighbors and co-workers who are American “success stories” because they were sponsored for green cards by family members. Consider the story of John Tu from China.
Tu, a self-described mediocre student from China, immigrated to America sponsored by his sister. He opened a gift shop, then went into commercial real estate. Eventually, using his electrical engineering degree, Tu (and business partner David Sun, also from China) created Kingston Technology, which they sold for over $1 one billion dollars. Tu and Sun did something unusual with the profits, setting aside $100 million as bonuses to Kingston’s American employees. These large bonuses, up to $300,000, enabled Kinston employees to further their educations, pay off mortgages, and erase debt. Tu and Sun eventually bought back Kingston, which now employs over 3,000 people and is listed by Fortune magazine as one of the “Best Companies to Work for in America.”
But the Trump administration, bolstered by Attorney General Sessions, senior advisor Stephen Miller and Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and David Perdue (R-Georgia), have launched a campaign to denigrate family-based immigration and to replace it with a “merit-based” visa system.
Falsely painting family-based immigration as a security threat and rebranding it as “chain migration,” the Trump team seeks to cut the heart out of our immigration policy. Here is the official policy position posted on the White House website:
“Most green cards in the United States are awarded based on an antiquated system of family ties, not skill or merit. This system of Chain Migration – whereby one immigrant can bring in their entire extended families, who can bring in their families and so on – de-skills the labor force, puts downward pressure on wages, and increases the deficit. Chain Migration also undermines national security, by failing to establish merit-based criteria for evaluating entrants into the United States – instead, familial relations are all that is required to obtain a green card and, in turn, become a voting U.S. Citizen within a short period of time, with access to Federal welfare and government benefits.”
Make no mistake: This language is barely disguised rhetoric taken straight from nativist, white nationalist and racist playbooks that should have been tossed into history’s dustbin. It is fear-based, not fact-based, and it threatens to drag us back to the 1880s, when we banned virtually all immigration from China, and to the 1920s, when we set green card quotas based on nationality, favoring white Northern Europeans.
All candidates for green cards, whether family-based or merit-based — yes, we already have a merit-based green card system in place — must pass the same security screens. The “national security” dog whistle is meant to scare you and has been completely debunked by security experts from the military to the State Department.
The Trump administration’s attack on family-based immigration is nothing less than an attack on core American values. We must resist this fear-based, backward-looking policy. We must insist that our members of Congress strengthen — not weaken — the bedrock of our immigration laws: family values."
Daniel M. Kowalski is the editor of Bender’s Immigration Bulletin and an immigration attorney at Ware | Immigration.