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Make the compromise: Ending chain migration is a small price to legalize Dreamers. By Nolan Rappaport

Rating: 2 votes, 1.00 average.

© Getty

The most controversial of the four pillars in President Donald Trump’s "Framework on Immigration Reform & Border Security" is his demand for an end to chain migration.

It would be a shame if Trump’s proposal, which offers legalization for 1.8 million Dreamers, is rejected to maintain a practice that was originally established to ensure that immigrants would continue to come mainly from white, European countries.

“Chain migration,” is a legitimate sociological term that has been used for more than 60 years. The Routledge Handbook of Migration and Language(2017) defines it as:

“A process where relatives who have previously migrated to a new country sponsor family to migrate to the same country. It entails a tendency by foreigners from a certain city or region to migrate to the same areas as others from their city or region.”

Trump would make an exception for the spouses and children of American citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPRs). They are part of the citizen or LPR’s nuclear family.


The history of chain migration.


The 1924 Johnson-Reed Act established a quota system based on national origins. It reserved about 70 percent of the visas for immigrants from Great Britain, Ireland, and Germany.

In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson supported a bill that would replace the national origins quota system with a preference system that would allocate 50 percent of the immigrant visas to applicants who have special occupational skills or education that would benefit America’s economic interests. The rest would be distributed to refugees and immigrants with close family ties to citizens or LPRs.


The House Judiciary Committee Chairman, Rep. Michael Feighan (D-Ohio), mobilized bipartisan resistance to Johnson’s immigration bill. Ultimately, however, he agreed to accept Johnson’s bill if he eliminated its emphasis on merit and skills and reserved most of the visas for immigrants with family ties to citizens and LPRs (chain migration).

Read more at http://thehill.com/opinion/immigrati...ce-to-legalize

Published originally on The Hill.

About the author. Nolan Rappaport was detailed to the House Judiciary Committee as an executive branch immigration law expert for three years; he subsequently served as an immigration counsel for the Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Claims for four years. Prior to working on the Judiciary Committee, he wrote decisions for the Board of Immigration Appeals for 20 years.





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  1. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    As Nolan explains, "chain migration" (which may once have been a neutral term, but has now become a term of contempt and animosity toward non-white immigrants favored by some restrictionist organizations and politicians) was relied on about 50 years ago by white supremacists (my term, not Nolan's) in Congress who thought it would favor Europe. About 25 years later, the AA-1 visa lottery was instituted for the same purpose.

    Over time, it has become obvious that both family reunification and the current visa lottery, while not in any way discriminating against anyone or any part of the world, have enabled more immigrants from Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America to come to the US legally than immigrants from Europe.

    That is why today's white supremacists, led by Donald Trump, who recently told a group of Senate negotiators that he wants immigrants from Europe rather than Africa, want to abolish both "chain migration" and the visa lottery.

    Every other explanation is just a rationalization.

    Nolan also mentions Barbara Jordan, a great African-American civil rights leader who once chaired an immigration commission before her death two decades ago; and, who, obviously, could not have had any knowledge of immigration policy developments in the 21st century, let alone the fact that America would elect a president with the demeaning racial views and antagonistic attitudes toward both immigrants and American citizens of color that Trump has often expressed during his career, both before and after becoming president.

    With all due respect to Nolan, it is fair to say that Barbara Jordan would be rolling over in her grave at any suggestion that she ever supported immigration policies aimed deliberately at reducing immigration from Africa or any other parts of the world where people have darker skins than the citizens of the "Countries like Norway" whom Trump said that he favors over immigrants from certain non-white countries in a January 11 White House meeting.

    Roger Algase
    Attorney at Law


    Updated 02-20-2018 at 01:26 PM by ImmigrationLawBlogs
  2. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    I suspect that Dreamers who read my article and then Roger's comments will resent the way he puts their needs aside so he can give another lecture on white supremacists.

    My article proposes a compromise that might make it possible for the democrats and the republicans to reach an agreement on a chain migration compromise, which would eliminate the most intractable obstacle to a deal that would provide legalization for 1.8 million Dreamers. But Roger doesn't care. He says nothing about my proposal. He goes directly to his white supremacy lecture.

    Unfortunately for the Dreamers, Roger isn't the only one. I don't believe that the democratic congressmen who are railing about the conditions attached to Trump's legalization offer care about the Dreamers either. If they did, they would have agreed to giving him his wall and found a way to compromise on the other issues.

    And I don't expect that to change when the democrats have a majority in the House and a filibuster busting majority in the Senate. They had that situation for two years during the Obama administration and chose not to pass a DREAM Act. Why would anyone expect it to be different the next time.

    Nolan Rappaport

  3. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    Yes, it is true that the president is holding the Dreamers hostage to his agenda of turning America back toward the era of whites only immigration which existed before 1965 and he is, at least by implication, threatening to deport almost 800,000 young people who were brought to America as children through no fault of their own, unless immigration advocates agree to reverse a half century of progress toward a race neutral, color-blind immigration system which give a fair and equal opportunity to people from all over the world.

    Family immigration, which, even though it was clearly not originally intended that way in 1965 when it was adopted, has enabled tens of millions of law abiding, productive legal immigrants from inside and outside Europe, without discrimination or favoritism based on race, color or religion in the past half century. It is a pillar of this open and unbiased immigration system.

    Refusing to agree to this kind of blackmail or hostage talking does not imply any kind of lack of sympathy for or wish to help the Dreamers.

    It only means that reversing a half century of non-discriminatory immigration policies which have made America a more diverse, multiracial society is too high a price to pay for rescuing the Dreamers from the gun that Trump himself is pointing at their heads though his own actions.

    And if Congress does pay this price, who will be the next group of immigrants whom Trump might choose to hold hostage to some other part of his white supremacist immigration agenda - say to abolishing the 14th amendment guarantee of birthright citizenship for all US born children, something Trump also promised to do in his campaign?

    For a comprehensive analysis of this very real danger, which would destroy everything that America has stood for ever since the 14th amendment, 150 years ago this year in 1868, overturned the infamous 1857 Dred Scott decision ruling that only white people could be American citizens, see The Guardian (August 19, 2015):

    Birthright citizenship: a history of futile conservative attempts to repeal law

    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/...mp-republicans

    If Democrats and other Dreamers' supporters allow themselves to be bullied and intimidated by Trump's threats to show how much he really "Loves" the Dreamers into agreeing to tear down the family-based foundation of the immigration system that America has had for the past half century, based in the dignity and equal rights for immigrants from all over the world without regard to nationality, skin color or religion, then they will very likely find that this was only a prelude to much worse to come from the Trump administration.

    Roger Algase
    Attorney at Law
    Updated 02-21-2018 at 04:20 AM by ImmigrationLawBlogs
  4. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    I also note a February 21 news report in the Washington Post to the effect that an attorney for the Trump family has confirmed that Melania Trump's parents are in the US as lawful permanent residents and are about to become US citizens.

    While congratulations are definitely in order for America's First Lady and her parents on this upcoming event, as they would be to any other naturalized citizen, it is obvious that the only way that her parents could have become permanent residents would have been through the same family sponsorship, which Trump now condemns as "chain migration" and wants to cancel so badly that he is evidently willing to take action against the Dreamers if he doesn't get his way.

    Since Donald Trump thinks that sponsoring one's parent for a green card, a/k/a "chain migration" is a danger to US security (as in his SOTU speech) and that it is indeed "horrible" (as in his December 29, 2017 tweet), the question comes up:

    Did Trump, who was then a private citizen, advise Mrs. Trump that she was doing something "horrible" that was "bad for US security" when she (presumably) sponsored her parents (who are retired and had no way of getting green cards through employment)?

    Or in Trump's view, is "chain migration" only bad for America when immigrants who come to the US through that method are not white like Melania Trump's parents?


    Roger Algase
    Attorney at Law
    Updated 02-21-2018 at 01:31 PM by ImmigrationLawBlogs
  5. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    Some people have asked me why I said in my article that extended family members do not bring needed skills to the United States. Actually, that's not what I said. I said that it is the main objection to chain migration. I didn’t indicate whether I agreed.

    I don’t know whether they have needed skills or not, but I do know that it doesn’t matter. The point of the objection is that they aren’t given visas because they bring needed skills. They are given visas because they are in the extended family of a citizen or LPR.

    Blending chain migration with a merit-based point system would eliminate that objection because it would limit chain migration to relatives who have needed skills.

    That might sound harsh, but in politics, you take what you can get and hope to get more in the future. In this case, you would be getting a lot. It would put 1.8 million Dreamers on a path to citizenship. I don’t know why people who want to help the Dreamers aren’t excited about that offer. Like it or not, Trump could turn out to be the only real friend the Dreamers ever have.

    Who knows when they will have another chance to become citizens? DREAM Acts have been offered for more than a decade (I think, my memory isn’t great), and it doesn’t seem to matter which party controls congress and the White House. The Dems had a strong majority in the House and a filibuster-busting majority in the Senate for two years during the Obama administration. They could have passed a DREAM Act then and chose not to do it. They passed Obamacare without a single Republican vote.

    And as a practical matter, reducing chain migration with a merged point system wouldn’t make much difference. The waiting list for extended family members who are the beneficiaries of approved visa petitions has four million names on it. The next Democratic majority would have plenty of time to pass a bill reverting back to the original chain migration system before the changes brought by the merged system made a significant difference. That is, if the next Democratic majority doesn’t ignore the issue the way the last one ignored the plight of the Dreamers.

    Nolan Rappaport


    REPLY
  6. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    Nolan argues that abolishing the present family immigration system ("chain migration") wouldn't make much difference to millions of foreign relatives who have to wait many years for their green cards anyway.

    This may be true, for example, for siblings of US citizens. But it is not the case for parents of adult US citizens, who are now considered "immediate relatives" and are not subject to any quota waiting period.

    If Nolan had been advising Donald Trump when Melania Trump was sponsoring her parents (as she obviously did - no other explanation is possible) for green cards through "chain migration", would Nolan have told the future president to be sure to let Melania know that doing so could "harm America's security" and that it was "horrible", (both of the above expressions are Trump's terms - not Nolan's, of course) so she should stop what she was doing and let her parents stay where they were in their own country - as millions of mainly non-European foreign-born parents of US citizens will have to do if Trump's hypocritical attempt to change the law dealing with family - sponsored immigration using nearly 800,000 innocent young people as hostages goes through?

    And how does the fact that the Democrats' own record on immigration reform is less than perfect in any way justify Trump's policies now?

    When in the past half century did the Democrats ever try to change the laws to make legal immigration for millions of close relatives (we are talking about parents, siblings and adult children here - not second cousins twice removed!) of American citizens more difficult, or impossible?

    When, in the 100 years, since the time of Woodrow Wilson, have the Democrats ever elected a president who complained that America was letting in too many brown immigrants and should concentrate on admitting only white ones instead?

    This is not to say that Donald Trump's racially motivated views on immigration are new in American history - to the contrary, they have been all too common.

    But Trump is trying to to bring back this old, discredited racial ideology of a previous era back and make it part of America's present once again.

    That is not the way to make America Great.

    Roger Algase
    Attorney at Law

    Updated 02-21-2018 at 07:06 PM by ImmigrationLawBlogs
  7. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by ImmigrationLawBlogs
    Nolan argues that abolishing the present family immigration system ("chain migration") wouldn't make much difference to millions of foreign relatives who have to wait many years for their green cards anyway.

    This may be true, for example, for siblings of US citizens. But it is not the case for parents of adult US citizens, who are now considered "immediate relatives" and are not subject to any quota waiting period.

    If Nolan had been advising Donald Trump when Melania Trump was sponsoring her parents (as she obviously did - no other explanation is possible) for green cards through "chain migration", would Nolan have told the future president to be sure to let Melania know that doing so could "harm America's security" and that it was "horrible", (both of the above expressions are Trump's terms - not Nolan's, of course) so she should stop what she was doing and let her parents stay where they were in their own country - as millions of mainly non-European foreign-born parents of US citizens will have to do if Trump's hypocritical attempt to change the law dealing with family - sponsored immigration using nearly 800,000 innocent young people as hostages goes through?

    And how does the fact that the Democrats' own record on immigration reform is less than perfect in any way justify Trump's policies now?

    When in the past half century did the Democrats ever try to change the laws to make legal immigration for millions of close relatives (we are talking about parents, siblings and adult children here - not second cousins twice removed!) of American citizens more difficult, or impossible?

    When, in the 100 years, since the time of Woodrow Wilson, have the Democrats ever elected a president who complained that America was letting in too many brown immigrants and should concentrate on admitting only white ones instead?

    This is not to say that Donald Trump's racially motivated views on immigration are new in American history - to the contrary, they have been all too common.

    But Trump is trying to to bring back this old, discredited racial ideology of a previous era back and make it part of America's present once again.

    That is not the way to make America Great.

    Roger Algase
    Attorney at Law



    Roger says, “Nolan argues that abolishing the present family immigration system ("chain migration") wouldn't make much difference to millions of foreign relatives who have to wait many years for their green cards anyway.”

    I don’t understand what Roger is saying in that comment. Trump’s framework proposal doesn’t apply the chain migration termination to the aliens already in line with approved visa petitions.

    Roger says, “If Nolan had been advising Donald Trump when Melania Trump was sponsoring her parents…”

    Trump said a number of times that he has taken advantage of laws that he thinks should be changed, and, as I mentioned above, he is going to honor approved visas that are based on one of the categories he wants to abolish despite the fact that he thinks the categories they are in shouldn't have been available.

    In any case, I am not interested in morality lectures from Roger. He has no respect for the law. In fact, he will lash out in a rage at any politician or government official who enforces immigration law.

    Roger says, “When in the past half century did the Democrats ever try to change the laws to make legal immigration for millions of close relatives (we are talking about parents, siblings and adult children here - not second cousins twice removed!) of American citizens more difficult, or impossible?”

    The Jordan Commission recommended the termination of chain migration in its report to congress, and five of the nine commissioners were Democrats.

    I am not going to respond to Roger’s other comments.

    Nolan Rappaport
    Updated 02-22-2018 at 12:08 AM by ImmigrationLawBlogs
  8. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    Nolan says that I am "lashing out"!?? ("in a rage", no less!!???) against anyone who "enforces immigration law".

    That is not the subject of my above comments, or of Nolan's article, which is not about enforcing existing law, but about changing the law to end a form of legal family-based immigration which Nolan pejoratively refers to as "chain migration".

    Abolishing the current system of family-based legal immigration would, as virtually all experts agree, have a devastating effect on legal immigration from non-white parts of the world.

    It would destroy one of the main pillars of the race-neutral, non-discriminatory, world-wide immigration system which has been in effect for the past half century.

    Family-based immigration, has, in accordance with America's deepest and most cherished values, enabled many millions of law-abiding, peaceful immigrants who shared and wanted to participate in America's values of justice, freedom and equality, and have contributed to our society in so many ways during the past half century to come to this country, become Americans themselves (in most cases), and raise American families.

    Isn't this exactly what Donald Trump's own mother and grandfather did when they came to the US from Europe though the same kind of "chain migration" that Trump now wants to cancel when most of the immigrants who benefit from this form of legal immigration are not white?

    I am not asking Nolan to agree with my comments - he certainly is entitled to his own opinions. But I am, with all due respect for Nolan's distinguished reputation as a leading authority on immigration law, suggesting that describing my response to his above article more accurately would not only be helpful to ilw.com readers who are looking for a better understanding of this topic, but would also add to the credibility and persuasiveness of his own comments.

    Roger Algase
    Attorney at Law
    Updated 02-23-2018 at 10:15 AM by ImmigrationLawBlogs
  9. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    Nolan also refers to a two-decades old report containing immigration policy recommendations by the Jordan Commission, a body which, of course, could not possibly have known that America would one day have a president who would begin his presidential campaign by attacking Hispanic immigrants as "criminals" and "rapists", and calling for a ban against every Muslim in the world from entering the US, as Trump originally did, and then moving on to a larger agenda aimed primarily at deporting and excluding non-white immigrants from that beginning.

    However, Nolan is more knowledgeable about that commission and its recommendations that I am, so I will refer to his greater expertise in that regard.

    Accordingly, it would be enlightening to me, as well, I am sure, ilw.com readers in general, if Nolan can cite the parts of that commission's report, if any, which, as Trump has done very recently, said the Nigerians should "go back to their huts"; that America does not need immigrants from "shithole countries" in Africa, or such as Haiti or El Salvador; and that America needs more immigrants from "countries like Norway" instead.

    Surely, Nolan is not suggesting that Barbara Jordan, a great African-American civil rights leader, ever held such obnoxious and offensive racial views herself. Therefore, it is not clear why Nolan keeps trying to use the Jordan Commission as support for immigration policies of a president whose expressed views toward immigrants of color are totally antithetical to everything we know about Barbara Jordan.

    It would also be helpful to myself and other readers who do not know as much about this report as Nolan does if he could mention which parts of the Jordan report refer to legal family immigration, which experts agree has enabled tens of millions of legal and productive and American-loving immigrants as "horrible", as Trump did in a December 29, 2017 tweet, or label it as an alleged danger to US security, as in his SOTU message to Congress, just because most of these immigrants, many of whom subsequently became patriotic US citizens who contributed greatly to America's economy and society, came from countries outside Europe.

    Why was admitting so many millions of family-based legal immigrants during the past half century so "horrible" or dangerous for American security?

    Because their skin color was not as white as those of Trump's own mother, grandfather, and, much more recently, in-law parents who came to the US from Europe through the same "chain migration" that Trump regards as such a "horrible" danger to America when immigrants from Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America come to the US the same way?

    I am not aware that the Jordan commission ever reached any such conclusions.

    Roger Algase
    Attorney at Law
    Updated 02-23-2018 at 09:18 AM by ImmigrationLawBlogs
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