American Immigrant Policy Portal
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on Migration-Related Issues
Policy-related reports, studies, and information about the challenge and promise of immigrant integration. Materials organized by collection topic.

AILA paper provides an overview of the U.S. family-based immigration system and questions whether reductions proposed by the Trump Administration are warranted

American Immigration Lawyers Association,
Policy Brief, January 8, 2018, 8 pp.

Authors: Greg Chen & Diane Rish

The Trump administration seeks to make drastic cuts to America's family-based immigration system and uses the pejorative term "chain migration" to refer to the immigration of close family members. This paper by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) describes the categories of relatives who are eligible to come to the U.S. through the family immigration system and the various hoops they must jump through before being awarded an immigrant visa. The paper discusses the caps in the various preference categories, the limited number of visas available, and the lengthy wait a typical immigrant must endure before obtaining a visa. In doing so, the authors put into context the Trump administration's insinuation that immigrants are coming here and bringing in distant relatives in an unending chain. For example, the paper notes that the U.S. government is currently granting green cards for brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens who filed applications more than 13 years ago. Looking at the number of siblings of U.S. citizens currently waiting for a visa, AILA estimates that someone applying today will have to wait 36 years for a visa. The paper points out that most immigrants throughout American history have come as the result of family ties. The paper briefly discusses the economic importance of family-based immigrants, who are generally of prime working age when they arrive in the U.S. and whose relatives often facilitate their economic integration (by, for example, making it possible to start or grow a business). AILA notes that eliminating or significantly reducing the ability of immigrants to bring family members will make it more difficult to attract immigrants with high-demand skills (since people are reluctant to leave family members behind). Elimination of legal channels will also be a future driver of undocumented immigration as families who want to be together will have no legal options (Maurice Belanger, Maurice Belanger Associates).

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lcLatest Commentary
A selection of recent OpEds from immigration researchers
and major opinion leaders

February 22, 2018
Why the 2020 census shouldn't ask about your citizenship status
Jennifer Van Hook, The Conversation
Read More

February 21, 2018
Immigration Curbs Will Weaken Social Security
Howard Gleckman, Forbes
Read More

February 12, 2018
Right Now, 'Merit-Based' Just Means Fewer Immigrants
Stuart Anderson, Forbes
Read More

February 9, 2018
The White House's weekly 'immigrant crime' tally includes non-crimes and nonimmigrants
Phillip Bump, The Washington Post
Read More

February 4, 2018
'Chain Migration' doesn't work the way Trump tells you it does
David Scott Fitzgerald, The Hill
Read More

February 4, 2018
Trump's talk dehumanizes immigrants
Michael Gerson, Albany Times Union
Read More

February 3, 2018
The Necessary Immigration Debate
Ross Douthat, The New York Times

February 2, 2018
How Immigration Became So Controversial
Derek Thompson, The Atlantic
Read More

January 31, 2018
We've weaponized immigration rhetoric, from chain migration to Dreamers
Leo R. Chavez, Los Angeles Times
Read More

January 30, 2018
The myth of America's immigration problem
Ryan Cooper, The Week
Read More

January 30, 2018
A US immigration history of white supremacy and ableism
Kristin Garrity Sekerci & Azza Altiraifi, Al Jazeera
Read More

January 30, 2018
Trump's immigration policies are 'economic poison' that will cost taxpayers billions
James Boland & Tom Perez, CNBC
Read More

January 29, 2018
The East Germans of the 21st Century
David Brooks, The New York Times
Read More

January 29, 2018
Our system of family-based immigration works for America
Judy Chu & Linda Sanchez, The Hill
Read More

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