Letter: Break Chain Migration

By D.A. King, Atlanta Jewish Times, March 3, 2018

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Even though we are now taking in about 1 million legal immigrants every year, Aunt Fannie would have a much more difficult time migrating to New York from Poland now than she did in 1905.

I enjoyed reading Dave Schechter’s Feb. 16 column (“Blessing the Memory of Immigrant Forebears”). It is easy to see that he loves his family and has an interest in the current debate on immigration. His narrative creates the welcome mental image of lawful immigrants struggling to join the American family while obeying our laws at the turn of the last century.

Schechter’s great-aunt Fannie sounds like a real character: “She enjoyed drinking scotch and liked a good liverwurst or smoked fish. She smoked cigarettes for 65 years, until she was 80, when a longtime friend’s admonishment put an end to that habit, and she lived another decade after that.”

I am truly sorry I didn’t have the pleasure of meeting her, or that my own great-aunts and grandmother didn’t get to hang out with Aunt Fannie.

But I am not sure that recounting his delightful family is a convincing argument in favor of continuing the chain migration policy that started in 1965.

Chain migration dictates that immigrants select the next wave of immigrants, regardless of any benefit or improvement offered to the common needs of the nation. It certainly doesn’t create the diversity we are told is the new standard of greatness.

An example: According to the Department of Homeland Security, Mexico, China and India send us the most immigrants now merely because they have sent us the most immigrants since the mid-1960s.

Even though we are now taking in about 1 million legal immigrants every year, Aunt Fannie would have a much more difficult time migrating to New York from Poland now than she did in 1905.

President Donald Trump is calling for an end to chain migration in favor of a system that admits migrants based on what they can contribute to American society. The current, broad “family reunification” policies should be updated with a system designed to admit immigrants with job skills needed in the U.S. economy, as well as the education and language ability to succeed. Only the spouse and unmarried minor children of the primary applicant would qualify as future immigrants.

While politically correct, chain migration doesn’t place the interests of American citizens first. Too many deserving potential immigrants are passed over in favor of the relatives of previous migrants, no matter what they bring — or don’t bring — to the table.

Replacing chain migration with a merit-based system would lower the overall number of aliens accepted into the country each year, promote assimilation and ensure that those accepted are able to further the economic priorities of the nation.

Ending chain migration should be viewed as the pro-American update it is intended to be. And we should all note that there is no universal civil right to live in the United States.

Perhaps the late Barbara Jordan said it best when she was the Bill Clinton-appointed chair of the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform from 1994 to 1996: “It is both a right and a responsibility of a democratic society to manage immigration so that it serves the national interest.”


— D.A. King, Marietta

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