If Democrats insist on chain migration, they'll kill the DREAM Act

If Democrats insist on chain migration, they'll kill the DREAM Act
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Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerThis week: GOP mulls vote on ‘abolish ICE’ legislation Red-state Dem tells Schumer to 'kiss my you know what' on Supreme Court vote Dem infighting erupts over Supreme Court pick MORE (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced recently that they had reached an agreement with President Donald Trump to pursue legislation that would protect the participants of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which is being phased out. They also agreed to enact border security measures that would not include building a physical wall.

But problems have arisen since that agreement was reached. Both sides have declared additional conditions.

In a letter to her Democratic colleagues about the meeting with Trump, Pelosi said, "Any solution to the challenge facing the DREAMers must include the DREAM Act sponsored by Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard," i.e., the DREAM Act of 2017, H.R.3440, which is identical to a DREAM Act in the Senate, S.1615.

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The House bill has 199 cosponsors, but only four are Republicans, and the Senate version only has three Republican cosponsors. The bill Pelosi supports has no more chance of being acceptable to Trump than the American Hope Act of 2017 (effectively, this is another version of the DREAM Act), which I refer to as the False Hope Act.

House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanGOP lambasts Trump over performance in Helsinki Trump stuns the world at Putin summit Former Trump aide says he canceled CNN appearance over 'atrocious' Helsinki coverage MORE (R-Wis.) said at his weekly news conference that House Republicans won't "bring a solution to the floor that does not have the support of President TrumpDonald John TrumpShocking summit with Putin caps off Trump’s turbulent Europe trip GOP lambasts Trump over performance in Helsinki Trump stuns the world at Putin summit MORE," and Trump has made his own demand that is as problematic for passing legislation as Pelosi’s.

Trump made ending chain migration an additional condition when he tweeted:

Although it seems unlikely that this issue of chain migration was raised at his meeting with the Democratic leaders, it is not a new Trump policy.

In early August, the president formally declared his support for Senator Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonOvernight Defense: Fallout from tense NATO summit | Senators push to block ZTE deal in defense bill | Blackwater founder makes new pitch for mercenaries to run Afghan war Hillicon Valley: DOJ appeals AT&T-Time Warner ruling | FBI agent testifies in heated hearing | Uproar after FCC changes rules on consumer complaints | Broadcom makes bid for another US company | Facebook under fire over conspiracy sites Hillicon Valley: Justice Department appeals AT&T-Time Warner ruling | New report on election security | FBI agent testifies in marathon hearing MORE’s (R-Ark.) RAISE Act, which would end chain migration by limiting family-based visas to the spouses and unmarried minor children of citizens and legal permanent residents.

On September 17, Cotton told Meet the Press that Trump had assured him that a deal for a DREAM Act would have to include ending chain migration.

What is chain migration? Chain migration occurs when an immigrant gets lawful permanent resident status and then sponsors his family members for lawful permanent resident status, and then they sponsor more family members, and so on.

Pelosi almost certainly will take the position that this is good, not bad, but it doesn’t matter whether it is good or bad. A DREAM Act will not be passed unless it is “politically acceptable.”

According to FAIR, “most immigrants are admitted simply because they have a relative here who sponsors them, not because of what they might be able to contribute to our society.”

And when this is done on the basis of immediate relative status, there are no numerical limits.

NumbersUSA claims that chain migration is “one of the chief culprits in America's current record-breaking population boom and all the attendant sprawl, congestion, and school overcrowding that damage Americans’ quality of life.”

According to the calculations of Princeton University researchers, “Out of a total of nearly 26 million immigrants admitted between 1981 and 2009, more than 16 million were chain migration immigrants (63%).”

This is not a new concern. The chairman of the bipartisan U.S. Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy, Reverend Theodore Hesburgh, said in 1981, that we should not continue a preference system that makes an ever-increasing demand for visas that is disproportionate to the number of visas available. This creates unacceptably long backlogs.

Section 201 of the Immigration and Nationality Act imposes numerical limits on family-sponsored preference visas. This makes it impossible to keep up with the demand for such visas.

Only 226,000 family-sponsored preference visas can be issued in FY 2017. And, as of November 1, 2016, there were 4,259,573 aliens on the waiting list for such visas. This includes spouses and children with derivative status. Their visa applications have been approved. They are just waiting for visas to become available. Some of them will have to wait more than 20 years.

According to Migration Policy Institute estimates, potentially 3,338,000 aliens would be able to qualify for conditional lawful status under H.R.3440, which leads to permanent resident status, and chain migration would make the number much larger.  

Moreover, chain migration would make it possible for the DREAMers to pass on legal status and a path to citizenship to the parents who brought them to the United States in violation of our laws, which is sure to be unacceptable to many Republicans.

The chain migration issue does not just apply to a DREAM Act. If it is allowed to block passage of a DREAM Act, it is likely to become an obstacle to every legalization program from now on, and for most undocumented immigrants, there is not going to be another way to obtain lawful permanent resident status.

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.