For the past several years, U.S. immigration policy can be summed up in a series of “if onlys.” It goes something like this.
If only we had further scrutiny of overseas arrivals, the 9/11 attacks may have been prevented.
If only sanctuary laws didn’t exist, Kate Steinle and many others would be alive today.
If only the visa lottery were eliminated, Sayfullo Saipov wouldn’t have allegedly killed eight people with a truck in New York City.
Enough. Gaps and loopholes in current immigration laws have resulted in too many dead Americans. We need a sensible, merit-based immigration system before any more of our loved ones are killed.
In a grisly series of teachable moments, a string of recent attacks and murders have each showcased a different area of immigration policy in desperate need of reform. This month, chain migration is in the spotlight. Akayed Ullah, a 27-year-old native of Bangladesh, allegedly injured three people while attempting to detonate a crude explosive device at New York’s crowded Port Authority. If not for his amateurish execution, the outcome could have been catastrophic. Ullah represents a macabre daily double in this series. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that Ullah arrived in the United States through chain migration and an F43 visa, which was made possible because one of his family members came here by way of the visa lottery. This incident makes the case why both programs need to be discontinued immediately.
Swept under the rug in most news reports is the fact that chain migration allows new immigrants to bring an unlimited number of family members into the United States. Unlimited. There had previously been a firm annual cap on the number of green cards, which had kept immigrant numbers manageable in the years following World War II. After the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, however, the cap was lifted. As a result, the percentage of the U.S. population that are immigrants has roughly tripled since 1970. “Family reunification” took priority over economic and national security, public safety and the assimilation of newcomers.
With chain migration growing exponentially over decades, the strain on our resources is showing. Whatever vetting is currently being done on these chain migrants, it clearly isn’t enough. Despite its best efforts, DHS simply cannot sufficiently vet the number of people coming into the country. Even if the number of immigration officers were significantly expanded, in many cases there is scant information to check. Record-keeping in many of the feeder countries is poor and incomplete. In the case of Ullah, whatever records he had from Bangladesh probably gave no indication that he was an ISIS sympathizer. In effect, we the people of the United States of America are taking a huge risk with every chain migrant that is allowed entry.
Francis Cissna, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, was questioned at a recent press conference about the Ullah incident and chain migration. His response is worth repeating.
“If you have immigrant visa programs where the eligibility criteria are low to nonexistent or even an outright lottery,” Cissna said, “you’re not selecting for the types of people that we want in this country, according to criteria, that will ensure their success in our nation. That will ensure that they will assimilate well.”
That statement captured much of what is wrong with our immigration system today: low to nonexistent eligibility criteria, not the types of people we want, and a low chance of success here. The good news is that the remedies are clear.
The Trump administration has been dogged in its advocacy for an end to chain migration, the visa lottery and sanctuary cities. Passage of the RAISE Act, introduced by Senators Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonSunday shows preview: US reaffirms support for Ukraine amid threat of Russian invasion Senate's antitrust bill would raise consumer prices and lower our competitiveness Sinema scuttles hopes for filibuster reform MORE (R-Ark.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.), would go a long way toward achieving those goals. Predictably, open borders proponents have attacked these proposals as mean-spirited, nativist and even racist. Their opposition raises a profound question: If American citizenship is so prized and valuable, why do we give it away so cheaply? Why are recent arrivals here allowed to select our future immigrants and not us?
Until a merit-based system is implemented and we prioritize the good of the nation above that of immigrants, events like what took place at the Port Authority will occur with regularity. This is not a theoretical discussion at an ivy-covered campus. It is reality, and the consequences for getting it wrong get people killed. Enough.
Brian Lonergan is director of communications at the Immigration Reform Law Institute, a public interest law firm working to defend the rights and interests of the American people from the negative effects of mass migration.