Family connection is crucial to America's immigration system

Let’s start with the obvious. You won’t find many Ramadans — my last name — listed in a telephone book, but also consider that America wasn’t founded by folks whose names were all the same.

Nor did everyone who came to our nation’s shores in its first days share the same country of origin or economic standing or faith. But soon enough, those differences would become flashpoints of disagreement and fear, and sometimes death for those who dared to disagree.

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Roger WilliamsJohn (Roger) Roger WilliamsPopulation shifts set up huge House battleground The 27 Republicans who voted with Democrats to block Trump from taking military action against Iran The Hill's 12:30 Report: Dems aim to end anti-Semitism controversy with vote today MORE would be banished from Massachusetts for challenging religious authority, only to become Rhode Island’s founder. Mary Dyer was a Puritan turned Quaker who would be hung for her beliefs. Of course, these two are hardly exceptions.

 

Indeed, our past is pockmarked with efforts to close borders and limit access based on one’s heritage or religion or culture. Yet despite that history, our country — yes, it is mine too — has always found a way to stand as a nation stronger for its differences.

Until now.

This past week has been a rollercoaster ride of sad stories. Of finger-pointing. And a flawed Congressional proposal sponsored by Rep. Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteUSCIS chief Cuccinelli blames Paul Ryan for immigration inaction Immigrant advocacy groups shouldn't be opposing Trump's raids Top Republican releases full transcript of Bruce Ohr interview MORE (R-Va.) which would open some doors but slam far too many shut. Thankfully the bill failed.

In particular, there was no rational reason to close existing categories permitting the married sons and daughters or siblings of U.S. citizens to apply for family immigration, all of whom are considered part of a nuclear family in most cultures.

Some call this chain migration. It is not. If anything, it is a slow-moving process with more than a few missing links.

According to the State Department’s own June 2018 bulletin, visa applications filed in 2006 by the married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens are just now being processed, while those filed by Mexicans in 1995 are now being considered.

As for siblings of U.S. citizens applying for a visa, it’s no better: Mexican applications dating to 1998 are only now being considered, while those filed in 2004 by everyone else are finally being reviewed.

Worse is the notion that if these visas are approved, recipients are somehow going to flood our system and receive government aid. But in fact, applicants must be sponsored financially by family members already living here.

And if anyone’s worried about jobs being lost to legal immigrants, consider that President TrumpDonald John TrumpJimmy Carter: 'I hope there's an age limit' on presidency White House fires DHS general counsel: report Trump to cap California trip with visit to the border MORE calls ours a booming economy, while House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanThree-way clash set to dominate Democratic debate Krystal Ball touts Sanders odds in Texas Republicans pour cold water on Trump's term limit idea MORE has said that America’s economic outlook is strong.

And if that’s the case — if we want to sustain a robust economy — can there be any harm in matching jobs that would otherwise go unfulfilled with immigrants who have passed deep security checks and already have familial financial support? Simply put, it makes no sense.

A first-generation immigrant, I served proudly as a Republican in Virginia’s General Assembly, thus acutely aware of the fallout that can come with political missteps. Locally, I have watched Prince William County — once a locality that could be counted on to sit with the GOP — become to a majority-minority county where the political pickings are ripe for the other side of the aisle.

Nor is Virginia the exception. In less than 20 years, America’s face will change as minorities of all kinds become the demographic majority.

If Congress lacks the courage to face that undisputed reality, with that change will inevitably come a political tsunami. It’s political insanity and nothing short of political malpractice for Republicans to ignore these trends.

Immigration is what built America. It has given us scientists with accents. Workers with once-strange, hard-to-pronounce names who helped grow our country’s industrial engines. Mothers and fathers who worked hard to support and encourage the next generation to do better.

For some, it may be expedient in the near term to deny or walk away those realities and try to limit family immigration. But to paraphrase a Lebanese proverb, the best generosity is giving without being asked. And more than ever, now is the time to be generous.

David Ramadan represented portions of Loudoun and Prince William counties as a Republican in the Virginia House of Delegates from 2012 to 2016 and is an adjunct professor at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University.