For those who seek to limit immigration to the U.S., one area of concern is so-called “chain immigration,” where one immigrant brings multiple family members to the United States.
This applies to asylees and refugees as follows: Such people can immediately bring their spouses and under-21, unmarried children to the United States (the term “immediately” here means that there is no backlog – processing the family member takes anywhere from six months to several years). Asylees and refugees are eligible for their green card after one year, and then their citizenship four years later. Once they have their green card, they can file for their over-21 children (including the child’s spouse and under-21 children), and once they become citizens, they can file for their parents, siblings (including the sibling’s spouse and under-21 children), and married children (including the spouse and under-21 children). In short, after the asylee of refugee becomes a U.S. citizen, she is eligible to bring multiple family members to the United States–”chain migration.”
In a recent blog post on the Center for Immigration Studies website, David North argues that we could limit chain immigration by prohibiting asylees and refugees from filing for family members other than spouses and under-21 children. Before responding to Mr. North’s proposal, I want to mention a few points. First, I disagree with the presumption behind the proposal–the idea that immigration has a negative effect on our society and should be more limited than it already is. Of course, too many immigrants could not be absorbed and integrated, but I am not convinced we have reached that level. Second (and maybe this is a contradictory point), I believe we should eliminate the “siblings” category of immigrants. There are large backlogs for many categories of immigrant. I think we would be better off eliminating the siblings category and using those slots for children and spouses of lawful permanent residents. It never made sense to me that we allow the principal immigrant to come here with a green card, but we make his family members wait for years to join him. This greatly delays the family members’ integration into our society, keeps family members unnecessarily separated, and causes the principal to send his earnings out of the U.S. to support his family. We’d be better off bringing the family members here sooner, and one way to do that is to use the visa numbers that are currently given to siblings.
Reunited and it feels so good...
All that said, I must respectfully disagree with Mr. North’s proposal for several reasons. For one thing, allowing asylees and refugees to bring their family members here does not greatly increase the overall number of people immigrating to our country. For most categories of family immigrants, there are numerical limits on the number of people who can immigrate to the U.S. each year. Thus, at worst, the relatives of the asylees and refugees will displace the relatives of other people who are waiting to immigrate. There will be very little increase in the overall numbers.
Second, I disagree with the idea of making asylees and refugees “different” from others who come to the U.S. It seems to me, if we are bringing such people to the U.S., we ought to treat them the same as every other immigrant once they become lawful permanent residents or U.S. citizens. It is better to integrate these people into our community, rather than erect barriers that make them feel excluded.
Finally, many asylees and refugees will never return to their home countries. For some, the only hope of seeing their family members is that they can file petitions for them to come to the U.S. Given the very long waiting times for an immigrant visa, and depending on which relatives are petitioned, such people can expect to wait anywhere from five to 20 years (or more) to see their family members. Thus, while many asylees and refugees have only a slim hope of seeing their family members again, I suppose this is better than no hope at all.
In the end, Mr. North’s proposal is quite modest. I just believe that the “benefits” (i.e., a small reduction in the number of people coming to the U.S.) are not worth the costs.
Originally posted on the Asylumist: www.Asylumist.com.
About The Author
Jason Dzubow's practice focuses on immigration law, asylum, and appellate litigation. Mr. Dzubow is admitted to practice law in the federal and state courts of Washington, DC and Maryland, the United States Courts of Appeals for the Third, Fourth, Eleventh, and DC Circuits, all Immigration Courts in the United States, and the Board of Immigration Appeals. He is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and the Capital Area Immigrant Rights (CAIR) Coalition. In June 2009, CAIR Coalition honored Mr. Dzubow for his Outstanding Commitment to Defending the Rights and Dignity of Detained Immigrants.