Jeremy Beck's picture


  by  Jeremy Beck

Stephen Kearse pleads in the New York Times Magazine for an immigration debate that goes beyond terms like "chain migration," which, he argues, have become loaded partisan terms.

"Even the question of whether the phrase is partisan has a partisan edge," Kearse laments.

Now, terms like "chain migration," "amnesty" and "Dreamers" aren't going to go away - short-hand descriptors are necessary, if not always of equal value - but Kearse's concern that they serve to signal partisan alignments rather than further debate is a valid one. As one reader commented, "terminology isn't the real issue, sound policy is." We should understand the underlying policy. The differences between "chain migration" and "family-based migration" (or between "Dreamers" and "DACAs") are significant beyond mere ideological virtue signaling.

So in the spirit of an informed, civil debate, below is a recap of the legislative history of chain migration policy, and the impact on total immigration numbers.

1952 -- Congress created green-card categories for parents, adult children, and adult siblings in a limited number of countries. Highly-educated or skilled immigrants, however, received priority.

Avg annual green cards issued 1952-1965: 265,520

1965-- Congress extended the chains to every country of the world and reversed the priority so that the chain categories had preference over skill categories.

Average annual green cards issued 1965-1990: 530,462

1990 -- Congress raised the caps on chain categories.

Average annual green cards issued since 1990: more than 1 million.

The Immigration Act of 1990 also called for a bi-partisan commission to "review and evaluate the impact of this Act and the amendments made by this Act" and to issue findings and recommendations on (among other things) the "impact of immigration...on labor needs, employment, and other economic and domestic conditions in the United States."

The commission, chaired by Barbara Jordan, recommended the elimination of Chain Migration categories and immigration limits around 550,000 per year.

63 percent of Americans today support immigration levels at 500,000 or less per year.

JEREMY BECK is the Director of the Media Standards Program for NumbersUSA

Chain Migration

Updated: Wed, Apr 4th 2018 @ 12:25pm EDT

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