This chart illustrates the effect of Congress' decision since 1957 to prioritize the admission of non-nuclear, extended family members in U.S. immigration policy. By allowing each immigrant admitted to subsequently petition for the admission of parents, siblings and their families, and adult children and their families, Congress has put in place an immigration system that results in virtually unlimited chain migration.

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One consequence of this policy—a consequence cited by the bipartisan Jordan Commission on Immigration Reform as a primary reason to eliminate chain migration categories—is the unrealistic expectations it creates on the part of literally hundreds of distant relatives of new immigrants to the United States. Because these distant relatives may eventually obtain a visa on the basis of the extended relationship, they come to see immigration as a right or entitlement. When they realize that they may, in fact, have to wait years for a visa to become available because of annual caps and per-country limits on several of the family-based immigration categories, many decide to come illegally, despite that the law requires them to wait in the home country.

The chart begins with the admission of one employment-based immigrant, who is accompanied by his spouse and three minor children, all of whom are natives of a country in the developing world. It assumes he has three children based on the fact that, according to the Population Reference Bureau, the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) in the “less developed world” was 2.8 in 2008.

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Legal Immigration