Twenty million of the total 33 million legal immigrants admitted to the United States between 1981 and 2016 were admitted through the chain migration categories, according to analysis by the Center for Immigration Studies. According to CIS, a legal immigrant admitted to the United States over the 35 years sponsored an average of 3.45 family members for green cards.
Current immigration law allows for new immigrants with green cards to sponsor their spouses and minor children. Then, once they become naturalized citizens, they can also sponsor their parents, adult siblings, and unmarried adult children for green cards, which creates endless chains of family-based immigration. There are no numerical limits to spouses, minor children, and parents that can be sponsored by U.S. citizens, while other categories are capped at approximately 250,000 per year.
The Immigration Act of 1990 dramatically increased the chain migration categories causing annual legal immigration numbers to skyrocket from a traditional average of 250,000 per year to more than 1 million per year since the 1990s. The last bipartisan U.S. commission on immigration reform, chaired by the late Barbara Jordan, recommended ending chain migration. Sens. Tom Cotton and David Perdue's RAISE Act and Rep. Lamar Smith's Immigration in the National Interest Act would end chain migration by restricting permanent, family-based immigration to spouses and minor children and creating a renewable visa for parents.
In a Tweet earlier this month, Pres. Trump called for ending chain migration shortly after terminating the unconstitutional DACA executive amnesty for young illegal aliens. Granting a permanent amnesty to the approximately 700,000 DACA recipients would multiply the size of the amnesty because of chain migration.
"Lawmakers must understand that without adjustments to chain migration categories, an amnesty for DACA beneficiaries virtually guarantees perhaps twice as many additional relatives will receive green cards within 20 years in addition to the original amnesty beneficiaries," CIS Director of Policy Studies Jessica Vaughan said. "The largest number of these would be the parents of the DACA recipients. Congress should mitigate this impact by eliminating and/or scaling back the three main categories of chain migration - parents, adult sons and daughters, and siblings of naturalized immigrants, and by curbing new immigration, such as the visa lottery."
The reports key findings include:
- Over the last 35 years, chain migration has greatly exceeded new immigration. Out of 33 million immigrants admitted to the United States from 1981 to 2016, about 20 million were chain migration immigrants (61 percent).
- Judging from preliminary administrative data, approximately 1,125,000 legal immigrants were approved for admission in 2016, which is about 7 percent higher than 2015, and one of the highest numbers in the last decade.
- The largest categories of chain migration are spouses and parents of naturalized U.S. citizens because admissions in these categories are unlimited by law.
- According to the most complete contemporary academic studies on chain migration, in recent years each new immigrant sponsored an average of 3.45 additional immigrants. In the early 1980s, the chain migration multiplier was 2.59, or more than 30 percent lower.
- Of the top immigrant-sending countries, Mexico has the highest rate of chain migration. In the most recent five-year cohort of immigrants studied (1996-2000), each new Mexican immigrant sponsored 6.38 additional legal immigrants.
- Chain migration is contributing to the aging of the immigration stream. In the early 1980s, only about 17 percent of family migrants were age 50 or over. In recent years, about 21 percent of family migrants were age 50 or older — a rate that is more than 24 percent higher. This trend has implications for the fiscal consequences of immigration.
- Enacting an amnesty for roughly 700,000 DACA beneficiaries is likely to add double that number in additional immigrants because of chain migration, as the amnesty beneficiaries sponsor their parents and other family members.
- Congress could mitigate the chain migration impact of a DACA amnesty by eliminating and/or scaling back the three main categories of chain migration (parents, adult sons and daughters, and siblings of citizens). If the controversial visa lottery program also were eliminated, legal immigration would be reduced by 20 percent.
Read the entire report at CIS.org.
Updated: Wed, Oct 11th 2017 @ 11:05am EDT