Another Voice: The value of the family unit in defining ‘Chain Migration’

As a teacher, I am frequently called upon to explain complicated issues. Recently, one of those issues was chain migration. What is it, and why is its connotation negative? Allow me to teach a lesson on this current issue.

Chain migration does not mean that one immigrant moves to Hood River, gets a job, likes it, and tells all his friends to “Come on up!” If you remember nothing else from this lesson, remember this: chain migration is 100 percent legal migration. It is one of the four or five ways immigrants can earn legal citizenship. The federal government governs the rules for this type of immigration. The federal government made chain migration legal; immigrants who migrate in this fashion are following the rule of law. An example of immigrants who are seeking citizenship in this way would be Viktor and Amalija Knavs, of Slovenia. They are Melania Trump’s parents.

USCIS, which oversees this type of immigration, has established strict guidelines for how it must be accomplished. A legal U.S. citizen may sponsor an immediate family member; this is why many people refer to chain migration as “family reunification.” A green card holder may sponsor his or her spouse and unmarried children; a legal citizen may sponsor parents, siblings, and married adult children.

To some folks, that seems like a lot of family members. You can see why it is called “family reunification.” However, there are limits on family migration visas; this is why the wait time for this type of visa averages 10 years for spouses and children, and 20 years for the other family. Right now, there are about 4 million family members on the waiting list.

The process of sponsoring a family requires an enormous amount of documentation: for one, they must prove that they are financially solvent; basically, they must agree to be financially responsible for the family member being sponsored. The sponsor must provide documentation of the relationship, and the spons-ee’s background; of course a complete background check is required. If the spons-ee requires public assistance, the sponsor may be held liable for paying back those funds. A document called the Affidavit of Support ensures that those folks brought here are not a financial burden on our system. And, since they are here legally, they pay full taxes, adding to our tax base.

If DACA recipients gain a path to legalized citizenship, will they be able to sponsor family members? Sure, but they have to leave the country for three-10 years in order to do so. Again, this process is onerous, and not undertaken lightly.

Let’s see ... chain migration results in legal, financially responsible citizens who have family roots in the U.S.; they work and add to our tax base; they are invested in our economy, society and culture. It is legal migration, closely regulated by the federal government.

The negative part of chain migration? Well, since chain migration is mostly denigrated in reference to immigrants from Latin America, it must be that it brings more brown people to our country. Only that would be racist.

Is there value in having additional, legal taxpayers? Doesn’t our workforce need more low-skilled workers to do those dirty jobs? How about the value of having immigrants who have a documented, guaranteed source of support? And one more thing: do we value the family unit? Because our immigrants do. I believe that many people misunderstand the reality of chain migration.

Nan Noteboom lives in Odell.

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