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Family-Based Immigration – How the System Works, and How Trump Administration Proposals to Gut It Would Undermine American Values

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A recording of today’s call is available here

On a press call today, policy experts analyzed how the family-based immigration system works, and why the Trump Administration’s attempts to destroy this system violate basic American values. A recording of today’s call is available here.

After ending protection for Dreamers, some within the Trump Administration are using the crisis they created as an entry point to demand their entire nativist legislative agenda.  Slashing the number of lawfully-admitted immigrants to the U.S. by half, ending immigration avenues based on family ties, and cancelling the diversity visa program are all on their list of demands.

Attacks on family-based immigration attempt to scapegoat immigrants and frighten the public, when in fact family unity is a decades-long expression of a cherished American value that strengthens our nation.

John C. Yang, President & Executive Director, Advancing Justice – AAJC, said:

When the White House talks about ending ‘chain migration’ in exchange for a solution for the 800,000 DACA recipients, their rhetoric is reminiscent of what brought about shameful moments in history like the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 or Japanese Incarceration during World War II. Their proposed cuts to immigration are completely counter to what our nation values the most – family, which is the cornerstone of the community, the most fundamental institution in our society, and the foundation for who we are and who we become as individuals. Lawmakers who purport to be for family values should value families.

Greg Chen, Director of Government Relations, American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), said:

The critics of family immigration have made wildly inaccurate claims that it results in massive numbers of relatives gaining immigration status—all are designed to scare the public and scapegoat immigrants. The family system is strictly regulated with quotas that allow only the closest family to be sponsored, and it can take years for people to obtain a visa because of the long waits in many of the family categories.  Far from a drain on American society, family immigration not only contributes to our shared prosperity, but also lives up to our ideals, to our principles, and to our values. To turn against it is to turn against the fabric of our nation and weaken future generations.

Myrla Baldonado, Pilipino Workers Center of Southern California and We Belong Together, said:

Thanks to the family immigration system I was finally able to be reunited with my mother and other family members in the US and take care of my mother when she most needed me. As domestic workers we take care of the most precious in the lives of American families – aging relatives, children and their homes. And many of us are here because of the family immigration system. Keeping family unity as the core value of our immigration policy is what gives economic and moral stability to America.

Patrice Lawrence, Policy and Advocacy Director, Undocublack Network also addressed the importance of maintaining the diversity visa program, which also allows immigrants to remain with their close relatives:

Let’s be clear, this is a system that works, this is a system that’s efficient, a system that requires people to have a certain amount of education and work experience, but it gives them a fair shot,” she said. “And the people who are allowed to come with them are their families. It is essentially an attack in part and in kind and in whole on the family structure and more importantly on the family structure of people of color. What the diversity visa program is able to provide is invaluable. The contributions that the people have come here have brought are immeasurable. Racism exists in all levels of society, particularly employment discrimination still exists. That is why we insist on maintaining the Diversity Visa program because it gives people a fair shot. It gives people the opportunity to really integrate into American life and American society that would not be afforded to them if they immigrated through an employment path. Immigration is a black issue and it is extremely a black issue as related to the Diversity Visa Program.

Jen Smyers, Director of Policy and Advocacy, Immigration and Refugee Program, Church World Service, said:

Being able to see your family members, hold your children, and live with your family are the most basic of family values. That is what is being attacked by proposals that would redefine family under U.S. immigration law and keep U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents from sponsoring their parents, siblings, and even children. Especially from a faith perspective, a mother doesn’t cease to be a mother once her child turns 21. Siblings don’t lose their close connection just because they become adults. To redefine family and prevent family reunification would not only devastate individuals’ lives, it would turn our backs as a nation to our collective future and invalidate our claim to prioritize family values.

For background on the family-based immigration system, see:

  • AILA Policy Brief: The Value of Family-Based Immigration
  • Sign On Letter in Support of Family Immigration, Diversity Visas, and Refugees (AAJC)
  • Ali Noorani: Immigrant families make America great (USA Today)
  • Stuart Anderson: Family Immigration Led to John Tu’s Billion Dollar Company (Forbes)
  • Faith-based resources on family reunification (Interfaith Immigration Coalition)