Critics of President Trump recently latched onto their latest outrage du jour, and it’s one they believed was political dynamite. The charge was that by virtue of his rhetoric against chain migration, the president was being hypocritical given that First Lady Melania Trump sponsored her parents to migrate to America where they became U.S. citizens on Aug. 9. Like the many previous outrage du jours, however, a sober analysis reveals this latest charge is yet another wet firecracker.
These accusations show a basic ignorance of immigration law. Chain migration refers primarily to the four so-called family-based immigrant preferences in the Immigration and Nationality Act. They give unwarranted priority to adult children and siblings of citizens and even green card holders, and in effect grant an irrational control over permanent immigration to the most recent arrivals, even if those sponsors haven’t naturalized. This nepotistic distortion of traditionally diverse American immigration inflows is the core defect in chain migration. It has destroyed the diversity in immigrant origins that existed up until the 1970s. Today, the overwhelming majority of immigrants enter from less than ten of the world’s 180-plus nations.
Parents like those of Mrs. Trump get visas under a different—and unlimited—“immediate relative” category. Like the Immigration Reform Law Institute, the Federation for American Immigration Reform and almost all immigration reformers, President Trump would cut back on preferences for extended family members in favor of independent immigrants who have the best qualifications to quickly assimilate and contribute financially to American society. But the minor children and bona fide foreign spouses of citizens will remain at the front of the visa line under every Trump initiative, with parents of citizens right behind. The First Lady pulled no strings to sponsor her mother and father, who unlike all too many chain migrants are self-sufficient even in their senior years. But Mrs. Trump had every right to help them under current law and the President’s immigration reform agenda.
The caricature of President Trump in the media is that he is against all immigration, legal as well as illegal. This is simply not true. Far from calling for a Fortress America sealed off from the world, he has continually encouraged the arrival of immigrants provided they come through a legal and orderly process. The alternative is what we currently see in sanctuary cities, the anti-borders coalition’s vision for America’s future. The poisonous fruit of that experiment—violent crime, overwhelmed social services, and the erosion of American culture—is something that most Americans reject.
It is absolutely true that President Trump has been a vocal critic of chain migration, but it is necessary to examine what is meant by the term. Do two links constitute a chain? Most people would say no. In one of the President’s oft-cited examples of chain migration, terror suspect Sayfullo Saipov came to America by way of the visa lottery program and was allowed to bring in 23 others. While the specific number of chain migrants that came via Saipov has been disputed, it is undeniable that chain migration accounts for a considerable amount of arrivals. One of the biggest problems with mass migration is volume. If each person allowed in can be a gateway for 20 or more others, the resulting avalanche of migrants is well beyond what our country needs or can accommodate. America is a compassionate nation that in most cases enables family reunification, but allowing entry for the kind of numbers in the Saipov case is clearly not in America’s best interests.
On the matter of family reunification, President Trump has supported the concept in a way that has gone largely unrecognized. Despite opposition from much of his base, Trump offered to congressional Democrats a protection for those in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that was far more generous than what congressional Democrats sought. Playing politics with the children, however, the Democrats rejected the offer. In swampy Washington, being able to accuse the president of being mean to children is apparently more valuable than actually helping children. Likewise, President Trump acted swiftly on behalf of alien children when separation from their parents at the southern border became an issue. So despite the breathless claims that Trump is racist, xenophobic and anti-Hispanic, the reality is that the president’s actions have predominantly supported family reunification.
There was a time not too long ago when family members of presidents were considered off-limits in political combat. Because of the transformational nature of his presidency, it is not surprising that President Trump’s hyper-partisan critics have chosen to attack his family on many fronts. To use his in-laws as a conveyance to assail his immigration agenda, however, is not only classless but also utterly lacking authenticity.
Brian Lonergan is director of communications at the Immigration Reform Law Institute, a public interest law firm working to defend the rights and interests of the American people from the negative effects of mass migration.
Also published at: Brian Lonergan, Hypocrisy charge against Trump over in-laws’ citizenship is wrong , The Hill, August 23, 2018.