Every Two Immigrants to the US Bring Seven Additional Foreign Relatives Via Chain Migration
According to data from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) every two immigrants to America bring an average of seven family members with them. This is the result of a process called chain migration, which is baked into our current immigration law.
Chain migration is by far the largest driver of legal immigration to America—about 70 percent of all immigrants arrive in this way. In total, between 2005 and 2016 some 9.3 million people immigrated to America for no purpose other than to reunite with family members. This stands in stark contrast with the paltry 150,000 green cards issued every year for employment reasons.
The data reveals that America’s immigration policy has very little to do with economics. It is primarily a social and political phenomenon.
This data has important ramifications, especially regarding amnesty for illegal immigrants, or specifically those protected under Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Should the 700,000 DACA recipients be granted amnesty, they would likely bring an extra 2 million relatives with them over the coming decades.
Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies for the Center for Illegal Immigration Studies articulates the problem:
If Congress were to pass an amnesty for people with DACA, it would ultimately result in 2 million new immigrants over time. . . For every two immigrants we admit, you can say there will be an additional seven admitted. That growth is built into our immigration system.
Again, the problem comes down to chain migration. What is it? Essentially, current US immigration law gives priority to immigrants who are “sponsored” by a family member already living in America, rather than someone with economic skills or investment capital. A familiar connection to America is what’s important, not the ability to make an economic contribution.
The Heritage Foundation sums up how chain migration works nicely:
Chain migration starts with a foreign citizen who is given a green card. This individual is allowed to bring in his or her nuclear family consisting of a spouse and minor children.
Once the original immigrant and his or her spouse become U.S. citizens, they can petition for their parents, adult sons and daughters, and adult siblings and brothers and sisters-in-law to also enter.
This second group can bring their minor children. Once they become citizens, the brothers and sisters in law and parents can petition for their siblings, in-laws, and parents to legally enter the U.S.
As you can see, the logic underpinning chain migration is entirely social in nature. This has big economic consequences.
A recent study found that ending chain migration could save American taxpayers up to $1.9 trillion over the next decade. This is because the majority of immigrants arriving via family connections are net economic burdens on society: they take more in government services than they contribute, thereby growing the welfare state. It’s also important to remember that growth in services means growth in taxes to pay for them. High taxes hurt the economy, and contribute to a cycle of economic malaise.
The fact is that the welfare state and mass immigration are wholly incompatible policies—together they are self-destructive.
This is why immigration reform should be America’s number one priority—even if amnesty is granted, a reformed immigration system may be able to mitigate the economic damage.