The Trump administration’s immigration crackdown has so far mostly consisted of reforms in enforcement. These include the increased deployment of ICE agents and so-far successful defunding of so-called sanctuary cities—communities whose law enforcement officials refuse to cooperate with federal deportation efforts.
But one area of Trump’s immigration policy that hasn’t received as much media coverage is “chain migration.”
According to Stephen Lee, Professor of Immigration and Administrative Law at the University of California, Irvine, chain migration refers to a process of citizens—usually permanent residents—sponsoring new individuals to come to the United States and receive green cards. These new green card holders, in turn, sponsor other individuals to enter the country.
However, chain migration, which its advocates call “family-based immigration,” is limited to immediate family relations. These include spouses, children under the age of 21, and one’s parents. Family-based immigration is also further limited by the length of time needed to process visas and acquire citizenship.
Naomi Tsu, Deputy Legal Director for the Southern Poverty Law Center, illustrates how complicated the process can be, providing an example of one green card holder sponsoring his undocumented brother from the Philippines. The sponsoring person must wait at least 6 months for the paperwork to clear and another 20 years for the visa to become available. Meanwhile, his undocumented brother must return to the Philippines and wait for another 10 years for the immigration bar to expire.
Should the Trump administration have its way, these limitations could have even more restrictions. The White House is pushing for a point- or merit-based system for green card sponsorships, one that would prioritize highly-skilled or specialized labor. It’s a system similar to the one in place in other developed countries like Canada and Australia.
A merit-based system would assess an immigration applicant using set criteria – totaling points against an eligibility standard of 30 points. Criteria include proficiency in the English language, educational attainment, high-paying job offers for the applicant, past achievements, age, expected salary and investment in the US economy.
According to its proponents, the merit-based system of immigration remedies a number of problems that come with chain migration. For example, reducing the rate of incoming immigrants and ensuring that only high-skilled applicants pass could fix the problem of low wages for migrants whose green cards were sponsored.
Critics of the merit-based system, however, see just as many flaws. First, they claim the American workforce needs more low-skill workers, contrary to Trump’s August statement in support of the RAISE (Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy) Act, which aims to reduce legal immigration to 500,000 applications a year thanks in part to a merit-based system
The new system would also be more expensive to implement due to additional screening procedures and the price of resettlement costs.
For further updates and clarifications on this proposed merit-based immigration system, talk to the legal team of the Lyttle Law Firm. Contact our offices to speak with Austin immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle about your options for legal immigration.