I’ve been an immigration lawyer for almost 20 years, since 1999, and I have never heard “chain migration” used in any way, shape, or form when it comes to immigration. We call it family immigration – we always have, and we always should because that’s what it is.
Why is the media and the Trump administration calling family immigration “chain migration?” It’s because they don’t want you to know that it’s really about husbands and wives, kids, parents, and brothers and sisters. They want you to think of one evil person bringing in 17 people to the U.S., including aunts, uncles, and evil grandparents.
Since there seems to be a lot of confusion about all of this, I want to explain what family immigration is and what it is not. First off, when you think of a chain, you think of something that is very long (at least I do, anyway).
Family immigration is not that long – don’t think of a long chain, think of a dog collar for a chihuahua. Here is the list of family members you can petition for if you are a U.S. Citizen by filing an I-130 petition and thereby helping them immigrate to the United States and become Lawful Permanent Residents of the U.S. (green card holders).
U.S. Citizens can petition for their:
- children under 21
- children over 21
- married children
That is it! No one else.
Lawful Permanent Residents of the U.S. can petition for the following family members:
- children under 21
- unmarried children over 21
Permanent residents cannot petition for their parents or their siblings or married children.
When you look at these lists of people that U.S. Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents of the U.S. can petition for, does it seem like a list of crazy, extra family members? Or does it seem reasonable and understandable that U.S. Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents would want to reunite and be with these family members? Since when has wanting to reunite and be with your closest family members been a bad thing? When people say “End Chain Migration” what they’re really saying is “End Family Immigration.” The use of the term chain migration to characterize family immigration as negative is pretty vicious.
I personally would have no interest in investing my time, effort, and energy into putting roots down in a foreign country and becoming a citizen if I would not be able to bring my spouse, children, parents and yes, my sometimes annoying siblings, who despite it all, I love very much and want to be relatively close to.
Don’t even get me started on the waiting periods. Oops, too late, I got started on it. If we were all born in the Philippines, and I came to the U.S. and eventually became a U.S. Citizen, it would take my brother and sister 24 years to immigrate to the U.S. if I were to petition for them today. Yes, 24 years! Thankfully, my parents did all of the hard work of immigrating to the U.S., and my sister, brother, and I were all born here. Luck of birth. I have clients who have patiently waited all those years to immigrate to the U.S. to be with their families. That type of dedication is not one that should be characterized in a negative way. Family is good for everyone. Family is good for America.
I would love to hear about your immigration story. It’s my passion!