If you listen to Trump it sounds like a dirty word, something to avoid at all cost, a major problem that will affect you all. All these evil people coming here and dragging 100 family members along with them! Having kids here so that they can’t be deported and so their kids will sponsor them for citizenship immediately at birth. Immigrants, too many of them ruining our country with their drugs and their guns and rapist attitudes, getting their family members in through these chain migration loopholes!
It’s absolutely incredible how many people have NO IDEA how their immigration system works.
I think that citizen and immigrant alike can agree that the system is broken and it has been for many years. It absolutely needs to be reformed. However:
If I asked you to explain how many visas exist would you be able to tell me? If I asked you what each visa would entitle me to would you be able to tell me? If I asked you which visas provide a path to a more permanent solution would you know? If I asked you how long it takes to get a green card or citizenship or to bring a family member over would you know? If I asked you to explain the green card diversity program (or lottery) would you know? If I asked you to explain what TPS stands for would you know? If I asked you to point out an undocumented immigrant and a documented one in a crowd would you be able to? Or would you automatically point to a Mexican and then to a white European while realizing how prejudiced you are?
See, while I understand that it’s not necessary to understand the ins and outs of a very complex system, it IS important to understand how the system works if you want to comment on it. As immigrants we are able to tell you exactly how it works. We can tell you about all types of visas, and also about how long it takes to get one. We can tell you how much money we have spent on applications and lawyers just to be told that our case has been rejected. We can tell you that often you can be here for decades without any path towards citizenship. Not because we are too lazy to do the paperwork, but because it actually doesn’t exist. So if you want to talk about immigration and pathways to citizenship and taxes and benefits and anchor babies and chain migration please educate yourself before you say anything.
(Someone called one of my children that once by the way. Every time I think about it I feel like I am being kicked in the gut.)
So, chain migration. This seems to be on Trump’s shit list for some reason, because he really makes it sound like people are coming here in droves, dragging second and third cousins along with them. I can tell you that this is not how it works. I know because the reason I am here is because of this so-called “chain migration”. Basically, the current system allows for green card holders (permanent residents) and citizens to sponsor immediate family members. These family members used to be restricted to minor children and spouses, but they were extended a few decades back to include other family members such as siblings, adult children, and parents.
My mother was transferred from France to the US in 2000, and her company took care of pushing her H1B visa and then permanent residency through as fast as it could go. My sister and brother were minors at the time, so their green cards went through fast too. I was 22 in the year 2000, and my mother’s company couldn’t do the process for me as I wasn’t a minor. So my mother petitioned for my green card. I received it in December 2011, and only because in the meantime she had become a citizen. If she hadn’t I would still be waiting for it. And if I had got married in that decade to someone who wasn’t a US citizen I could have said goodbye to that green card.
That’s how chain migration works.
You wait years, decades even, for your number to come up. See, there are only 226,000 visas available for immediate family members every year, and there are specific priorities and per-country limits at play too. If my mother had been a citizen when she sponsored me I would probably have had to wait 5 years, not 11. If I had been married I would have most likely had to wait 20 or so. If I had got married in 2010 I would have had to start over again and wait another 10 or more years.
The current population of the US is approximately 324 million people. Every year 226,000 people are approved to become legal permanent residents through immediate family sponsorship, and these people have been waiting between 4 and 27 years on average for this approval to be granted. Trump’s chain migration claims are just a teeny tiny drop in the ocean of people who reside in this country. Chain migration is not coming to steal your job and your culture and your home.
I found legal loopholes that I was able to exploit, and lived for many years with the fate of my yearly visa renewal in the hands of an immigration official at the Canadian border. I have just started to write about all of the times I sat there waiting, wondering what stamp I would receive. Wondering who I would call to look after my cat if I was denied or deported. I have buried a lot of the fear, pain, and anger at how I was denied the right to live near my family. While today I am happy about the experiences I got to live during that time, it still makes me sad and mad to think about it. I spent too many years not being able to fully enjoy my life because I was too scared that one day it would be cut short and I would have to start over again somewhere new.
Dreamers, undocumented immigrants, chain migrants, immigration lottery beneficiaries: we are seriously a drop in your ocean of people. US born children can only sponsor others when they turn 21, so the whole “anchor baby” theory is ridiculous. I have been reading and listening to so many immigration stories recently, often wiping the tears away from my eyes, and relating to so many of them. So much bravery, so many dreams, and a lot of resistance.
You don’t need a wall. You don’t need to end chain migration (it doesn’t exist). You don’t need to end programs like TPS or the visa lottery. What you do need is to have a heart and actually understand how the process works. And I really hope that all of my white European immigrant friends are calling Congress every day to fight for the Dreamers, because the only real difference in it all is a plane ticket, a landing card, and ultimately the color of your skin.
Call Congress and demand your representatives that they say NO to a spending bill that doesn’t contain a Clean Dream Act. It takes a minute or two of your time, and you don’t have to be a citizen to make your voice heard. I know, because there are tons of us doing it every day.