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Trump Cuts to the Core of Legal Immigration Reformation

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During his first State of the Union Address, President Donald J. Trump made some big announcements in regards to immigration. The President, known to be a hardliner on the subject, seems to have actually compromised with Democrats in Congress when he announced that he will be offering the 1.8 million “Dreamers” (illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. by their parents as children) a “pathway to citizenship”, something that many didn’t see coming. Although, with the DACA compromise came more demands; Trump asked for 18 billion USD for his beloved boarder wall with Mexico, and two legal immigration reforms, the end to the Diversity Visa Lottery system and new bills preventing “Chain Migration”.

The Diversity Visa Lottery

President Trump wants to end the Diversity Visa Lottery immigration system and put in place a more merit-based system. The lottery based immigration system randomly selects a certain number of applicants from countries around the world with low numbers of yearly immigrants to the U.S., to receive entry into the country. Applicants to this lottery system are required to have very low qualifications, either a high school education or its equivalent from their respective country or two years of work experience, that’s it. It’s they’re selected, then they must follow the whole immigration process, and then the admitted person, their spouse, and their children are allowed to enter the country.

This merit-based system proposed by President Trump would mean doctors, engineers, and other educated people would be given priority in immigration, or that they would be accepted before. uneducated people. Meaning that less poor people people from impoverished and desolate countries would be granted access, countries like many of those in the war torn Middle East.

Chain Migration

Chain migration is the Washington-dubbed term for a form of immigration in which people are given an expedited entrance into the country because of a familial relationship to someone who has already legally entered the county and has already obtained either U.S. citizenship or a green card. Chain migration does not by any means grant automatic entrance to anyone into the country, but it allows those with family in the U.S., an advantage over many other potential immigrants.

About 50,000 immigration visas, or green cards, are given annually through this lottery, although that number may seem large, in 2013 it was roughly 5 percent of the total number of green cards issued in the United States. That same year, chain migration (familial ties) accounted for about 66 percent of immigrants, or 649,763 people. About 13 times the number of people let in by the actual Diversity Program itself. were let in due to family purposes. In other words, for every one person via the Diversity System, 13 family members are allowed in.

2011-2013 admittance to the United States and reasons

From 1981 to 2016 chain migration granted admission for about 20 million immigrants out of the 33 million accepted (or 61 percent). Those that come in through chain migration, like the randomly selected diversity lottery visa recipients, aren’t necessarily those who have the highest education, or the highest potential to benefit the country (according to the President), but the United States has never vetted immigration solely on which applicant has the best education.

Graph of chain migration immigrants- the number of people who came originally and those who were admitted because of them

This chain migration appears to be a loophole within the system that right now President Trump is really beginning to attack. He is doing so with his new 4 step immigration proposal that he delivered in his State of the Union address on January 30, 2018. Trump’s first two parts to his plan were directed towards the “path to citizenship” for DACA Dreamers and funding for the boarder wall, the President then explained the third and fourth parts to his plan saying:

“The third pillar ends the visa lottery, a program that randomly hands out green cards without any regard for skill, merit, or the safety of American people. (Applause.) It’s time to begin moving towards a merit-based immigration system, one that admits people who are skilled, who want to work, who will contribute to our society, and who will love and respect our country. (Applause.)”

This is where President Trump is suggesting that Congress vote to end the lottery (or random) selection of those who get to enter the country, and then replace it with this merit-based system.

The president continued:

“The fourth and final pillar protects the nuclear family by ending chain migration. (Applause.) Under the current broken system, a single immigrant can bring in virtually unlimited numbers of distant relatives. Under our plan, we focus on the immediate family by limiting sponsorships to spouses and minor children. (Applause.) This vital reform is necessary, not just for our economy, but for our security and for the future of America.

In recent weeks, two terrorist attacks in New York were made possible by the visa lottery and chain migration. In the age of terrorism, these programs present risks we can just no longer afford. (Applause.)”

In the terrorist attack in New York City that the president refers to, the bomber was a legal permanent resident from Bangladesh on a Family Immigrant Visa (a product of chain migration), due to the entrance of family members through the diversity program. President Trump is making the argument that if the immigration system was based on merit, not either chance or familial ties, that this attack never would’ve occurred and that keeping these policies means jeopardizing the safety of the American people.

Pictured: Akayed Ullah, the terrorist in the New York City subway bombing December 11, 2017.

He then, in his fourth pillar, explains what chain migration is and that he plans to end it as well, but in his plan the government will still providing the ability for an admitted person’s spouse and minor (under the age of 18) children.

President Trump has been know to be a very outspoken proponent of a more organized and strict immigration system, and it seems that now after he’s complete his first year in office (and gone through his first government shutdown) he is willing to budge in some areas (DACA) to actually make some change happen in others.

What’s the Michigan Effect?

Well, within the state of Michigan, both the Diversity Lottery Visa program and chain migration have effected the local area. For example, Dearborn has the largest population of Arab Muslims in the United States (representing roughly 45% of the city’s 103,000 plus population), and many of these Arab immigrants came through either the diversity lottery or are here because of chain migration.

This new immigration proposal, if put into effect, could drastically effect future generations of immigrants into Michigan. Many of the immigrants coming from these Middle Eastern countries wouldn’t qualify under a merit-based immigration system. The growth of the Arab immigrant population will for sure come to a slow if president Trump’s plan is passed into law.

Dearborn City Limits Sign

Sam Khatal, a Lebanese immigrant and a Dearborn Heights resident, is in the the United States because of chain migration. Beginning in 1989 at the age of 9 he had to flee from city to city throughout the Middle East dodging violence and conflict while his grandmother, who arrived in the United States in the early 1980s, tried to get admittance for Sam, his mother, and his siblings into America. Eventually, three years later, his grandmother was successful and Sam and his family were admitted. Without his grandparents status as citizens in the United States it is unlikely he would have been able to get out of the Middle East and into America. He finally arrived into the United States in 1992 at age 11 and has become a citizen since then. He’s a kind and hard working man with three young children and he’s the epitome of a naturalized American citizen.

People like Sam are the reason why Democrats are resisting this plan, his mother wasn’t a doctor or a lawyer, a diplomat or a highly educated woman of any kind, but she wanted to escape the unrest and violence in the Middle East and get a better life for her children, and this was made possible by the U.S. chain migration policies.

The population growth of the city of Dearborn and it’s heavily Arab immigrant population could really slow down if these proposals get passed because of the lack of educated people in the Middle East, their literacy rate was only at 78% in 2010. Dearborn has many immigrant run businesses and certainly wouldn’t be anything near what it is today without the Arab immigrants it has received.

What’s Going to Happen?

The answer is still not known, but with the new proposal comes obvious positive and negative results. Beginning with that terrorists may come into the country through the Diversity Visa System, but at the same time a merit-based system would provide more specialized workers, and create unskilled job openings for American citizens which would in turn decrease the national poverty rate from its current 4.1%. When you look at it like that it doesn’t seem like a bad change to make, but when you think about Sam and immigrants like him, its hard to think about denying people like him entry.

It’s been a long and difficult debate in congress with both Democrats and Republicans offering constant rebuttal and new proposals. Somehow they’re going to have to decide and do so soon as we continually approach the March expiration date for DACA, which if it expires will jeopardize the livelihood of 1.8 million illegal immigrants. No matter what congress decides on doing, if they want to keep the Dreamers in America, they’re going to have to act quick, and Democrats might just have to compromise with Trump on some of his legal immigration reforms

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Trump Cuts to the Core of Legal Immigration Reformation