‘Chain Migration’ Has Become a Weaponized Phrase. Here Are the Facts Behind It.
As Congress considers a deal to provide relief for young immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children, President Trump and his Republican allies are demanding an end to what they call “chain migration,” or family-based immigration.
The term itself has become a point of contention. Democrats and immigration advocates claim it is a pejorative phrase that demeans recent arrivals. Republicans argue it’s a useful shorthand for family sponsorship.
Below is a look at the facts behind recent family/chain immigration patterns, the underlying federal policies that govern them, and a look at how use of the phrase “chain migration” itself has very suddenly become a contentious and polarizing part of the debate.
How many immigrants are admitted through family sponsorship?
Since the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, the United States has prioritized admitting immigrants with relatives living here. According to data from the Department of Homeland Security, about 7 million out of the nearly 11 million immigrants who obtained green cards from 2007 to 2016, did so through family relations.
How does the sponsorship process work?
Under current law, American green card holders can sponsor their spouses and unmarried children for permanent residence — just like naturalized and native-born citizens. And United States citizens can also petition for residence for their parents, siblings and married adult children.
That said, there is a long queue for visas because of numerical limits for family-based immigration each year. As of Nov. 1, more than 3.9 million people were waiting in line.
After a petition is filed and approved, would-be immigrants are essentially handed a ticket number called a “priority date” and can only apply for a green card when the State Department calls their number.
Depending on the country of origin, a sponsor’s immigration status and the applicant’s relationship to their sponsor, the waiting period can last from months to decades.<纽约时报中英文网 http://www.qqenglish.com/>
In January 2018, for example, most immigrants sponsored by their United States-citizen siblings could begin to apply for a green card if their priority date was before June 22, 2004, a waiting period of 13.5 years. Those from other “oversubscribed” countries like India, Mexico and the Philippines would have needed to have an even earlier priority date.
What is the relationship between “chain migration” and DACA?
To apply for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, immigrants had to be younger than 31 on June 15, 2012, and must have proof of having arrived in the United States before age 16.
要申请“童年入境暂缓遣返程序”（Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals，简称DACA），移民必须在2012年6月15日时已经年满31岁，并且必须有在16岁之前到达美国的证明。
Theoretically, the children of those applicants are more likely to be American citizens, and their spouses also legal residents, citizens or Dreamers, according to the liberal Center for American Progress.
根据自由派机构美国进步中心(Center for American Progress)的数据，从理论上讲，这些申请者的子女更有可能是美国公民，他们的配偶也会是合法居民、公民或“梦想者”(Dreamer)。
If Dreamers are given a pathway to citizenship through legislation, they in turn could sponsor their parents for legal status as well. But those who entered the United States illegally are required to leave the country and wait three or 10 years before applying for an immigration visa. That’s “a significant barrier most would be unlikely to contemplate,” according to the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute.
如果梦想者通过立法得到了获得公民身份的渠道，他们反过来也可以为他们的父母提供法律地位。但是那些非法进入美国的人被要求离开这个国家，等待3到10年后才能申请移民签证。根据无党派机构移民政策研究所(Migration Policy Institute)的数据，这是“大多数人不可能克服的一个重大障碍”。
Because of these factors, the institute estimates that the Dreamers would sponsor, on average, about one family member over their lifetime.
由于这些因素，研究所估计，一个梦想者一生中平均只能担保大约一个家庭成员。 纽约时报中英文网 http://www.qqenglish.com
Where does chain migration come in?
“Chain migration” was originally a neutral, if not dry, phrase used by academics to describe the immigration process. For example, an academic paper from 1964 describes the benefit of “initial accommodation and employment arranged by means of primary social relationships with previous migrants” while discussing the growth of Italian neighborhoods in American cities.
In scholarship, the term appears to have emerged in the 1960s before tapering off in recent years, and even being eclipsed by the more recently established “family reunification.”
But popular use of the older phrase has skyrocketed. According to Google Trends search data, there were only modest spikes in user queries while immigration policies were debated in 2005 and 2015, before a spike in December 2017.
Why the sudden uptick?
The White House and allies have deployed the phrase to label existing policy they find undesirable. In talking points and white papers, they have stated a preference for a merit-based system while labeling the current sponsorship process as “chain migration.”
Democrats, meanwhile, prefer the term “family reunification” and say the practice is a reflection of American values.
Discussing DACA negotiations on Jan. 12, Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, called the term “offensive.” Though he has actually used it himself as recently as 2010 — a time when it appeared to be less of a loaded phrase between the two political parties.
伊利诺伊州民主党参议员理查德·J·德宾(Richard J. Durbin)在1月12日的谈判中称这个词“令人反感”。然而他自己在2010年就已经开始使用这个词了——在当时，这个措辞在两党的表述中并没有什么特殊的色彩。
Leo Chavez, a professor at the University of California at Irvine who studies media representations of immigration, said he had seldom heard ”chain migration” in public discourse until the debate over immigration intensified in the last few months.
研究移民之媒体呈现的加州大学欧文分校(University of California at Irvine)教授利奥·查韦斯(Leo Chavez)表示，在过去几个月有关移民问题的辩论加剧之前，他很少在公共话语中听到“连锁移民”。
“It’s an attempt to sway public opinion,” Mr. Chavez said, adding that the once-scholarly term has taken on negative connotations as “if it’s a conspiracy, a plot, a threat to the changing demographics.”
It is not unlike “anchor baby,” “the browning of America” or even “Dreamers,” on the flip side, Mr. Chavez said. Such phrases have become more common in the ongoing debate about “how you talk about who are citizens, who are members of the nation and who can become Americans. It’s never a settled question. It hasn’t been for 200 years and it isn’t now.”