The Corner

Politics & Policy

The Fruit of Chain Migration

Sen. Tom Cotton asked on the floor of the Senate last week, “Shouldn’t we have an immigration system that focuses on the needs of America’s workers and economy, not one that gives out green cards by random chance?”

Yesterday’s bombing in New York highlights the importance of this question. Sure, without any immigration at all we’d still have frustrated losers to deal with, but they’d be our frustrated losers. We chose to add Bangladeshi jihadist Akayed Ullah to our stock of dirtbags through the ridiculous provisions of the federal immigration program.

Ullah came here on what amounts to a nephew visa – as the under-21 nephew of a naturalized citizen who sponsored his sibling (one of Ullah’s parents) for a green card. And Ullah’s uncle (or maybe aunt – we don’t know) only got here in the first place because he or she won the visa lottery.

So, we admitted a random person from Bangladesh without any meaningful consideration of his or her suitability or likelihood to contribute to the national good. And then, once a citizen, that person sponsored a sibling and that sibling’s spouse and children (including a then-20-year-old Akayed), again without any consideration of suitability or likelihood to benefit Americans. As my colleague Andrew Arthur wrote, “No investment in the United States, its systems of beliefs, or its institutions is necessary. Not even support for its economic success is a prerequisite for admission. The only tie and admission requirement is one of blood.” In other words, we leave it to yesterday’s immigrants to determine tomorrow’s immigration flow.

There was nothing in Ullah’s immigration backstory that we know of so far that was illegal. Nor is this necessarily a failure of vetting; Ullah and his family were no doubt checked against the usual terrorist databases. As another colleague, Jessica Vaughan, has written, “No matter how much we improve our vetting, the sheer momentum of chain migration-driven immigration from terror-afflicted parts of the world is itself a national security risk.”

Neither higher walls, nor more officers, nor better databases would have made any difference in this case. The problem is too much immigration, selected using flawed criteria.

Luckily, there are several measures before Congress to remedy this situation. The RAISE Act of senators Cotton and Perdue, Rep. Lamar Smith’s House companion Immigration in the National Interest Act, and Rep. Dave Brat’s American LAWs Act all would abolish the visa lottery and eliminate chain migration by limiting special family immigration rights only to spouses and minor (under age 18) children. The first two bills would also change the skills-based portion of our immigration program to better identify top talents.

The debate over a legitimate amnesty for the beneficiaries of Obama’s illegal DACA program should serve as an opening to finally end the visa lottery and chain migration. Let’s hope our representatives don’t squander the opportunity.

Mark Krikorian, a nationally recognized expert on immigration issues, has served as Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) since 1995.

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