Scrubbing the English Language of Meaning: “Chain Migration” Now an Offensive Term

Next to the American public, which has been saddled with enormous costs and needless tragedies due to our failed immigration policies, the English language has been the greatest victim of the immigration debate. As all successful propagandists throughout history have known, controlling language is key to controlling minds. The rancorous political climate in general, and the debate about immigration policy in particular, are examples of how language, rather than ideas, are driving policy.

Terms like “illegal alien” (a proper legal definition of foreign nationals who are in the country without permission), or “amnesty” (a clear description of a policy that forgives lawbreakers for their violations), to name just two, can no longer be used in polite company or appear on the pages of leading newspapers. The next target of the immigration thought police is “chain migration” – a term first devised by demographers and sociologists to describe the phenomenon of family members or neighbors who follow one another from their place of origin to a new country or a new city.

Accuracy, of course, is the mortal enemy of propaganda. As such, the people who want to preserve an immigration system based on having one relative sponsor the next relative – or, dare we say, chain migration – now want to scrub that term as well. For the record, a mere 16 percent of American voters think that chain migration is a good policy, so the only way for them to prevail over basic commonsense is to make basic commonsense toxic.

Leading the assault on the term “chain migration” is none other than the Minority Whip of the United States Senate, Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) who has led a two decade long campaign for amnesty (oops, a pathway to citizenship) with blatant appeals to emotion. In response to President Trump’s use of clear language on the topic, Durbin responded, “When it came to the issue of, quote, ‘chain migration,’ I said to the president: ‘Do you realize how painful that term is to so many people? African-Americans believe they migrated to America in chains, and when you talk about chain migration, it hurts them personally.’”

It turns out that African-Americans (who overwhelmingly oppose chain migration) didn’t even know they were offended by the term until Sen. Durbin told them they should be. Even The New York Times, which long ago threw in the towel on “illegal alien” and “amnesty” had to point out the absurdity of Durbin’s attack on “chain migration.”

“Durbin’s contention was perplexing on several levels. The trans-Atlantic slave trade is not a matter of belief; it happened. It also is not typically described as migration, which implies agency and means. Slavers migrated; slaves were transported. What’s painful is having to spell that out, especially when there’s no evidence that black people have ever associated chain migration with slavery,” writes Stephen Kearse in the paper’s Sunday magazine.

The Times’ resistance to the dictates of the language police is admirable, but history teaches us that the language police don’t give up easily. It took years for the mainstream media to succumb to pressure by the immigration propagandists to drop “illegal alien” from their lexicon, but eventually they did. Now that Durbin has declared that “chain migration” is not only offensive, but racially offensive its days may be numbered. That’s how propagandists prevail over 84 percent of American voters.

About Author


Ira joined the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in 1986 with experience as a journalist, professor of journalism, special assistant to Gov. Richard Lamm (Colorado), and press secretary of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. His columns have appeared in National Review, LA Times, NY Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, and more. He is an experienced TV and radio commentator.


  1. avatar
    Gayle F. Boden on

    I prefer the term: Chain Invasion. As for “illegal alien”, I ALWAYS refer to them more correctly as “ILLEGAL INVADERS”. It is very important to stand against all thought-police.. After all, they are bullies who need to be opposed.

  2. avatar

    It is extremely frustrating to me that the radicals, mostly lefties, are becoming not only the thought police, but are becoming the controllers of the definitions of our words and phrases. In this mode they are erasing the meanings of words that have been common for hundreds of years and inserting their new definitions which fit their propaganda better. If this continues it makes our language essentially meaningless. It all fits in with their program of teaching all the kids to be nihilists. So many teachers are leftists, most having been indoctrinated by far left professors, that our schools are churning out kids who sound like the Hitler youth, or like the people of North Korea who know only the propaganda and little or no actual history.

  3. avatar

    It’s time to stop being bullied by language fascists. I will use the terms I prefer. I will not call them “people of color”, which is horribly awkwards. The correct term is “blacks”. KMA if you don’t like it. And for chain migration, I will use that as well. It’s good for 2-3 things – it describes the preference for immigrants. It also describes my preference for illegals – I want “chain migration” for them – in chains, migrating home.