The Chain Migration “Cover Charge” for New Immigrants

In a recent 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration could implement a new “public charge” rule that could make it harder for immigrants relying on public assistance to achieve legal status. Not surprisingly, open borders activist and New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez did not approve of the decision.

The freshman Congresswoman sent out a tweet slamming the “shameful” court ruling, proclaiming that “The American Dream isn’t a private club with a cover charge.” Apparently, AOC forgot about the prevalence of chain migration in our immigration system – which is blithely labeled “family reunification” by open borders cheerleaders.

Chain migration became a dominant feature of American immigration policy following the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act in 1965. It allows an immigrant to sponsor other family members for admission — including parents, children, and siblings – solely on the basis of a qualifying family relationship, without regard to an immigrant’s job skills, language abilities or employment prospects. Those relatives can in turn sponsor even more family members.

Because of chain migration, the American Dream actually does operate as “a private club with a cover charge.” In 2018, 1,096,611 immigrants were granted lawful permanent resident status. Of those, 695,524 immigrants gained lawful permanent resident status as a result of chain migration policies. That’s roughly 63 percent of all immigrants receiving lawful permanent resident status in 2018.

Due to our “private club” immigration policy, many of the most qualified prospective immigrants cannot meet the “cover charge” required to join because they do not have any relatives currently living in the United States. Last year, Fox News’ Tucker Carlson profiled Christine Mikolajuk, a journalist and consulting executive who spent 14 years applying for a green card in the United States.  Despite the fact that she “spent a decade following the rules,” “went to Harvard,” and “speaks fluent English,” Mikolajuk was continually denied legal permanent resident status in the United States.

“America makes it so hard to stay here if you’re applying on the basis of your skills and education,” Mikolajuk explained. “Seventy percent of green cards are given to people because of their family and whether they have a connection to a citizen already…Only 10% of green cards are given to people because of their jobs and their skills.”

Prioritizing migrants based on family relations instead of the skills they offer doesn’t serve the best interests of the United States. Senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue have introduced legislation that would remedy this by implementing a merit-based immigration system. The Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy (RAISE) Act would prioritize admission based on important factors including English fluency, education level, and age while substantially reducing family-based immigration. Thanks to opposition from both sides of the aisle, doing the bidding of economic and political interests that benefit from a never-ending supply of low-wage labor, the bill has failed to gain traction on Capitol Hill.

So, if AOC truly cared about making immigration policy operate less like a private club, she would advocate replacing the current system of chain migration with a more inclusive one that looks at the skills and values of applicants.

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