Niskanen Center Report Outlines Proposed Changes to Family-Based (Chain) Migration


“Chain migration” is a disparaging term that refers to the legal, family-based immigration system that is the bedrock of immigration policy in the United States. As a result of our historically conservative principles aimed at reuniting and preserving nuclear families, as well as facilitating quick assimilation, our migration system centers around giving preference to immigrants with family already in the U.S.

There is increasing interest in transitioning our family-based immigration system to a merits-based system that prioritizes accepting immigrants with specific skills, rather than family ties. Within the last year, a number of lawmakers have proposed changes that limit the scope of family members that can be sponsored by relatives for an immigrant visa; these proposals do not, however, reallocate the lost visas to employment-based or skills-based immigrant populations.

The impact to overall immigration levels is compelling. This report presents the short-term and long-term impact of proposed legislation like the RAISE Act and SUCCEED Act on overall immigration levels, as well as two other hypothetical scenarios. Additionally, it provides an introduction to family-based immigration, the petition process and requirements for immigrants entering the country, clarification of common myths about family-based immigration, and our recommendations.

Ultimately, the report concludes that without accompanying increases to numerical limits elsewhere, each scenario limiting family-based migration will lead to significantly lower levels of immigration in the long term, which will negatively affect our economy. Although family-based immigration is the bedrock of our system, it may be ripe for pragmatic, scaled improvement.

The full report is available here and the one-page overview is available here.

Image by kalhh from Pixabay

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