By the appearance of things, no one in the White House, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services or any of the other federal agencies that oversee immigration is willing to do the practical math that links their policies to problematic population growth.
The latest annually reoccurring example: On Sept. 17, USCIS celebrated Constitution Day and Citizenship Day to kick off a 10-day stretch that will feature more than 260 naturalization ceremonies, which will grant citizenship to about 45,000 lawful permanent residents.
The Oath of Allegiance for citizenship represents a joyous time in the lives of new Americans. But the USCIS news release announcing the ceremonies had some alarming information about citizenship’s dramatic increases during recent years. Unmentioned, as always, is the effect more naturalized citizens have on already unsustainable U.S. population growth.
On average over the last two fiscal years, USCIS has experienced a 25 percent increase in the number of naturalization applications. The agency is on pace to complete at least 829,000 N-400 applications for FY18, the highest since 2013, and a near 10-year high.
Last year, USCIS naturalized more than 716,000 immigrants. From 2013 to 2017, the average approval rate has been 91 percent.
The casual observer might wonder what the big deal is. The new 829,000 Americans have been living in the United States for several years, and don’t really represent a population bump. Enter chain migration, which begins when an original immigrant brings in his nuclear family — a spouse and minor children — on average 3.5 more people. Suddenly, a single person can morph into 4.5 people.
This year’s 829,000 naturalized citizens, all lifetime work authorized, will eventually, through chain migration, bring to the United States about 2.9 million new residents.
Here’s how nepotism-based immigration works. Newly minted citizens can sponsor their nuclear family, who can then sponsor their families, who can sponsor their parents, who can sponsor their siblings, etc., ad infinitum. Even distant relatives can qualify. Decades after the Vietnam War ended, Vietnamese nationals continue arriving in the United States.
In its astonishing story, “One Face of Immigration in America is a Family Tree Rooted in Asia,” The New York Times chronicled how a single 23-year-old Indian immigrant was the catalyst for 90 chain migrants living today throughout the United States.
Between the 1970s and the mid-’80s, the Indian national brought his wife, mother, five sisters and a brother to the United States from his native land. In later years, his siblings sponsored family members of their own, and their clan now stretches from Nevada to Florida, and New Jersey to Texas.
Chain immigrants arrive regardless of their skills, or lack thereof, and without consideration for how their presence may affect Americans’ job opportunities or wages.
Sensible immigration that works in Americans’ best interests requires eliminating chain categories. Immigrants could still visit their extended families by traveling to their home countries. In exceptional cases, visas for longer stays could be secured for elder care, but would not include work authorization, access to affirmative benefits, voting rights or, most important, the ability to petition other family members.
As is so often said, the U.S. immigration system is broken. But the follow-up is rarely stated: chain migration, a major reason for the broken system, contributes more than 70 percent of today’s record high immigration. This should end by limiting to the nuclear family.
— Joe Guzzardi is an analyst and researcher with Progressives for Immigration Reform who now lives in Pittsburgh. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter: @joeguzzardi19. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.