Chain Migration's Health Care Drain

By James R. Edwards, Jr. on April 24, 2013

Too many mass immigration proponents gloss over the real costs and drain on America's public resources that chain migration causes. And you hardly ever hear a peep in lame-stream news media. A rare exception comes from Bloomberg, in an essay by a Princeton researcher.

Professor Marta Tienda notes the combination of unlimited visas for naturalized citizens' parents and the pathetically low 125 percent of poverty income threshold for immigrants to be able to sponsor relatives outside the nuclear family (i.e., parents and young children).

The Senate amnesty bill does little to improve the situation of chain migration, importing more and more "mature" immigrants who drain U.S. health care, including Medicare and Medicaid. This arises from visa categories for elderly parents, adult siblings, and adult children. Writes Tienda:

But the rules that also allow them, after they become U.S. citizens, to sponsor their parents have produced a rapid increase, over the past three decades, in the share of legal immigrants who arrive at age 50 or older, especially from countries such as China, India, and the Philippines. ...

My research shows that every 100 legal immigrants from Asia admitted from 1996 to 2000 sponsored almost 400 relatives by 2009, of whom one-quarter were age 50 or older. The vast majority of immigrant seniors are parents of naturalized citizens. If visas for these people aren't restricted, then Congress should strengthen enforcement-of-support requirements for sponsored parents by enforcing those requirements currently on the books.


My own research shows the fiscal burden that the older links of chain migration impose on America's health system. Amnesty only exacerbates the chain drain. Therefore, it would seem preferable that we end chain migration altogether.

For immigrants' older parents, a temporary visa that may be perpetually renewed should supplant green cards; a low, tight annual cap should be put in place for how many immigrant parents we accept; and sponsors should have to buy the parents an comprehensive health insurance policy up front, as well as be billed for their sponsored visa-holders' use of public health care resources. That's the only fair way to balance the national interest with visa sponsors' requested privilege.

Professor Tienda's conclusion puts the issue clearly and rightly:




Particularly in a period of tight fiscal constraints and an aging population, Congress needs to consider whether we can still afford policies designed in the 1960s, at the end of the baby boom, when the newly enacted Medicare and Medicaid programs didn't cost nearly as much as they do today.

We should base our decisions about family visas on evidence about the costs of late-age migration rather than on sentimental ideas about reuniting extended families.