Sorting Out Part of the Problem

By James R. Edwards, Jr. on October 31, 2011

The New York Times article about freshman Republicans in Congress being open to certain visa relief glosses over one main underlying problem: chain migration.

At the core of much of our immigration problem lies chain migration, the automatic-pilot visa-granting to an initial immigrant's adult siblings, aged parents, grown offspring, etc. Chain migration visas well beyond the nuclear family unit bloat immigration levels, stock the country with low-skilled and less-educated individuals, and block the faster admittance of both more highly skilled foreigners and immediate family members.

Take, for instance, the following from the Times:

But members [of Congress] are increasingly supporting limited immigration measures that center on a discrete issue, like shortening the green card process, which can now take years, for science and math Ph.D. candidates who wish to teach or work in the United States. The limited number of green cards for such professionals, and country quotas, has caused a backlog of them trying to enter the United States, with the majority from India or China.

Setting aside the risks to national security associated with giving visas to Chinese communists who might well serve China's interests as agents within the United States, the immigrant preference system clogs the immigration system – and burdens the United States with – people getting visas for no other reason than their blood or marriage relations to someone already here.

Eliminate chain migration visas and reduce the overall immigration levels, and the country could speed up visa processing for immigrants with more human capital. And ending chain migration would ensure that the single desirable immigrant wouldn't end up as a net burden on account of sponsoring a long chain of distant relatives who would impose a cost and drag on the country.

Any lawmaker who talks about visa relief should do so in terms of a net reduction to overall immigration, particularly by doing away with chain migration visas and the visa lottery.