‘Chain migration’ weaponized

Restriction of legal and illegal immigration as a major platform of the right wing has always been laced with racism and xenophobia – or a hatred or fear of people from other countries. Trump’s campaign for president was riddled with racist rhetoric about immigrants.

His fetish for border walls and restriction of immigration has not died down since he became president, and his State of the Union address honed in on one particular topic – “chain migration.” A once neutral term, “chain migration” has now been weaponized by the right wing to demonize immigrants and spread falsehoods about immigration.

“Chain migration” started as a neutral term in academic works in the 1960s, and it was described as “movement in which prospective immigrants learn of opportunities, are provided with transportation, and have initial accommodation and employment arranged by means of primary social relationships with previous migrants” in The Milbank Memorial Fund Quarterly, a journal of health policy. Currently, “chain migration” refers to the current process of “family reunification,” established by the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965. Also known as the Hart-Celler Act, it brought an end to immigration quotas based on national origin, according to history.com.

In President Trump’s State of the Union address, he used the term “chain migration” to refer to a nonexistent problem, saying that “under the current broken system, a single immigrant can bring in virtually unlimited numbers of distant relatives.” However, this is misleading, as one can only directly petition for immediate family members, and such petitions can take years to be fulfilled, according to Politifact. President Trump claimed in his speech that “two terrorist attacks in New York were made possible by the visa lottery and chain migration.” The term “chain migration” is being used to paint a picture of immigrants rapidly swarming into the United States and wreaking havoc on the lives of US citizens.

The White House website claims that “chain migration” brings in an unskilled foreign workforce, causes wages to decrease due to said immigrants’ willingness to work for less, and undermines national security. NumbersUSA, a group that advocates for reduced immigration into the United States, liberally uses the term “chain migration.” The group’s founder, John Tanton, has been criticized by the Southern Poverty Law Center for his desire to maintain a “European-American majority” in the U.S.

It is time to retire the term, or at least its association with an anti-immigrant agenda fueled by racism and xenophobia.

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