Chain migration is a problem. We have immigration laws in this country for two basic reasons: to preserve American jobs and protect national security. Chain migration undermines both of these principles.
For decades, Washington has subjected local communities and institutions to the unfunded liability of low-skilled legal and illegal immigration.
Under current law, citizens and lawful permanent residents can sponsor distant foreign national relatives to immigrate to the United States. Those relatives may in turn sponsor other relatives, thereby extending the chain.
This irrational provision to immigration law has created an endless chain of migration based only on minor family connections, not merit.
The simple point here is that America needs an immigration system predicated on merit. Low-skilled immigrants don't pay enough in taxes to cover the cost of benefits they stand to receive.
While this weighs on the federal budget, the most significant impact is on state and local budgets struggling to accommodate the flooding population growth. Hospitals, schools, and law enforcement all must spread resources across a broader base without an accompanying rise in revenue.
The chain migration surge has weighed heavily on state and local resources. I don't need an expert to explain this to me, I've lived it on the front lines.
As a former mayor, I experienced first-hand the strain on resources inherent in such an uncontrolled surge. Instead of helping the local community by enforcing immigration law, the federal government ignored my pleas for assistance.
I am encouraged President Donald Trump has put a priority on enforcement.
The influx of low-skilled immigrant labor has also oversaturated the labor market, stagnating working wages. What some of my colleagues in Congress fail to recognize is that chain migration is most devastating to American citizens who are struggling just to get by.
Many may work two or even three jobs to feed their families and pay their bills. Chain migration hurts these Americans the most.
Extended family chain migration must be stripped from immigration law, tightened to include only immediate family members.
Further changes must be made to create a system which prioritizes skills and bolsters sufficient safeguards for American workers like E-Verify and visa overstay enforcement.
As a generous and compassionate nation, we should strive to preserve resources for American citizens, not drown public resources and worker wages with more recipients.
Immigration to the United States has quadrupled from around 250,000 people per year in the 1950s and 1960s, to more than one million annually since 1990. America, the third most populous nation in the world with over 327 million people, cannot simultaneously sustain such high levels of immigration along with a high standard of living.
In fact, Jessica Vaughan, the Director of Policy Studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, highlighted the "multiplier effect" of chain migration.
She found that, over the last 35 years, out of 33 million immigrants admitted to the United States, about 20 million were chain migration immigrants - a staggering 61 percent.
Chain migration is now the largest source of foreign immigration to the U.S.
Mexico has the highest rate of chain migration, where each new immigrant from the nation sponsored 6.38 additional immigrants. Chain migration does not require any skill or standards of merit identifying the applicant as a net contributor to the well-being of America.
This is a problem pervasive to the entire system. America's standard should first and foremost require demonstration of merit and net contribution, not based on family connection ambivalent to the net receipt of American taxpayer assistance.
Another problematic aspect of chain migration is the incentive created for illegal immigration. Instead of waiting in line, the relative oftentimes is encouraged to come to the United States, waiting it out locally for the fruits of family sponsorship or amnesty.
The age of terrorism raises another concern. Chain migration is based on no fundamental urge to become American. You should only look to Europe to see the problems of loose, open border immigration policies.
The security risk inherent to chain migration resides in why one may immigrate to the United States. Do they want to become American? Do they believe in the principles of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?" The current system makes no distinction. Chain migration does not request such dedication or apply such a standard.
In Congress, I will continue to be a strong advocate for a merit-based immigration standard. Even as we look with compassion towards illegal immigrants, any path forward must prioritize the economic needs and safety of American citizens first.
Written by Lou Barletta
U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, a Republican, represents the Hazleton-based 11th Congressional District, which also includes a portion of the midstate. He is also a candidate for the 2018 nomination for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania. He writes from Washington D.C.