Maintaining Our Family-Based Immigration System

PHOTO: SPENCER LEE GALLOP | THE LEGAL AID SOCIETY

The Hill, Letter to the Editor: "Break the Chain and Lose the LotteryAmerica Deserves a Better Immigration System"
By Hasan Shafiqullah
December 15th, 2017

Dear Editors:

Politicians often exploit tragedies to promote kneejerk policy ideas, and the proposal floated by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Francis Cissna in your opinion pages is the latest example of this. Despite the director's objection, family reunification is at the heart of our immigration system and this has rightfully been so for decades, through both Republican and Democratic administrations.

Family-based immigration bears manifold benefits—economical, societal and others. According to a recent report by the American Immigration Council, data shows that immigrants on these visas contribute significantly to domestic growth through entrepreneurship and have a propensity for upward mobility, more so than many other segments of the labor force. Also, this proposal is antithetical to many cultures whose households have three or more generations living under one roof. 

Yes, we need skilled immigrants, but what scientist would want to immigrate here without ever having the opportunity to sponsor their mother, father or other relative who are not themselves considered "highly skilled?" We should not seek to condemn the newest members of our society to such a lonely existence.

The reality is, for those who have moved to the United States to realize the American dream, having their family members join them is only right and should be encouraged. People wait in line for years, in some cases more than 23 years, to sponsor their family members.

It's regretful that Monday's subway bomber in New York City was an immigrant, but, as the endless parade of American-born mass shooters demonstrates, national origin is no predictor of violence. To the contrary, the vast majority of immigrants quietly contribute to our society and strengthen its fabric. If anything, President Trump should build on this, not tear it down.