After a 17-year journey, my parents will no longer be undocumented. This was no easy feat to accomplish, I lived 11 of those years without papers along with them, and once I was able to adjust my status, it was five more years until I became a citizen and I could petition my parents for their residency.
As Congress continues to negotiate legislation that would give status to over 800,000 DACA recipients, the executive action signed by President Obama that gave temporary status to qualifying immigrant youth, conservatives have increasingly used the process to extract anti-immigrant demands. The most alarming of those, is perhaps calls by legislators and the White House to end so called “chain migration” as a prerequisite to any Dream Act bill being signed.
The term chain migration has been used by the White House and conservatives in an effort to avoid the current United States immigration policy of family reunification from being mentioned in the media. This is a trick that the right-wing uses time and again to frame political discourse, by controlling the language, they can control the narrative. Examples of this are pushing union busting, anti-labor legislation under the term “right to work”, or pushing regressive taxation policies that benefit the wealthiest of Americans as “tax relief.” Chain Migration just simply sounds harsher and more menacing then family reunification.
Recently in a meeting with members of Congress on immigration, Trump asked this: “Why do we want all these people from ‘shithole countries’ coming here?” He then proceeded to suggest that the United States would be better off if people from countries like Norway would come here. I’m mentioning this because it shows the same racist mentality that is driving forward anti-immigrant efforts, and more specifically, the need to use 800,000 immigrant youths as bargaining chips in an effort to get rid of family reunification policies.
Racist elements of the far right are afraid that demographic trends will soon make whites a minority in this country, and they are trying to delay the inevitable no matter what it takes, whether it is through extreme voter suppression tactics or anti-immigrant policies designed to make life for immigrants miserable.
The White House has used deceiving propaganda diagrams showing a single immigrant bringing dozens of relatives to the United States. These diagrams simply do not reflect the way family reunification actually works. The system that does not move fast enough to allow visa-sponsoring in that manner, while bringing spouses or minor children can be relatively easy in some cases, sponsoring even an immediate family member can often take 20 years or more. I know from experience, my father explored that option with his sister, but soon abandoned it when finding out that he would have to wait over two decades in Argentina.
Democrats in Congress need to take bold and decisive action while negotiating for a clean Dream Act. Trump put the Dreamers in their current situation when he needlessly ended the DACA program that shielded them from deportation, it’s his responsibility to expedite the negotiation process so a deal can be made that protects them. They should not be used as bargaining chips to extract more punitive measures against immigrant communities.
Family reunification allowed me to petition my parents to become U.S. residents after seventeen long years. During that time, my parents paid their taxes, bought a home, started a small construction business, and were for all intent and purposes, upstanding citizens. They deserved a path to legalization after almost two long and difficult decades of living as undocumented immigrants in this country that they call home. Other families deserve the same opportunity.