Fact Check

Trump’s SOTU claim that immigrants can bring ‘unlimited distant relatives’ into the U.S. is a lie

During his State of the Union speech Tuesday night, President Trump tried to breath new life into the “chain migration” myth, claiming that immigrants can sponsor distant relatives in addition to parents and siblings for residency.

“Under the current broken system, a single immigrant can bring in virtually unlimited numbers of distant relatives,” Trump said during the speech. “Under our plan, we focus on the immediate family by limiting sponsorships to spouses and minor children. This vital reform is necessary, not just for our economy, but for our security, and our future.”

That is downright false. While it’s true that legal immigrants can indeed sponsor their spouses, children, parents, and siblings, distant relatives are not allowed to be considered for residency. Additionally, the number the family visas that can be granted are capped by the government.

The misleading narrative was also promoted by the White House in the run-up to Trump’s SOTU. Last week, the Trump administration released a chart that sought to push the false claim that America’s current immigration policies are allowing throngs of loosely-related relatives of immigrants to enter into the country.

As POLITICO points out, the narrative is an attempt to undo a fundamental premise of legal immigration: allowing immigrants who have become citizens to reunite with their family members.

But we don’t have an unlimited system. In fact, back in 1988, the federal agency then known as the General Accounting Office found that the immigration system’s waiting lists make chain migration a theory that doesn’t really happen in practice. This is because each link in the chain takes years—and sometimes decades—to complete. Bluntly put, America isn’t being overrun by Chinese- and Mexican-born grandmas.

Due to the long waiting periods for family visas — some lasting well over a decade — the idea that chain migration is a thing is patently false. The long waiting periods make it virtually impossible for a “chain” to form.

Featured image via screen grab/YouTube

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