Chain Migration and the RAISE Act: How Changes May Impact Family Immigration

Also called family reunification, chain migration allows Green Card holders to petition the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to bring over spouses and minor children. Once the petitioner is granted citizenship, they can apply to bring over their extended family including parents, married children, and adult siblings.

Current State of Family Immigration

Many of the roughly one million immigrants granted citizenship will apply to sponsor a family member. In fact, in 2017, family visas made up around 37 percent of all applications. The current system does set limits on how many extended family members one can sponsor, as well as caps on the number of immigrants from each country.

Immigration Policy in the United States

Family ImmigrationPresident Trump, an outspoken critic of today’s immigration policies, is strongly opposed to family reunification programs. Recently, the Trump administration announced that 800,000 immigrants currently living in the US, legally, under the DREAM Act or DACA, could soon be deported unless Congress agrees to do away with many of the family immigrant categories. Opposing President Trump, many lawmakers and immigration advocates, who believe that keeping the family unit together is crucial for successful assimilation into our society, as family members provide important support networks for immigrants.

A Shift to Merit-Based Immigration

As part of a broader policy, Trump has called for merit-based immigration which rewards points based on skills, high-paying employment offers, past achievements, English proficiency, abilities, and education. The more points an applicant accrues, the more likely they are to get a visa. The aim is to clear a broader path for those who can contribute the most to society and the economy while limiting the admission of others. The Trump immigration agenda is four-pronged:

  • Repeal DACA
  • Build a wall
  • Eliminate the diversity visa
  • Replace family-based immigration with a merit-based one, and

The RAISE Act: 4 Significant Changes

In February of 2017 in Senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue submitted the RAISE Act (Senate Bill 354). RAISE, an acronym for Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment meets all the criteria of merit-based immigration. Here is what you need to know about the RAISE Act:

  • Places limit Green Cards for extended family members.
  • Eliminates the green card lottery and the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program.
  • Limits the number of refugees and asylum seekers allowed into the country each year.
  • It decreases legal immigration by 50 percent over the next decade.

So, when will these changes take effect? Well, the wheels turn very slowly in Washington. The bill, introduced last year in the Senate, has not come up for a vote yet. A bipartisan group of six senators announced recently that they had reached an agreement “in principle” concerning immigration. It addresses the fate of 800,000 DACA recipients as well as other key immigration reform issues that were outlined by President Donald Trump.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives is mulling over its own solution: House Resolution 392 also called —the Fairness for Highly Skilled Immigrants Act of 2017. This is a separate proposal that is considerably different from the RAISE Act. In short, H.R. 392 would lift per-country limits for job-based immigration and it proposes to raise per-country limits for family-based immigration. For either bill to become law they will need at least 60 votes.

To learn more about family immigration law and how new legislation may impact your family, Elissa I. Henry Law Firm, PLLC is available to help answer any questions you may have.