FACT CHECK: Could DACA Legislation Lead To ‘Chain Migration’?

David Sivak | Fact Check Editor

President Donald Trump tweeted Friday that any DACA legislation must exclude the possibility of “chain migration.”

If Congress allows “Dreamers” to apply for legal status, Trump wants to ensure their family members cannot do the same. Fox News host Tucker Carlson and others have raised the possibility of chain migration in the event Congress reaches a deal.

The Daily Caller News Foundation investigated whether the relatives of Dreamers could indeed become lawful residents if DACA legislation passes Congress.

Verdict: True

If Congress allows Dreamers to apply for green cards and eventually citizenship, they will be able to sponsor immediate family members including spouses, children, parents and siblings for permanent residency in the U.S.

Fact Check:

Family reunification is one of the main features of the current U.S. immigration system, which allows green card holders and U.S. citizens to sponsor certain immediate family members for lawful permanent residency.

This process has been called “chain migration” because new immigrants tend to bring additional family members to the U.S. In fact, of the roughly 1.1 million new green card holders admitted to the country in 2015, 65 percent were admitted on the basis of family ties.

Green card holders can only sponsor their spouses and children. In addition, the amount of U.S. immigration each year is limited by country-specific caps. These caps have resulted in a backlog of 4.3 million qualifying family members who are waiting to be admitted to the U.S.

If Congress allows Dreamers to apply for green cards – as several proposals would do – their ability to bring relatives to the U.S. would be subject to these limitations. Fewer limitations apply though once Dreamers become U.S. citizens, at which point they can sponsor parents and siblings as well.

The siblings of Dreamers might be Dreamers themselves and qualify for green cards under DACA legislation. The parents, however, would certainly require sponsorship from their child to become lawful residents.

If a Dreamer’s parents overstayed a visa, the parents could remain in the country and be sponsored for a green card. But parents of Dreamers who crossed the border illegally would need to return to their country of origin and apply three or 10 years later (depending on how long they were in the U.S. illegally). The government might waive this requirement in cases of extreme hardship.

The relatives of U.S. citizens aren’t counted in the annual caps for green cards, so if parents can successfully apply, this opens the door to a greater flow of chain migration. The Migration Policy Institute estimates that up to 1.5 million Dreamers would be eligible to eventually sponsor family members under proposed legislation.

It is unclear whether Congress will pass a law to protect Dreamers, but multiple bills would provide them with a period of conditional lawful status, followed by a traditional path to U.S. citizenship. Without new caps on chain migration or other changes to current immigration law, relatives of Dreamers could in many cases become lawful permanent residents.

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David Sivak

Fact Check Editor

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