Sunday, January 21, 2018

I Am a U.S. Citizen Thanks to Chain Migration

I am an American citizen because of "chain migration." 

"Chain migration," which Donald Trump calls "horrible," is the process whereby immigrants already legally residing in the U.S. can petition the Immigration Service to allow their extended family to immigrate (if they meet the requirements). In other words, it is designed to foster family reunification--a long U.S. immigration tradition. For example, in 1885, 16-year old Friedrich Trump (Donald Trump’s grandfather)--who spoke little English and had no career skills--immigrated from Germany to join his oldest sister in the U.S. The tale of the United States--a nation of immigrants--is one of "chain migration."

My parents, my sister and I immigrated to the U.S. in the late 1960's. In our case we were able to immigrate because my father's cousin, who had previously immigrated to the U.S., petitioned on our behalf. The entire application process took about a year. Another requirement for immigration at that time was that my parents had to have at least $1,000.00 in the bank (that was in 1967-68, so it would be about $7,500.00 in today's dollars). My parent's were young working-class adults with two kids at the time and so were pretty broke, but a family member put $1,000.00 into my parent's bank account and let it sit there in order to meet this requirement. After we had settled in the U.S. the money was withdrawn from the account and returned to the family member.

Upon moving to the U.S., my dad worked as a printer and my mom initially made money "under the table" providing daycare in our apartment. Ultimately my dad worked for 25 years at a major newspaper and my mom worked as a secretary for many years (first for a lawyer and then for a city government agency). Despite lacking college educations, my parents worked hard and fulfilled the American dream, buying houses and cars and paying taxes and contributing to society and living a comfortable middle-class existence and providing opportunities for their progeny that they never had for themselves. Their children both earned Master's degrees and made higher salaries than their parents. One grandchild is earning a doctorate in physics while the other is in college to become a computer animator. That's what "chain migration" enabled the Coleman's to accomplish in the United States. 

So when I hear Donald Trump and Republican politicians/pundits and their supporters railing against "chain migration," I hear them railing against me and my family.

We didn't enter the U.S. through Ellis Island, as so many immigrants before us did, but it is interestingly symbolic that on the one year anniversary of Donald Trump's inauguration as president, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty are closed.


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