Ending “chain migration” is one of the 4 pillars of immigration reform that US President Trump mentioned in his first State of the Union address last January. He seems to think that “…a single immigrant can bring in virtually unlimited numbers of distant relatives” – who in turn, can bring in even more immigrants. To him, this is “chain migration”, and he considers it a threat to national security. This is because he believes that plenty of undesirables – including criminals and terrorists – would be able to exploit this situation.
This is actually not accurate. It is true that family reunification has long been a bedrock of US immigration policy. An immigrant for example, can file a petition for his or her spouse and unmarried children. And after becoming a citizen, the immigrant can file for even more family members. Thus, he can start a “chain” of migration by sponsoring relatives for green cards, which grant lifetime work and residency privileges – including bringing in more relatives. But it should be noted that US citizens and/or lawful permanent residents are only able to file immigrant petitions for certain close family members. While the former can file for spouses, children, parents and siblings; the latter can only file for spouses and unmarried children. There is no ability to file immigrant petitions for grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, cousins or in-laws. Indeed, distant relatives simply do not qualify for family-based petitions!
Be that as it may, the objective to ending “chain migration” is to change the law by limiting the relatives that can be petitioned to just spouses and minor children. No other relative will be able to qualify.
What does this mean?
If such a law is passed, US citizens would no longer be able to file immigrant petitions for adult children, parents or siblings. Neither would lawful permanent residents be able to file immigrant petitions for adult, unmarried children. Because of the long wait for green cards, many Filipinos often become adults before their parents are able to file immigrant petitions for them. Thus, this would effectively close this avenue to them.
What happens to pending immigrant petitions for the disqualified relatives?
If such a law is passed, it is quite possible that petitions that have already been filed will be grandfathered and processed to completion. While there is no absolute guarantee that this will happen, historically this has always been the case. Generally, a new law is prospective in nature and does not have any retroactive effect
What can be done for now?
If you are a US citizen, you should consider filing an immigrant petition for your adult children, parents, brothers and sisters while you still can. If you are a lawful permanent resident, you should also think about filing an immigrant petition for your unmarried adult children. It would be wise to take advantage of this while it is still allowed.
Otherwise, the opportunity could be lost forever.