In Defense of Chain Migration

Christianity and the Law of Migration, Routledge Press (2021) editors: Silas W. Allard and Raj R. Nadella.

Univ. of San Francisco Law Research Paper No. 2021-06

27 Pages Posted: 21 Apr 2021 Last revised: 30 Jun 2021

See all articles by Bill Ong Hing

Bill Ong Hing

University of San Francisco - School of Law

Date Written: January 1, 2021


The vast majority of immigrants to the United States enter through categories set forth in a statutory selection system that emphasizes family reunification. However, since the early 1980s, attacking those family immigration categories has become a popular political sport played every few years. The most recent version of the sport is embodied by the introduction of the RAISE Act and statements condemning so-called “chain migration” by President Trump. The assault on family immigration generally is framed in terms that would replace family categories with those that would enable “skilled” immigrants to immigrate instead. The President, like many others, derides the so-called “chain migration” system as enabling one person to bring in “32 people. . . . You come in and now you can bring your family and then you can bring your mother and your father, you can bring your grandmother.” The claim is that the family-based system allows entry to “virtually unlimited numbers of distant relatives.” Instead, critics of family migration argue that the system should focus more on “merit” rather than family, and assign points to prospective immigrants based on factors like age, education and English skills.

Critics of family immigration and I have different starting points when it comes to priorities in the admissions system. The so-called “merit” proponents claim that to help the economy, more jobs and skill-based criteria should be used. My position is that the nation and its employers would continue to do quite well economically by expanding the family numbers throughout all categories. Furthermore, we do well to look beyond economic values and to consider the values that are important to us as a nation in terms of human rights, moral obligations, and social responsibility.

Somehow those of us who favor not only maintaining but expanding family-based immigration opportunities are viewed as soft on immigration. However, the experiment that we call America is a test of our character and our willingness to believe that we can have a strong country that is caring and diverse. Showing compassion and fairness in our immigration policies is not a sign of weakness. Rather, those traits demonstrate a confidence in a strong rule of law and system of government, but understand that moral obligations and family reunification are essential elements of a civil society. While these traits of a civil society may benefit individuals, they benefit us as a common community as well. For when an individual and their relatives have been enabled to become contributing members of society, we all benefit—socially, psychically, and economically.

Keywords: immigration, family immigration, chain migration, religion and immigration, immigration values

Suggested Citation

Hing, Bill Ong, In Defense of Chain Migration (January 1, 2021). Christianity and the Law of Migration, Routledge Press (2021) editors: Silas W. Allard and Raj R. Nadella., Univ. of San Francisco Law Research Paper No. 2021-06, Available at SSRN:

Bill Ong Hing (Contact Author)

University of San Francisco - School of Law ( email )

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