Donald Trump with Republican senators Tom Cotton (pictured left) and David Perdue, who are supporting legislation to impose stricter limits on legal immigration.

What does Trump mean when he talks about 'chain migration'?

What does Trump mean when he talks about 'chain migration'?

Trump has repeatedly said they’ll be no deal on DACA without also addressing “chain migration,” the practice of family members migrating to reunite with family. What does the buzzword actually mean?

Donald Trump with Republican senators Tom Cotton (pictured left) and Dav...
Donald Trump with Republican senators Tom Cotton (pictured left) and David Perdue, who are supporting legislation to impose stricter limits on legal immigration.

Lea esta nota en español.

In recent weeks, the Trump administration has stated repeatedly that it will support legislation to protect Dreamers—but only if that also includes a fix to “chain migration.”

Far from an actual legal or policy term, “chain migration” is a slogan used mostly by immigration restrictionists, or those who want to reduce legal immigration. As immigration lawyer Hassan Ahmad pointed out Thursday, the term “exists nowhere in immigration law.”

Chain migration is another—some would argue less friendly sounding—way to say “family-based immigration” or “family reunification.”

When an immigrant comes to the U.S. legally and gains a green card or becomes a citizen, they are allowed to bring certain family members. In time, those people can bring their relatives. In other words, one immigrant can set off a "chain of migration."

Some two-thirds of the foreigners enter the U.S. to become permanent residents each year are approved because of family reunification, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

Out of a total of nearly 33 million immigrants admitted between 1981 and 2016, more than 20 million ( 61%) came because of family members, according to the Center for Immigration Studies.

Trump has called the practice “horrible” and has said it benefits criminals and terrorists who want to come into the United States to do harm. Ironically, Trump is himself a benefactor of the practice, through his grandfather.

Democrats have called recent attacks on the policy part of a broader attempt to limit a diverse, multicultural United States.

After a meeting with the President Thursday, Senator Dick Durbin, the Democratic Whip, told reporters he had explained to the President that the phrase "chain migration" was offensive. “African Americans believe they migrated to America in chains and when you talk about chain migration, it hurts them personally,” Durbin recalled telling the president.

What the law says now

Green card holders in the U.S. are entitled to sponsor their spouses and unmarried children for permanent residence. Citizens can petition for their spouses (and fiances), children, parents and siblings to get residence. Eventually, immigrant green card holders can apply for citizenship.

The process from application to entry into the U.S. is far from automatic. Sometimes it can take one year, other times decades. And anyone applying for entry in the U.S. through a family member has to go through a vetting process, including a criminal background check. They must show how they’ll be able to support themselves financially upon arrival to the U.S.


Caps on certain groups of immigrants that can enter each year through family reunification leads to lengthy waiting lists. As of November 2017, there were 3.9 million family members awaiting entry, according to the State Department. The 10 countries with the highest number of people waiting were: Mexico, Philippines, India, Vietnam, China, Dominican Republic, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Haiti and El Salvador.

How did it start?

Until 1965, the U.S. chose immigrants largely on the basis of national origin, giving preference to people from northern and Western Europe.

But by the early 60s, that practice was largely seen as discriminatory. So the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act did away with national origins, instead establishing preference for people with relatives already in the country.

“The idea was that you wouldn’t get many Asians or Africans coming in because they didn’t have relatives here,” Tom Gjelten, an NPR correspondent and author of “A Nation of Nations: A Great American Immigration Story,” said recently in an interview.

John Tanton, father of the modern anti-immigration movement
The forgotten trailblazer of the anti-immigrant movement who paved the way for Donald Trump

Obviously, that’s not the way it happened, Gjelten points out.

Demand to move to the United States actually shifted to people from Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Today the United States issues more than 1 million green cards each year, and only about 8 percent go to European nationals, according to DHS statistics. Of the 1,183,505 green cards given out in 2016, just 93,567 (7.9%) went to people from Europe.

Who’s against it?

One of the earliest voices against this type of family-centered immigration policy was the well-known immigration restrictionist John Tanton, who also founded the Center for Immigration Studies and the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), beginning in the 70s. The Southern Poverty Law Center considers the institutions to be “hate groups.” Tanton also helped create NumbersUSA, which has advocated strongly against "chain migration."

With Trump in office, these organizations now enjoy greater access and influence.

Trump has endorsed a bill sponsored by Republican Senators David Perdue (R-Ga.) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), called the RAISE Act, which would limit sponsorship only to spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens.

Trump-backed immigration reform proposal not without merit, says Jeb Bush

The White House launched a campaign last month called “ It’s Time to End Chain Migration.”

The irony is, Donald Trump himself is a benefactor of so called “chain migration.”

From Forbes:

“In 1885, Friedrich Trump, Donald Trump’s grandfather, immigrated from Germany as a 16-year-old with little English to join his oldest sister. His sister “had immigrated to New York a year earlier,” according to Gwenda Blair, author of The Trumps: Three Generations of Builders and a President. After gaining success in America, Friedrich returned to Germany and found a bride, Elizabeth Christ, who immigrated to the U.S. with him and gave birth to Fred Trump, Donald Trump’s father.

In 1930, Mary Ann MacLeod immigrated to America from Scotland as an unskilled 18-year-old to live with her married sister in Queens. Six years later, she met Fred Trump at a party, they married and had children, one of whom was Donald Trump.”


On the day President Trump ordered the end of the DACA program, these young people decided to pause their daily lives to take an extraordinary journey: over two weeks, they walked 250 miles from New York to Washington, D.C. to fight for their rights.
A search for the word 'deportation' on platforms like GoFundMe and YouCaring brings up hundreds of people raising money to support family members and friends.
After the Trump administration announced the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which shields 800,000 young undocumented immigrants from deportation, French artist JR led a project that captured portraits of Dreamers across the U.S. Two photo-booth trucks made several stops so that undocumented youth could add their faces to the series. Univision News followed the journey.
Pedro is one of thousands of undocumented immigrants who work in chicken processing plants in Gainesville, Georgia. In a county where police work in tandem with immigration authorities and more than 72% of citizens voted for Donald Trump, many immigrants live in fear.
Presidents don't usually pardon criminals until they have been sentenced or have at least expressed some regret, but this was not the case with Arpaio, who spoke to Univision News two weeks after being forgiven by his ally, Donald Trump.
During a meeting in the Oval office Friday, the president was asked by reporters about the future of DACA, to which he responded that a decision was coming soon. "We love the dreamers, we love everyone," he added.
Nilsa Huete is an undocumented Honduran immigrant living in Key West, Florida. In the last five months, five of her family members have been arrested by agents from the Monroe County Sheriff's Office. Now she’s fighting against the deportation of her daughter and brother.
The former Arizona sheriff pardoned by President Trump is one of the most unpopular figures in the Hispanic community. For 24 years he was sheriff of the fourth largest county in the country and was convicted in July 2017 of ignoring a court order to stop his officers from racial profiling of Hispanics.
The former Republican presidential candidate says a Senate immigration proposal that would cut immigration in half is flawed, but he backs idea of merit-based points system.
The footage shows a man wearing a badge, apparently from the local sheriff’s department, and claiming to be bail bonds agent. A lawyer then rebukes and questions his authority.
Maty Muy, a Guatemalan immigrant, went to renew her work permit at an ICE office and ended up facing a nightmare. Authorities placed a GPS monitor on her ankle and sent her husband to a detention facility. Now, she has taken over the family business – a tire and auto repair shop – while facing deportation.
Maty Muy, una inmigrante guatemalteca, fue a renovar un permiso de trabajo a una oficina de ICE y acabó viviendo una pesadilla: le pusieron un grillete y a su esposo lo detuvieron. Ahora, cambia llantas y lucha para evitar la deportación.
This is what Greek artist Eleni means when she speaks about the power of the voice. She improvises a sing-along with a group of immigrants, refugees and allies in Boston's Urbano Project and the result was just beautiful.
Eleni Arapoglou uses new sounds and rhythms to preserve her roots. Eleni is part of the U-Lab 'Immigrant Sounds' sessions that celebrate World Refugee Day and Immigrant Heritage Month.
There has always been movement of people, and as we commemorate World Refugee Day on June 20th a group of musicians, activists and community members got together at The Urbano Project​ in Boston to share their experiences and reflect on the diversity that makes up American society: "The direction of where the world is going is encouraging us all, almost forcing us all, to break down those walls."
La cantante Eleni interpreta 'Milo mou kai mantarini', grabada en exclusiva para U-LAB Music como parte de las sesiones 'Immigrant Sounds' en honor al Mes de la Herencia del Inmigrante y al Día Mundial del Refugiado. Featuring Vasilis Kostas en el laúd.
Satcha Pretto recordó su experiencia con la lactancia materna con el Dr. Juan (fotos)
La conductora de noticias habló sobre las razones por las que decidió amamantar a sus dos hijos: Bruce y Alana. No te quedes sin ver las fotos.
¿Qué responderá Chiquis a esta indiscreta invitación que le hizo Raúl?
El Gordo es un fiel admirador de la hija de la ‘Diva de la Banda’ y le mandó este interesante mensaje en televisión nacional.
El hijo menor de Jenni Rivera es todo un romántico y así sorprendió a su novio por su cumpleaños
El menor de los hijos de la cantante fallecida Jenni Rivera, Juan Ángel López, conocido como Johnny, celebró el cumpleaños de su pareja Joaquín con un regalo que varios envidian. No dejes de ver el romántico momento.
“Esa pregunta que tu hiciste no es prensa”: René Pérez se enfurece con nuestro show y Raúl le responde
Durante la entrega de los premios BMI en Los Ángeles, Maria Hurtado le preguntó al cantante puertorriqueño sobre el violento incidente que protagonizó en un aeropuerto de Puerto Rico generando que la conversación entre ellos se tornara un poco tensa.
Prepare su paraguas, continúan las lluvias en Sacramento
Arranca la primavera con un sistema de baja presión que trae lluvias a la región, para el resto del día se esperan temperaturas máximas de 65 grados para Sacramento, 67 para Modesto y 70 para Stockton.
Hispano asesinó a su esposa y luego se suicidó en una vía en el noroeste del condado Harris
Familiares de las víctimas, identificadas como Isidro Platas y Blanca López, aún no salen de su asombro tras enterarse de este trágico incidente. La pareja deja huérfanos a cuatro hijos.
Evento familiar gratuito César Chávez
Roberto Aguilar, organizador de un evento enfocado para la comunidad hispana, que se va a realizar el próximo domingo 25 de marzo de las 11 de la mañana a las 5 de la tarde y que será de entrada libre.
Mike Pence le saca un cuento a su conejo Marlon, pero en Amazon arrasa la parodia gay
Marlon Bundo la mascota del vicepresidente tiene más de 25,000 seguidores en Instagram y un libro propio en el que cuenta cómo es perseguir al "abuelo Pence" por todo Washington. Marlon es protagonista de un segundo libro creado por John Oliver en el que a diferenica del primero su destino es enamorarse de otro conejo.
Humor del álbum del Mundial: las láminas que inspiraron los mejores memes en redes
Rusia 2018 ya se vive con toda la emoción del caso y los usuarios, algunos en cuentas dedicadas, compartieron su creatividad sobre el tema.
La Portada Digital de Univision Deportes: qué sí era penal
El jugador holandés Arjen Robben nos habló en exclusiva sobre aquella polémica jugada que hace casi cuatro años significó la eliminación de México.
Futbolistas mexicanos que podrían reforzar al Real Madrid
El Merengue va a salir a romper el próximo mercado de pases y aquí te contamos qué jugadores mexicanos tienen el nivel para jugar en la Casa Blanca.
Ronaldinho recibió un regalo muy especial en el día de su cumpleaños 38
Una marca que patrocina desde hace varios años al exfutbolista brasileño, lo sorprendió con unos zapatos deportivos que devolvieron a ‘Dinho’ a su infancia.