The fact-checking website PolitiFact labeled as “false” Virginia Republican Rep. Dave Brat’s statement that legalizing the DACA ‘kids’ would lead to 3 to 4 million more people coming into the country, because of chain migration.
But Brat was right, experts say, and PolitiFact was only looking at half the facts.
In a Sept. 7 interview on MSNBC, Brat said:
"So the number on DACA is 800,000, but every one person can bring in their entire extended family once they reach a certain status. So it's 3 or 4 million, right?"
"Brat's statement is not accurate, we rate it False," PolitiFact reporter Miriam Valverde concluded in her Sept. 15 article .
Valverde wrote that PolitiFact called Brat's office to inquire what he meant by "certain status," and that Brat's office said he meant once they got green cards.
And because green card holders can only petition for their spouses and unmarried children to be able to immigrate to the U.S., PolitiFact decided to go no further.
"I think it was a very misleading fact-checking," Roy Beck, president of NumbersUSA, told LifeZette on Friday. "The green cards lead to citizenship."
The DREAM Act, which was reintroduced in July by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), would grant permanent resident status on a conditional basis to the approximately 800,000 illegal immigrants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. After eight years, if they've worked for a certain amount of time, served in the military, or gone to college, they become legal permanent residents and get green cards.
After another five years, they would be eligible to apply to become U.S. citizens.
So 14 years after the DREAM Act is passed, the DACA 'kids' would start to become U.S. citizens and could begin to sponsor their parents, their married or unmarried children, and their brothers and sisters, thus beginning thousands of new "chains," as those parents could then sponsor their siblings, who could sponsor their children, who could sponsor their spouses, who could sponsor their parents, ad infinitum.
But PolitiFact does not acknowledge this, applying its analysis only to green card holders.
Another mistake it makes is in looking only at the approximately 800,000 illegal immigrants who are currently enrolled in DACA, and then multiplying that number by the number of relatives that recent immigrants have sponsored.
According to the Migration Policy Institute, there are an estimated 1.76 million illegal immigrants now residing in the U.S. who are eligible for DACA. And the DREAM Act — the bill that has the most support as a means of legalizing the DACA 'kids' — doesn't stop with DACA. It also allows people who've been granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS), and all others without lawful immigration status, including those who are about to be deported who came to the U.S. before the age of 18, the opportunity to apply for conditional permanent resident status.
A study from the organization Negative Population Growth, called "Chain Migration: How Immigration Begets More Immigration" by Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, found that in recent years, each new immigrant has sponsored an average of 3.45 additional immigrants.
PolitiFact cites this study and uses the 3.45 number, but multiplies it by the number of people now in DACA — 787,580 — to attempt to show that even if green card holders could sponsor all family members, Brat would still be wrong.
"If each of the 787,580 people approved brought in 3.45 family members, that would be 2.71 million more immigrants," PolitiFact wrote.
But why not use the 1.76 million number reflecting all those who are DACA-eligible? Surely, there's much more of an incentive once there's an actual path to citizenship, and more safety in filling out paperwork knowing that you'll never be deported.
If 1.76 million people were awarded legal status and then, eventually, became U.S. citizens, and sponsored an average 3.45 family members, in 20 years or so we would be talking about 6 million new immigrants to the U.S., the majority of them from Mexico.
And that wouldn't even be counting the TPS immigrants and other illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. before the age of 18.
Brat's 3 to 4 million was in all likelihood an underestimate of the total number of new immigrants to the U.S. who would result from legalizing the DACA 'kids.'
But his comments, and President Donald Trump's tweet on Friday, did call attention to the issue of chain migration and what it means.
Of the more than 1 million legal immigrants admitted into the United States every year, the great majority come in because they are sponsored by a family member in the U.S., making chain migration the biggest driver of legal immigration, most of it from Mexico and Central America.
Chain migration, says Beck, means that only a "tiny part" of the immigration flow into the U.S. is people who are chosen by the American people through their government.
"We don't know anything about them," he says of the relatives of relatives of people who originally became citizens, who end up coming to the U.S. legally. "We have created a golden railroad for these people."
Republicans on the Hill are pushing for the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act, which restricts chain migration to a spouse and minor children, to be part of whatever immigration reform bill is voted on, making it more likely that a bill that grants a path to citizenship for DACA beneficiaries would also make it impossible for them to ever sponsor their parents and siblings. But it's unknown if such a bill could pass the House and Senate.
(photo credit, homepage and article images: Molly Adams, Flickr)