This week, sources near the U.S. Senate’s Gang of Eight, an informal bipartisan group working on immigration reform made up of Senators Marco Rubio (R–Fla.), John McCain (R–Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R–S.C.), Jeff Flake (R–Ariz.), Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.), Robert Mendez (D–N.J.), Michael Bennet (D–Colo.), and Richard Durbin (D–Ill.), said that the Senate will have an immigration reform bill by April.
However, according to recent media reports, a portion of that bill would restrict family-based visas, which are granted to people who already have family in the States and which are meant to reunite families. The restriction would allow expansion of skill-based visas, which would be given to educated immigrants.
While expanding merit-based visas is a great idea, expanding them at the expense of family visas doesn’t need to happen. It’s not a question of one or the other. Families and support systems are central to the success of immigrants, just as their skills are. Not to mention the issues a purely merit-based immigration system would create.
At a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting on March 18, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R–Ala.) asked Asian American Justice Center President Mee Moua if a country should decide to allow a well-educated immigrant who had no family in the country to immigrate over an immigrant who might not achieve as much, but had a brother in the country. Moua countered that immigration decisions are never as black and white as the scenario presented by the Senator. Moua said that immigration systems that are based solely on merit run the risk of discriminating against people who are not afforded access to education in their home countries, such as women. In fact, 70 percent of the women who immigrated to the United States in 2012 did so through family visas.
Merit-based visas are fine, as are family-based visas. Immigration reform isn’t a question of one or the other. You don’t have to kill one program, so the other can grow. They both have merit and deserve to be included in any intelligent immigration plan. (end)