As it happens, the Knavs are probably the beneficiaries of a policy their son-in-law, President Trump, has disparaged as “chain migration,” otherwise known as family reunification. A bedrock of the legal immigration system in this country for more than half a century, family reunification has accounted for tens of millions of immigrants, and nearly three-quarters of all legal immigrants who have entered the United States since the mid-1960s.
With scant evidence, the president has scorned the policy as a threat to national security and the economy, and made scrapping it a pillar of his immigration plan. Drawn up into legislation, that plan failed in the Senate last week on a vote of 39 to 60. It is not yet known whether Mr. Trump will attend his in-laws’ swearing-in ceremony, which will probably feature many other so-called chain migrants waving flags, pledging allegiance to the United States, and hearing a talk on their rights and obligations as citizens.
The point here is not only the evident hypocrisy of the president, who, as a businessman in New York, employed illegal immigrants to work at the Trump Tower site on Fifth Avenue. It’s also to ask whether Americans want to live in a country where immigrant citizens such as Ms. Trump would be forbidden from sponsoring their parents, their adult children and other relatives for legal residency in the United States. That would be the effect of the president’s policy.
The White House says its blueprint would tilt the balance away from family-based migration and toward a system that relies more on merit. You could make an argument for such a policy change. In fact, though, the administration proposal would leave the numbers of merit-based immigrants untouched while slashing the level of legal visas granted to relatives, with the exception of spouses and children under 18. Although Mr. Trump did not make reducing the level of overall legal immigration a centerpiece of his campaign, that has become a major thrust of his policy in office.
It’s fair to debate the composition of the immigrant pool. Other prosperous countries, such as Canada and Australia, admit a larger share of migrants as a percentage of their populations than the United States does, while tilting the balance of allotted visas toward younger, more highly educated and skilled workers. In a competitive global economy, such a policy might enhance U.S. competitiveness.
That’s not the policy favored by the president, who simply wants a drastic reduction in overall legal immigration — a stance that makes little sense given the United States’ aging population and low rate of unemployment. By framing family reunification as a security threat, Mr. Trump twists the facts.