Refugee Resettlement Policy Needs to Include Chain Migration Limits

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By Joe Guzzardi

Joe is a CAPS Senior Writing Fellow whose commentaries about California's social issues have run in newspapers throughout California and the country for nearly 30 years. Contact Joe at, or find him on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.

The writer's views are his own.

February 6, 2017

Southern California Public Radio recently broadcast a story about the distribution of refugees resettled in California. Read the story which includes an audio interview with a CAPS representative here.

Chain migration is a major factor in California’s population growth.

According to State Department statistics, slightly more than 6,000 refugees came to California in 2016. The largest block, 2,275, arrived from Iran, with the majority settling in Glendale. The second and third largest contingents are Syrian and Somali nationals, the majority of which went to San Diego County.

Adding 6,000 foreign nationals to California’s 39 million population looks like a drop in the bucket. But the rub is chain migration that will eventually drive the original refugees to a multiple much higher than 6,000. Under the current system, the original immigrant can bring in his spouse and minor children, the so-called nuclear family. Then the chain begins.

Once the original immigrant and spouse become U.S. citizens, they can petition their siblings, parents, and married and unmarried adult children who can then eventually sponsor their spouses and minor children. The unbroken chain is the key driver behind immigration levels increasing roughly four-fold since 1990 to more than, on average, one million annually.

CAPS has long argued that chain migration should be limited to the original immigrants’ spouses and minor children. Even though reducing chain migration is urgently important and can facilitate terrorists’ entry, the Trump administration hasn’t addressed the major contributor to unsustainable population growth.

Contact your Senate and House representatives here and here to encourage them to cut chain migration. The 6,000 refugees resettled in California last year are from high fertility nations, and chain migration allows them to petition thousands of their many family members.


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