Front and back of a U.S. green card (photo: Wiki­media Commons)

Most of the recent debate about immi­gration has focused on illegal immi­grants. Now it turns out that we’re arguing about legal immi­gration too.

Everyone has heard about the Dreamers — the undoc­u­mented immi­grants whose parents brought them to the United States as children. Just a few months ago, Pres­ident Donald Trump con­spic­u­ously didn’t renew Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the program created under the Obama admin­is­tration that granted this group of people work permits and pro­tected them from depor­tation.

Our problem is even more com­pli­cated. According to Trump, we also need to reform the way people get to this country legally. But instead of opening up the question of legal immi­gration, Con­gress should take Trump’s immi­gration reform plan and cut it in half.

In his State of the Union address last month, Trump pro­vided a four-part plan to solve the problem and to move toward what he calls “merit-based” immi­gration. 1) Create a path to cit­i­zenship for 1.8 million Dreamers. According to Trump, this covers almost three times as many people as Obama’s DACA program did. 2) Build the infamous wall, or in other words, “secure the border.” 3) Revoke the Green Card Lottery, also known as the Diversity Immi­grant Visa Program. 4) Get rid of chain migration.

The Green Card Lottery is what it sounds like: a program that grants Green Cards at random. The DV Program issues up to 50,000 Green Cards annually to appli­cants from coun­tries with low numbers of immi­grants in the United States.

Chain migration, the second program at stake, refers to the process by which immi­grants residing in the U.S. are able to sponsor their family members to join them in America. According to Trump’s State of the Union address, “The fourth and final pillar [of our plan] pro­tects the nuclear family by ending chain migration. Under the current broken system, a single immi­grant can bring in vir­tually unlimited numbers of distant rel­a­tives.”

At this point in the speech, there was audible dissent, rather than the cus­tomary punc­tu­ation of applause — probably because Trump’s claim isn’t strictly true.

Cur­rently, spon­sor­ships include parents, spouses, sib­lings, and both minor and adult children. This is hardly “vir­tually unlimited” rel­a­tives, as it doesn’t extend to aunts, uncles, or grand­parents, much less actually distant rel­a­tives. Trump’s plan would limit spon­sor­ships to spouses and children.

Why are we trying to keep these people out? Of course we want good people. Of course we want hard-workers over ter­rorists and nuclear fam­ilies over gangs. Merit-based immi­gration sounds great. But when it comes to legal immi­gration to the United States, Trump’s plan abol­ishes old insti­tu­tions without cre­ating any­thing new. It simply reduces the number of immi­grants allowed to come to our country legally.

Con­gress should enact the first two steps of Trump’s plan. It should protect the Dreamers and secure the border. The point, as Trump himself stated, is com­promise: No one gets every­thing they want. But by imple­menting the first two parts of Trump’s plan, we address the problem that should be most pressing to us: illegal immi­gration.

This isn’t just about Trump. This is about the Repub­lican party. At the Con­ser­v­ative Political Action Con­ference last weekend, liberal jour­nalist Rick Unger spoke on an immi­gration panel. He claimed that, having spent seven years living in Mexico, he believed that Mex­icans have more in common with Repub­licans than with Democrats. He con­tinued, to pro­tracted booing, “If the Repub­licans open their arms to these people, the Democrats aren’t going to do so well. And it’s inter­esting to hear your reaction. Why are you rejecting voters?”

Rick Unger has a point. Repub­licans should con­sider that they might have some­thing in common with Mexican immi­grants.

It is easy to see how Trump’s reluc­tance to allow immi­grants into our country, legally or oth­erwise, quickly brands him a racist — whether he is or not. His pri­ority is pro­tecting the interests of American cit­izens, and that is admirable. By shifting its attention to illegal immi­gration, Con­gress could balance the president’s restric­tionism while con­tinuing to pri­or­itize the interests of U.S. cit­izens.

We should take pride in being a country that people come to with their hopes and dreams. We should take pride in being seen as a place of oppor­tunity and refuge.

America was built on immi­grants — flawed, ide­al­istic, dan­gerous, hard­working immi­grants. Immi­gration is our her­itage; it is only fitting that it also be our legacy.

Ellen Sweet is a senior studying English.

  • Shashank India

    POTUS was right. Chain migration is easy for small coun­tries. An immi­grant who won a div lottery from Bangladesh spon­sored 8 people as her sib­lings and 8 people as her children. you can see between 2000 and 2015 almost 40 to 50 people enter through this route while a doctor or phd from India/china waits for more than 12 years to get his greencard.

  • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

    US immi­gration is a priv­ilege, not a right. It is extended by the American PEOPLE to a selected few who’s entry into this nation will benefit us. The ‘lottery’ was asinine and should be elim­i­nated yes­terday. Chain migration is uncon­trol­lable, as Shashank India noted below. As for the ‘Dreamers’, why should their status be ele­vated above folks who are trying to legally immi­grate? Finally I find the ‘infamous wall’ comment to be offensive. Why should a border control feature be ‘infamous’? Illegal immi­gration from south of the border has cost this nation 10’s, maybe 100’s of Bil­lions of Dollars. Any­thing we can do to make our border con­trols more effective is money well invested.