The Republicans’ latest loaded phrase on immigration

London Heathrow Airport immigration poll.

Republicans are well-known for their loaded words and phrases. Being against abortion becomes “pro-life.” Discrimination against gay people becomes “religious freedom,” and so forth. Word pairs crafted by Republicans, such as “death tax” or “death panels,” can contain a tremendous amount of framing, that is, staking out an argumentative position merely in the way one refers to something. Republicans are also adept at the next step: repetition in lockstep to make such phrases stick, which artificially swings the discussion of the issue in the Republicans’ favor. It is no surprise therefore, that the Republicans, including Donald Trump in last night’s State of the Union address, are using another such loaded phrase, and that it appears in discussions about immigration, a Republican favorite hot-button issue.

The phrase now being used by Donald Trump and the Republicans — and, hopefully for them, picked up by the mainstream media — is “chain migration.” In current context, “chain migration” refers to the process by which green card holders or legal U.S. residents may sponsor a family member for immigration to the United States. However, such use of “chain migration” by Republicans today is likely designed to sound impersonal at best. The term “chain migration” is from the 1960s and means:

that movement in which prospective migrants learn of opportunities, are provided with transportation, and have initial accommodation and employment arranged by means of primary social relationships with previous migrants.

That doesn’t sound like a negative at all, as such “primary social relationships,” including family relationships, often help immigrants land jobs and otherwise work their way through various procedures and customs here in America, in order for them to be good productive citizens sooner. This has been the experience in many American families.

However, in the hands of Donald Trump according to his State of the Union address, “chain migration” is a bad thing that must end in order to “protect the nuclear family.” In fact, Trump equated “chain migration” with crime and terrorism in his speech. That is a far cry from the facts: immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than people born in the United States. Moreover, so-called DREAMers, those undocumented immigrants who were brought here as children and who have been the subject of much immigration discussion, can only apply for citizenship in the U.S. if they do not have a criminal record.

Additionally, there is a legal term, written in the Immigration and Nationality Act, to describe the “chain migration” that Trump and the Republicans are attacking: “family reunification.” Note the difference. It’s no wonder that Republicans avoid the term “family reunification,” because they don’t want to be seen as the party that keeps families (including grandparents, grandchildren and siblings) apart, even as their immigration policies and practices would do just that. Such inconvenient truths would clash with the Republicans’ phony “family values” self-description.

That’s why we should avoid using the Republicans’ term, and use the legal term “family reunification.”

Photo by Ungry Young Man, used under Creative Commons license.

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