Rep. Pramila Jayapal, who immigrated from India, treated a right-wing talk show host to a lesson on how family immigration actually works.
Donald Trump and his supporters are desperate to end the practice of family reunification for immigrants, which they derisively refer to as chain migration. It was even a key talking point at the State of the Union address.
But the arguments for doing so are based on myths and fall apart under scrutiny.
On Tuesday night, Fox News host Tucker Carlson learned this the hard way when he invited Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal, an Indian-American immigrant, onto his show to discuss it and got schooled.
I think its great when families are unified, Im very pro-family, said Carlson. But when youre trying to make the country as impressive as you possibly can, why wouldnt you choose the most impressive possible people, regardless of who theyre related to?
Because were bringing the most impressive people, Jayapal replied. If you look at technology companies, you know, the enormous number of small businesses. Same thing. If you look at any field of science, research, technology
Im not arguing against immigrants! Carlson interrupted. Im merely saying want to get the most impressive ones. Youre saying were required or a racist to give citizenship to the people who snuck in here, and their parents, and their siblings, and possibly their grandparents and uncles too. Or else were racists!
Jayapal burst out laughing. Thats just not true, she said. What you said is not true, because we dont allow grandparents into this country. We dont we dont allow cousins to come in and be sponsored.
Yes we do.
No we dont, we dont have any categories along that, Jayapal said as Carlson continued to try to interrupt her. If you listen to your show, to people on Fox News, to Donald Trump … you would think that this family immigration system is somehow out of control. Its not. It took me 17 years to become a U.S. citizen. By the time I could become a U.S. citizen, my parents were already very elderly, and it would have taken another several years for them
Let me just ask you, does this standard apply to any other country? Carlson interjected, visibly skeptical that this lawmaker and naturalized U.S. citizen knew more than he did about naturalization law.
Sure, she said.
Carlson then posed a bizarre hypothetical about the prime minister of India being forced to give Pakistani nationals immediate voting rights, and Jayapal busted him again. Thats just not what were talking about.
The family immigration system is far stricter than Carlson and other Republicans make it sound. Only spouses, children, parents, and siblings can be sponsored, and then only after the sponsor becomes a citizen, which can take years or even decades. The wait times are so long it is almost impossible to chain extended families into the country.
Moreover, contrary to Carlsons claim that family reunification prevents us from getting impressive people, studies show immigrants sponsored by family members are no less high-earning or high-skilled than other immigrants.
In fact, family reunification attracts high-skilled workers, because we are competing with other countries for such workers, and they will tend to choose countries that let them bring their families with them. That is why most developed countries have some form of family sponsorship.
Carlson brought a knife to a gunfight. For all his bluster, he had no idea how the U.S. immigration system works, and Jayapal was all too happy to clue him in.