Why immigration policy must be pro-family

February 13, 2018

What is “chain migration”?

Over the past few years, the term “chain migration” has shifted from its original usage and taken on a negative connotation. In current immigration debates, though, “chain migration” is used as a misleading synonym for “family reunification immigration.” The term has become a political slogan that is intended to convey a misleading impression of the current immigration policy, conjuring a mental image of a single immigrant pulling a group of other immigrants into America. Many immigrant groups feel the term is offensive for these reasons. The term is not used in U.S. immigration laws but has been widely used throughout the debate surrounding Dreamers. The term is problematic because it creates an incorrect impression that mischaracterizes current immigration law. Our purpose is to provide context for how family reunification immigration works and why it is beneficial to American society.

What is “family reunification immigration”?

The United States immigration policy consists of four main categories of legal permanent immigration: refugees and asylees; diversity visa lottery immigrants; employment-based immigration; and family-based immigration. The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) sets an annual minimum family-sponsored preference limit of 226,000 (about two-thirds of current immigration quotas are reserved for family-based immigration). Under the family-based immigration category, U.S. citizens and permanent residents are able to sponsor certain family members for permanent residence. Immigrants in past decades have sponsored an average of about 3.5 relatives each, which may include a spouse and children.

Who can a citizen sponsor, and how long does the process take?

U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents may sponsor a limited number of types of family members through our immigration system: spouses, children, parents, and siblings. With the exception of spouses, minor children, and parents, the annual number of immigration visas is capped based on the type of relative a citizen is allowed to sponsor:

There is currently a backlog in every category. Every month the U.S. State Department issues its Visa Bulletin, which summarizes the availability of immigrant numbers for each class. For February 2018, the people who are allowed to immigrate into the U.S. have been waiting for the following amount of time:

Can a citizen sponsor aunts, uncles, and cousins?

No. One of the frequently made claims is that a new citizen or legal permanent resident is able to sponsor unlimited members of their extended family, including aunts, uncles, cousins, and so on. This claim, although often repeated in the media and elsewhere, is simply not true. The only family members a citizen may sponsor are those outlined above: spouses, children, parents, and siblings.

How do merit-based immigration systems work?

Canada’s immigration policy is often considered “merit-based” though it is more accurate to say it is a “point-based” system (and Canada also includes family reunification as part of their immigration policy). Canada ranks immigration candidates on various measures, including education, experience, age, occupational demand, and so on. There are some, mostly economic, advantages to a merit or point-based system. In Canada, the policy has tended to increase the tax revenues for the government and allowed certain industries to fill vacancies. But Canada has also found that college-educated immigrants brought in on the point-based system earn only high-school level wages and do not innovate more than natives, unlike college-educated immigrants to the United States. The U.S. could already bring in such high-skilled workers without adopting a point-based system or allowing an increase in permanent legal immigration through the H-1B visa program. By raising the cap on these types of temporary visas, the U.S. could gain many of the advantages of a merit-based system without adopting the negative impacts.

What are the benefits to keeping family preferences over an expanded merit-based policy?

The issues of whether we should limit family preferences in favor of an expanded merit-based policy is a question of what we value most as a nation. A core belief that has historically been shared by Christians and political conservatives is the idea that the basic unit of society is the family, rather than the individual. The current family-reunification policy upholds that ideal by prioritizing the importance of the family unit, keeping families together, and allowing families to be reunited. Much of the discussion about the benefits of a merit-based system treats immigrants as economic units and seeks to maximize economic utility. While economic considerations are important, they should not be the sole basis for determining what sort of people we want to welcome into American society. There are immeasurable, and often intangible, benefits to bringing in immigrants who have a commitment to marriage, children, and kinship ties. The values and commitments created by these family ties are intrinsically valuable, and often better indicators of what will makes for  a “good citizen” than whether they are able to write computer code or teach college physics.

Why are the family reunification system and so-called “chain migration” in the news this week?

Many conservative leaders have called for an end to or for reforms to the family reunification process in the system in exchange for passing a solution for Dreamers. Changes to the family reunification system are also a part of the President’s four-part immigration reform framework discussed during the State of the Union. While the ERLC has concerns with significant changes to family reunification policies, we are working closely with lawmakers to find a workable solution that satisfies the requirements set out by the White House and that will be able to pass both the House and the Senate.

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24