At a pro-Arizona anti-illegal immigration rally in Loveland, Colorado, Saturday, firebrand conservative Iowa Congressman Steve King, responding to a question from the audience, said he wouldn’t be surprised if President Obama was working to bring Muslims into the country. He suggested that if it were happening, the Muslim immigrants were likely relying on family reunification visas, on which he said, they could bring hundreds of family and friends into the country.
“I keep reading that Obama keeps bringing small quantities of Muslims into this country. Why can’t Congress stop that?” asked the audience member.
“You know I don’t know what the basis of that. I wouldn’t be surprised that there was a real factual basis,” said King. “I know that the immigration we have going on there are a number of ways that people come into the country. Family reunification is one of them. And we calculated if one person uses family reunification they could bring in 357 people and then we ran out of room on the spreadsheet.”
The family reunification program, on the books since the Immigration and Nationality Act passed in 1965, allows for U.S. citizens over the age of 21 to petition to have their spouse, parents and children under 21 enter the United States and become “lawful permanent residents.” The program also provides siblings preferential status when they apply for residency.
Sociologist and demographer Karen Woodrow-Lafield, a researcher at the Maryland Population Research Center who spoke to Congress in 2006 on the subject of chain migration, authored a study that explored family reunification immigration told the Colorado independent that King’s numbers were “very speculative.” In regard to his claim that each immigrant could bring in 357 people, she said it was “unlikely.”
“The numbers are simply not going to be that large. Obviously there is some multiplication from the initial immigrant, but the numbers are not on that order of magnitude. None of the researchers who have addressed this subject empirically have found anything like 300,” she laughed.
She said that further research needs to be done, but pointed to a study conducted by Bin Yu, which incorporated not simply individuals brought over as part of the family but also their children. She said that that the average number was 4.3 immigrants; 2.1 sponsored individuals; and 2.2 second-generation immigrants. In other words, not quite nine people, and she cautioned that those numbers were spread over decades.
Tim Counts, public affairs officer at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said he was unaware of any metric that extrapolated out the way King described.
King also told the Loveland audience in response to the questioner that the U.S. hosts Islamic religious workers, “in some cases from specific countries,” who held fraudulent visas. In 2007 significant fraud was found in the system that allowed religious workers to come into the country, according to reporting by USA today. Regulations and guidelines have since been put in place to curtail fraudulent visas and sponsorships.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: I keep reading that Obama keeps bringing small quantities of Muslims into this country. Why can’t Congress stop that?
KING: You know, I don’t know what the basis of that. I wouldn’t be surprised that there was a real factual basis. I know that the immigration we have going on, there are a number of ways that people come into the country. Family reunification is one of them. And we calculated if one person uses family reunification, they could bring in 357 people and then we ran out of room on the spreadsheet.
There was a case in Germany were they took 150 Turkish men, they came in to do work that Germans wouldn’t do– 1970. And by the year 2000, there were 250 of them there, not one had assimilated into the broader society. One young German girl had married into the enclave. That is kind of what is going on in this country. I think that it is a legitimate parallel.
Also we have religious workers visas and we have found in some of the cases, where we have Islamic religious workers, in some of the cases from specific countries, everyone of them was fraudulent. And we have turned up the pressure on that. I don’t know how much I can do with this White House. We get run over by a truck every day. I appreciate you making the point. I will try to watch it.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you.