Two recent incidents have bolstered the Trump administration’s stance against the United States’ family-based immigration system, which the president says threatens national security.
Tyler Houlton, acting press secretary at the Department of Homeland Security, said in a statement Saturday that his agency could “confirm the suspect involved in a terror attack in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and another suspect arrested on terror-related money-laundering charges were both beneficiaries of extended family chain migration.”
He said both cases “highlight the Trump administration’s concerns with extended family chain migration.”
On Friday, a gunman in Harrisburg, who was an immigrant from Egypt, fired at police and state troopers in several locations before they shot and killed him.
Ahmed Aminamin El-Mofty shot one state trooper, but officials say she is expected to make a full recovery.
A relative of El-Mofty said the family is perplexed by his actions. Ahmed Soweilam told the media that his sister had been married to El-Mofty, but they separated six years ago. He said his brother-in-law had worked as a security guard and had moved back to Egypt, but returned to the U.S. a few months ago.
“He’s not the perfect guy, but he’s not an aggressive person,” Soweilam said.
“The long chain of migration” that led to El-Mofty’s “admission into the United States was initiated years ago by a distant relative of the suspect,” said Homeland Security’s Houlton.
Pakistani woman charged
In a separate incident, a Pakistani woman who entered the U.S. through the family-based immigration system has been accused of laundering bitcoin and wiring money to Islamic State jihadists. Zoobia Shahnaz’s lawyer says her client was trying to help Syrian refugees.
Houlton said family-based migration has “been exploited by terrorists to attack our country.” He said the family-based system makes it “more difficult to keep dangerous people out of the United States and to protect the safety of every American.” He said a merit-based immigration system is “used by nearly all other countries.”
Proponents of merit-based immigration say the current system lowers wages and discourages assimilation.
Supporters say a merit-based system also would help lower immigration rates and ensure that the immigrants who do come are highly skilled and less likely to need public assistance.
Earlier this year, President Trump said, “For decades, the United States was operated and has operated a very low-skill immigration system, issuing record numbers of green cards to low-wage immigrants.”
“This (family-based) policy has placed substantial pressure on American workers, taxpayers and community resources,” Trump added.
Critics of merit-based system
But critics say the American economy also needs low-skilled workers and a merit-based system would hurt industries that rely on them.
A merit-based system would also cost the government more because the government would have to review the applications and pay resettlement costs that are currently covered by sponsoring families.
Critics also see the merit-based system as un-American.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has said the merit-based system “abandons the fundamental respect for family, at the heart of our faith, at the heart of who we are as Americans.”