Forced Migration vs. ‘Chain Migration’

Neoliberal economic policies have created a system of forced migration for many people but the Trump team is planning to ramp-up its assault on immigrants and those who advocate for migrants rights, activist Nativo Lopez explained to Dennis J Bernstein.

By Dennis J Bernstein

On January 17, Kevin De Leon, California’s Senate President Pro Tempore stated “Immigration and Customs Enforcement is reportedly amassing agents from across the United States as it prepares to launch the most aggressive deportation raids under the Trump Administration in northern California in the coming weeks.”

ICE officers during the second national wave of Operation Cross Check, an effort by ICE to arrest and deport undocumented immigrants with criminal records. September 28, 2011. (Wikipedia)

According to Senator De Leon, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen “is exploring pressing criminal charges against state and local officials who implement ‘sanctuary’ policies. “The Department of Homeland Security has even admitted they are considering a move to arrest political leaders such as myself,” De Leon continued, “ who have led the charge in California to prevent the feds from commandeering state and local resources to tear hard working families apart. These extraordinary threats against the President’s political opponents are meant to intimidate us, designed to silence and subjugate us. But they will do the opposite.”

Indeed, an army of immigrants right supporters, in the form of lawyers, human rights and local community activist, and concerned politicians are now mobilizing from one end of the state to the other to fight back.

I spoke about the significance of the ICE threats and the grassroots uprising in response, with Nativo Lopez. Lopez is a longtime advocate for the undocumented Spanish-speaking communities in Southern California, and a spokesperson for Hermandad Mexicana, a social, cultural and political organization based in Los Angeles. I spoke to Lopez in Los Angeles on January 30.

Dennis Bernstein: In terms of deportations, Obama still holds the record as Deporter and Chief, but Trump seems to be pulling out all the stops now.

Nativo Lopez: Well, it is almost like “back to the future” with this administration.  We saw the most devastating deportation numbers under the Obama administration and now we are seeing much of the same.  Actually the numbers are lower compared to the first two years of the Obama administration.  But Trump is continuing the work of terrorizing immigrants and the communities they are a part of. Immigrants are the target but working class communities are really feeling the effects of the repressive measures initiated by this administration.

It has targeted California because it has declared itself a sanctuary state.  The government of California, including the attorney general, will now be tested as to what their interpretation is of the term “sanctuary.”

DB: Of course, Obama earned the title “Deporter in Chief,” but Trump now takes it to the next level because he is not afraid to talk in terms of ethnic cleansing.

NL: When he makes references to El Salvador, Haiti, and the continent of Africa, these are the same communities who now live within the US.  The proposal that he is now making on immigration, supposedly to save the day for the Dreamers, is to legalize the status of 1.8 million but at the same time eliminate the ability to legally bring family members to the United States.

Despite all this talk about “illegal immigration” over the years, the underlying motive of these xenophobes has always been to reduce legal immigration to the United States from Latin American and Asian Pacific countries.  They are intent on preserving their idea of a white America by reducing the ability of nationalized immigrants to bring family members to the United States.

DB: What is your understanding of the right-wing term “chain immigration”?

NL: They are talking from both sides of their mouths.  They say people should wait in line and do it legally, and yet we see they are really trying to reduce legal immigration to the country.

Under current law, legal immigrants to this country have the right to immigrate their parents, their siblings, their spouse and any children they have who were born outside the United States.  What they are trying to do is eliminate in Congress the ability of a legal immigrant to immigrate his or her parents or siblings.  This would reduce by half the number of immigrants who legally come to the United States.

This has happened under both Republican and Democratic administrations.  The majority of undocumented immigrants in the United States today are undocumented because of a migration law that was passed in 1978 during the Carter administration which eliminated the right of US citizens to immediately immigrate their parents until the US citizen reached the age of twenty-one.

I myself fought against that legislation because I knew that it would immediately create a balloon of undocumented parents in the United States.  After massive resistance and lobbying, we were able to get legislation in 1986, during the time of the Reagan administration, that allowed parents to legalize their status because they had been in the country so long.  They were able to obtain legal permanent status.

DB: Instead of chain migration, maybe we should be talking about forced migration.

NL: When we talk about defending immigrants against deportation, we should talk about the right to not immigrate to the United States.  What forces so many to immigrate here?  Extreme poverty, the inability to obtain employment at a decent wage, social violence, drug cartel violence.  This is what is forcing migration to the United States.

Immigrant rights march for amnesty in downtown Los Angeles, California on May Day, 2006. (Wikipedia)

Certainly the free trade agreements in Mexico and Central America contributed to the mass emigration from those countries.  In Mexico alone, over the course of the NAFTA years from 1994 to the present day, four to five million small farm owners have been thrown off their lands and forced to migrate to America because agribusiness, both in Mexico and the United States, gobbled up those lands and forced production to meet the agricultural needs of the United States.  Prior to 1994, Mexico was self-sufficient in its domestic corn production.  Today it imports from the United States between 40 and 60 percent of its corn.  So those are the push factors that bring migrants to the United States.

I laugh when I hear the former president of Mexico, Vicente Fox, criticize the Trump administration.  When Fox was president, he did absolutely nothing to defend those Mexicans who were forced to come to the United States, and he was actually a purveyor of privatization of the petroleum industry to serve the interests of US multinational corporations.

DB: I am looking at a press release from Kevin de Leon’s office, where he writes that “The Department of Homeland Security has even admitted that they are considering a move to arrest political leaders such as myself who have led the charge in California to prevent the feds from commandeering state and local resources to tear hard-working families apart.”

NL: There is such a thing as state sovereignty and a state’s ability to pass laws to protect its residents.  At the end of the day, the governor, the president pro tempore, the Latino caucus and other progressive caucuses, the California attorney general–all of them will be tested in the next several days if, in fact, Homeland Security launches the kind of massive detention and deportation that they are threatening against California.

DB: We know that every day about 122 Dreamers are losing their DACA status and are faced with uncertainty about their future.  We have seen the Democrats collapse on this issue.  Do you expect anything at the federal level?

NL: I really don’t.  It is possible that the Democrats cave in and give Trump the $20 billion he wants to build the wall.  It looks like he is going to use the Dreamers as hostages to make good on his campaign promise.  Our recommendation to the legislators is to not cave in but to fight back.

We want a clean bill, meaning that all DACA recipients should be allowed to obtain permanent resident status without having to concede anything related to the border wall and certainly anything related to the ability of legal residents to immigrate their family members.

There needs to be massive resistance.  I know that in Northern California they are talking about organizing a 100,000 person march in February.  We need to do that throughout California.  We need to resist in the courts, we need to resist in the streets.

Actually, a DACA permit holder stands a better chance of fighting deportation than a person who has nothing.  Some argue that if we don’t accept what Trump is offering, we will be putting in jeopardy 800,000 young people with DACA status.  The fact of the matter is that there is an injunction in place in the federal courts against the cancellation of the DACA program which is going to take months to work its way through the courts.

My personal and political recommendation is to fight for a clean bill and to throw these people out of Congress and out of the White House.  If the complexion of Congress changes in November, that will make it extremely difficult for the administration to move forward with its plans for massive deportation.

Dennis J. Bernstein is a host of “Flashpoints” on the Pacifica radio network and the author of Special Ed: Voices from a Hidden Classroom. You can access the audio archives at

24 comments for “Forced Migration vs. ‘Chain Migration’

  1. Deserttrek
    February 3, 2018 at 19:06

    chain migration was put in place to harm not to help.
    immigration should be severely ,limited to only those with proven skills that will be of direct and obvious benefit to the USA
    siblings, parents and others can be visited in the old country

  2. bobzz
    February 3, 2018 at 11:04

    From the piece: “What forces so many to immigrate here? Extreme poverty, the inability to obtain employment at a decent wage, social violence, drug cartel violence. This is what is forcing migration to the United States.” “In Mexico alone, over the course of the NAFTA years from 1994 to the present day, four to five million small farm owners have been thrown off their lands and forced to migrate to America because agribusiness, both in Mexico and the United States, gobbled up those lands and forced production to meet the agricultural needs of the United States. Prior to 1994, Mexico was self-sufficient in its domestic corn production. Today it imports from the United States between 40 and 60 percent of its corn. So those are the push factors that bring migrants to the United States.”

    Comment: let’s get our terminology right. “Illegal immigrant” is an oxymoron. A true immigrant is not illegal. If one is here illegally he is an “illegal alien”. For my part, however, illegal alien is too harsh given the reasons for their being here. The proper description is “refugees”. They are forced by circumstances imposed upon them by our drug habit and greed. They are here to survive and perhaps have a decent life—the same thing anyone will do if possible.

  3. Antares
    February 3, 2018 at 04:28

    Monetary regulations require a permanent increase in population in order to stay alive. Trump can’t change this, nor any other politician. The US is joined in its efforts by Russia, China (from their inland) and most of the European countries. We call it economic growth but it is actually population growth.

  4. Zachary Smith
    February 3, 2018 at 01:39

    “Chain Migration” – a takeoff from “Anchor Babies”, a Republican phrase designed to trash a provision in the US Constitution.

    The Republicans are masters at creating words or phrases to “electrify” a routine or commonplace thing.

    Consider their use of “Death Tax” as a way to demonize the Estate Tax which slightly inconvenienced the creation of a permanent Rich People Class. Or the Unborn” to replace the previous biological terms of Zygote, Embryo and Fetus so as to create the groundwork for compulsory pregnancy.

    The Republicans hate an educated population, and try as much as they can to minimize that education. That way they can use the basic ignorance of most people to get away with slogans like Carbon Dioxide: They Call It Pollution. We Call It Life.

    Most Republican Politicians are snakes, but Big Money has dragged both political parties so far towards the things it wants that today’s Democrats are far to the right of Republicans 60 years ago.

    • Deserttrek
      February 3, 2018 at 19:11

      the estate tax is indeed a death tax, the permanent wealth is created by foundations and trusts
      the clinton foundation was a fraud to collect money
      the kennedys are not gop and there are many families who are not
      in fact many of the larger foundations support the families and liberal causes
      chain migration and anchor babies are factual , illegal alien is factual

      “Most Republican Politicians are snakes,” ALL dems are worse than snakes

    • irina
      February 3, 2018 at 21:21

      Um, carbon dioxide is life. Without it we would starve.
      Of course too much is bad. Ditto for too much oxygen.

      • Zachary Smith
        February 4, 2018 at 00:29

        You’re not on my “denier” list so I’m going with the assumption you’re simply giving a little science lesson suitable for kindergarteners. For the True Deniers, a search I made amazed me with this headline from one of the freaking GW Denier sites. The amazing part is that they didn’t try to explain/reject/deny it.

        Claim: As CO2 levels rise, some crop nutrients will fall

        Zinc and iron went down significantly in wheat, rice, field peas and soybeans. Wheat and rice also saw notable declines in protein content at higher CO2.

        So yes, if evil aliens stole all the Earth’s CO2 tomorrow, we’d starve, then the world would freeze. Maybe there would be ice caps all the way to the equator – I don’t know. So plenty of people are going to starve with increased CO2 levels. Our crop plants have been bred to do well in very specific temperature ranges. When those change, more starvation. Plants need water, and good crop areas may disappear with the rain falling somewhere else. More starvation and mass migrations. Speaking of the latter, with the warming Earth, ocean levels are going to rise a accelerating rates. New York City will have to be abandoned. Miami, abandoned. Who will take in the hundred odd million poor folks in Bangladesh?

        My point is that the Republicans and most Democrats are in the process of doing their thing to destroy Planet Earth as a place where people can live. Making “slogans” to pimp for their Big Oil/Coal masters is a crime and a sin, but do those psychopaths care? No.


        BTW, this is the very first time I’ve ever linked that Denier site. Seeing that piece is like hearing a Creationist tell the truth for a change. Unheard of!

        More: How High Heat Affects Vegetables and Other Crop Plants


        • irina
          February 4, 2018 at 15:07

          Pardon me, but your condescension is showing.

          I’m neither a denier nor a ‘kindergartner’. What I am, is a small-scale truck farmer
          and larger-scale hay producer in (wait for it) the continental subarctic. I am very
          well aware of the effects of additional CO2 on conventional crop plants, and am also
          informed as to the ways which ‘weeds’ will benefit from greater CO2 levels. (Many
          common weeds have mechanisms for better utilizing the C-4 pathways than ‘crops’).
          The University of Alaska, Fairbanks (UAF) has done a lot of research on this topic.

          IF we somehow manage to avoid a Nuclear Winter (and that’s a BIG IF), we will face
          many extreme agricultural challenges, of which excess CO2 is only one. There are
          so many facets to climate change (one big wild card being methane outgassing in the
          Laptev Sea) which will interact in increasingly unpredictable ways. Many climate
          switches have already ‘flipped’ but we are only now noticing the first effects. These
          effects will intensify in nonlinear ways. One result may be that the continental circum-
          polar subarctic may become a very important crop production region in the near future.

          We have the soils, the water, the excellent seasonal photoperiod. If you doubt me,
          come check out the farthest north Farmers Market on the North American Continent,
          the Tanana Valley Farmers Market, in early August or so . . .

          • Zachary Smith
            February 4, 2018 at 16:43

            Pardon me, but your condescension is showing.

            Exactly what kind of reply did you expect after posting “Um, carbon dioxide is life. Without it we would starve. It’s what a person would expect for a kindergarten teacher to say to the kids. Your next post showed you know quite a lot about the subject – something not apparent in the first one.

            One result may be that the continental circum-polar subarctic may become a very important crop production region in the near future.

            This could turn out to be the case, but it is hardly good news. Should northern Canada and Siberia turn out to be prime crop lands, I’d expect the US and China to both to attempt some Israel-style land-grabs. This notion could occur to others as well, for places like Holland are going to become uninhabitable sooner rather than later. In all such cases I’d also expect the targeted nations to resist with all available means, or resorting to ABC weapons systems.

          • irina
            February 4, 2018 at 19:15

            Reply to Zachary Smith : I was only responding to the idiocy of the original slogan
            about CO2 in like manner. Beware your assumptions, if you really want to reach
            assumed ‘deniers’ it might be better to approach the topic less dogmatically.

            China is already quietly buying up large swaths of Siberia. Monsanto has its claws
            deep into the Ukraine. Most of Northern Canada will never be suitable for cultivation
            because it’s too low and wet; the Provinces however may become much more pro-
            ductive. Interior Alaska has lots of potential but at present we suffer from over-regulation
            in the form of not being allowed to clear land for cultivation because it is ‘permafrost’
            and thus, conveniently, also considered ‘wetlands’. (Go figure).

            If you are so very worried about CO2 load, I hope you don’t fly much as jet air traffic is a
            significant contributor to atmospheric CO2. I’m always amazed at the ‘environmentally
            conscious’ folks, constantly flying around the world to promote their perspective. (Again,
            go figure).

          • Zachary Smith
            February 4, 2018 at 22:20

            If you are so very worried about CO2 load, I hope you don’t fly much as jet air traffic is a significant contributor to atmospheric CO2.

            I dug out a couple of pie charts to understand this issue. Since I don’t want to be “moderated”, you’ll need to replace the asterisks with “tt” after cut/pasting to the address window.


            Transportation was 32% of US CO2 emissions. In the second chart, aircraft were 9% of that previous 32%. So I’m not especially concerned about airplanes. We’ll save ourselves (or not!) by what happens with the big chunks of the charts.


            Not that I fly anymore – I swore that off for a variety of reasons, the latest being my unwillingness to put up with the “Security Theater” at the airports.

            IMO Job One is to change our electricity generation to renewables. Until that happens there really isn’t any point of discussing electric cars, trucks, and trains.

            Airplanes can be replaced by ships, but I’m not at all sure as to how much in the ways of savings there would be regarding CO2. In any event, there will be (assuming again that the world survives) a continuing demand for liquid fuels like gasoline and diesel fuel. It’s my opinion that in the short term we need to set aside worrying about things like farm equipment and short-haul 18-wheelers. Make synthetic fuels for them. Use the same techniques as the Nazis did in WW2. A kerosene version of this could continue to power such long-distance airplanes as we need to keep in the air. Synthetic liquid fuels would be made from atmospheric CO2 in factories powered by renewable electricity, and would be totally neutral.

            If somebody builds a tunnel beneath the Bering Strait, it would be quite possible to travel by high-speed train from the tip of South America to Southern Africa. Or Scotland. Only in the Pacific would this be rather impractical.

          • irina
            February 4, 2018 at 23:42

            There will be no tunnel under the Bering Strait. Look at the topography on either side.
            Like Northern Canada, Western Alaska is very low and wet (and will get lower and wetter
            as it thaws). And the Russian Far East is, among other things, VERY remote. Not the least
            bit practicable. We don’t even have a rail link to Canada ! And since it cost something like
            80 million in permitting fees alone to build a bridge across the Tanana River at Salcha a
            few years back (something about concern with ‘silting up’ this huge, glacial river), there is
            very little hope for a rail link in the near term. Notwithstanding that rail is by far the most
            efficient way to move people and freight.

            21st century dirigibles may offer a good alternative for the Far North. They are efficient,
            do not require airstrips, and operate well in the dense cold air of northern winters.

  5. Charles K. Hof
    February 2, 2018 at 22:28

    So the “Repulican Party, the party of family values” is working very dillagently to destroy families.
    In that this country was created by “imigrants” just why distroy the fabric that created the country, other than for “Political and Profit Gains”?
    In the process of “clensing” the country they are doing much more damage than they can possibly imagine, not just to these victims of all of this but to communitiers, and more importantly to our country.
    It seems the only thing Washington listens to (with really big ear plugs!) is the people. So that makes every ones voice important in the voting booth.

    • Loup-Bouc
      February 2, 2018 at 22:52

      To: Charles K. Hof

      Your position is suicidal. I will not join you in a suicide club, but pray that few others do.

  6. dingy
    February 2, 2018 at 19:04

    LMAO! Invade the US illegally, cut ahead of the line instead of waiting your turn, refusing to pay the proper fees involved and teaching to become a RESPECTFUL US Citizen. Dear you NEED to get your communist Azzzzz back to Mexico City and come in the right way! Once that wall goes up that’ll keep out a good 50% of you illegal taco venders and greatly REDUCING visa allotments will take care of the OTHER half! Hasta La Veeeeeeeeeesta seniorita!

  7. Loup-Bouc
    February 2, 2018 at 18:39

    Trump’s immigration and alien entry policy is one of the lone three Trump manifest policies that are utilitarian for the U.S. citizenry. (Trump’s other manifest policies harm the U.S. citizenry gravely. Some harm the world.)

    I hope the Trump administration does prosecute officials who “implement ‘sanctuary’ policies’.”

  8. ,
    February 2, 2018 at 18:32

    Trump and his wall appeals to the deep strain of racism (mostly unadmitted) in American white culture.

    • dingy
      February 2, 2018 at 19:07

      How do you know that Trump isn’t building the wall to keep REAL Americans in? I mean, everywhere I look all i see are Sneaky little white boys invading Mexico because the standard of living is soooooooo much higher in Guadalahara! LMAO!

  9. February 2, 2018 at 17:45

    Hillary was the queen of neo liberals and pushed nafta and cafta that harms workers on both sides of the border.

    Hillary used to be adamantly against illegal immigrants and wanted a Wall,I mean a fence or a barrier.

    No other country allows so many illegals and immigrants with their families with so little regulations of qualifications to become citizens.

    And we wonder how we got Trump

  10. Joe Tedesky
    February 2, 2018 at 17:35

    If I could wish but one thing over this immigration issue, it would be that we Americans attack these big business slanted Trade Agreements, and then maybe…just maybe the immigrant would not wake up one morning to discover that they loss their job in their native country, and so now they must migrate to the U.S. hoping to find work suitable enough to provide for their indigenous family.

    People, are people, and in order to survive a person must do what they must do. Our American corporate and government leaders must take these people’s burdens and better craft their trade agreements to work around the many issues which would first make a person find it necessary to leave their native homeland, and travel to America not knowing what waits for them once on the other side of the fence and they are in the U.S.. We should not be beating up on the immigrant, in as much as we should be petitioning our government officials to find a better way to conduct trade.

    • Loup-Bouc
      February 2, 2018 at 23:00

      To: Joe Tedesky

      You misperceive economic reality, quite as you grasp a false issue, a non-issue.

      Neoliberals want poor alien influx because it drives wages down and enriches large, rich corporations and and their managers and investors (the real Democrat and Republican base), despite it does not enhance tax revenues but imposes unrecaptured costs on state and local governments and, to lesser degree, the federal government, too.

      • Joe Tedesky
        February 3, 2018 at 00:52

        I agree, that wandering migrants can be introduced into a society, as only to drive down that particular society’s wage earnings. There is no difference to our thinking, I think, but I’m not talking about immigrants from that point of view. I am referencing that these ‘Trade Agreements’ are written under a globalist hidden agenda of driving down the workers living wages, along with replacing national industries with trade agreement manipulations, and with all of that that is what is causing this mass migration. Let’s face the George Soros of our world will exploit anything, as long as that ‘anything’ feathers their pockets.

        Loup-Bouc please tell me if I understood your reply the way you meant it, as I would love to learn more if I have this all wrong with your opinion. Joe

        • Loup-Bouc
          February 3, 2018 at 19:23

          TO: Joe Tedesky
          (February 3, 2018 at 12:52 am):

          Trade agreements are irrelevant to the problem of immigration supported by “sanctuary city” or “sanctuary state” officials. Trade agreements do affect immigration IF, UNlike NAFTA, they DRAW motile workers for the benefit of major corporate industry.

          NAFTA bears a DEPRESSIVE effect on Mexican immigration. It encourages large U.S. firms to outsource labor jobs to Mexico.

          NAFTA’s U.S. labor effect is wage-depressive. NAFTA decreases U.S. labor-demand hence increase the labor-supply (the number seeking work). Since labor-demand decreases while labor-supply grows, labor’s “price” (wages) must fall.

          But the NAFTA-effect is not the only influence of U.S. wage-magnitude. NAFTA’s wage-depressive-effect may be (currently is) offset by other influences, like, but not only, increasing numbers of new kinds of jobs for which fitting, readily-available Mexican labor is relatively spare.

          Trump has been manifestly true to the ANTI-trade-agreement policy he claimed during his 2016 Presidency campaign. U.S. employment increased (or “unemployment” diminished) notably during the first year of his Presidency, beyond any degree arguably attributable to Obama’s actions of his final year. One may deduce, TENTATIVELY, that Trump’s anti-trade-agreement stance was PARTLY responsible.

          • Loup-Bouc
            February 3, 2018 at 23:22

            Correction of Loup-Bouc
            February 3, 2018 at 7:23 pm

            NAFTA’s U.S. labor effect is wage-depressive. NAFTA decreases U.S. labor-demand hence increases the labor-supply (the number seeking work).

            [The error was “increase,” which ought to have been “increases.”]

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