What Makes the Family Special?

  • United States

What Makes the Family Special?

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But what if family immigration is actually beneficial to the nation? This Article engages in a thought experiment. It asks: For what reasons might a nation like the United States decide to give an overwhelming number of its admission slots to family members of citizens and permanent residents? In considering this question, it not only looks to the (rather slim) evidence of what Congress actually did consider when enacting these provisions but also speculates more broadly about what the advantages of family-based immigration might be. The Article develops a taxonomy of reasons a nation might choose to privilege family-based immigration over other types. There is no normative agenda here: This Article is not an argument that the family is special, and therefore deserves the current number of slots, or more, or less. Rather, this is the first step in helping all of us—scholars, lawmakers, citizens, immigrants—to think more clearly about the system we have and the system we could have. And although this Article brackets the issue of human rights justifications for family reunification, no nation could make decisions about these issues without considering human rights as a part of the calculus. Here, however, the goal is only to better articulate what the non-rights-based considerations for family- based immigration might be and to provisionally think about their role in the design of our immigration system. 


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  • Abrams, Kerry. What Makes the Family Special? University of Chicago Law Review, vol. 80 (2013), p.7.