‘Chain’ of Fools

Trump’s Mainstreaming of ‘Chain Migration’: A White Supremacist’s Dream

It began life as a neutral sociological term. Then white supremacists started using ‘chain migration’ in a polemical way. Now the president of the United States uses it, too.


Photo Illustration by Lyne Lucien/The Daily Beast

Donald Trump may have historically low approval ratings with Americans at large but there’s one group that loves him bigly: white supremacists. Trump truly is the great white supremacist hope. Just look at how they praised Trump after Tuesday’s State of the Union speech, in which the man who unilaterally ended DACA last fall spoke the line, “Americans are dreamers too.” (Trump uttered a similar racist dog whistle during the campaign with his remark, “We’re always talking about ‘DREAMers’ for other people.” Adding, “I want the children that are growing up in the United States to be dreamers also.”)

Sure enough Trump’s real message about “Americans are dreamers too” was heard loud and clear by white supremacists with former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke and white nationalist Richard Spencer both taking to Twitter to praise that specific line of the SOTU.

But Trump is now trying to take it beyond rhetoric to deliver to white supremacists a dream they have long championed: ending “chain migration.” The origins of the term “chain migration” can be traced back to the academic world in 1960s. Then it was used in a neutral way to describe our nation’s immigration scheme enacted in 1965 that put an emphasis on family reunification. “Chain migration” as Trump decries it is actually the American story—it’s the tale of my family and millions of others in America as one relative would immigrate here and then when settled, would try to bring other relatives to join them to share a shot at a better life and the American dream.

But since at least the early 2000s one group has led the charge to redefine “chain migration” as a threat to America: white supremacists.

This fact isn’t even hidden. As Travis Hale, a self-described alt-right “evangelist” recently tweeted about the topic: “I remember days when chain migration was niche topic only [Jared Taylor] @jartaylor or [Peter Brimelow] @peterbrimelow would discuss.” He added, “Trump isn’t perfect but be thankful!” while quoting Trump’s tweet declaring: “CHAIN MIGRATION Must end now.”

Jared Taylor, who is cited in that tweet, has long been labeled by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a white nationalist. Taylor has served up vile comments such as “blacks and whites are different. When blacks are left entirely to their own devices, Western civilization—any kind of civilization—disappears.”

No wonder David Duke declared in 2016 that voting for anyone but Trump is ‘treason to your heritage.’

Taylor had published for years the now-defunct white nationalist publication American Renaissance where articles called for ending “chain migration.” In one 2003 article titled “Fade to Brown,” the writer warned of the perils of “chain migration,” claiming it was responsible for bringing entire “Mexican villages” to America while “whites have been largely pushed out of the immigrant stream.” The author then literally praised discrimination against brown immigrants in favor of white ones to save our country and urges people to make “racial principles an explicit part of the national debate” on immigration. I bet white supremacists are thrilled with Trump doing just that by calling for less people from “shithole” countries in Africa and Haiti while advocating for more immigrants from Norway, a country nearly 90 percent white.

Then there’s Peter Brimelow, the other white nationalist referred to in Hale’s tweet. Brimelow, who wrote a book that argued America is a white-dominated nation and should stay that way, slammed “chain migration” back in 2001 claiming that “as a result, the U.S. racial balance is shifting rapidly.”

And there have been countless other openly white supremacist websites that have long called for an end to “chain migration” in order to preserve America as a white majority nation. In April 2007, the website Age of Treason called for changing American laws so that there will be “no chain migration,” adding, “Your relatives are not welcome.” Interestingly that article featured an image with type saying that if immigrants didn’t want to learn English, they should “return to a shit hole of a country you left behind.” Hmm, you think it’s a coincidence that Trump and these white supremacists use the same language to describe countries filled with non-white people?

In 2008 on the website Stormfront, founded by former Klan Leader Don Black, readers were urged to “Call your Senators and demand an end to chain migration and the visa lottery.” Seems that Trump heard them on both counts. And the list goes on of white supremacist websites calling for an end to “chain migration” long before the term made its way to Trump’s lips.

In fact, white nationalist Richard Spencer confirmed that very point just last week. As the SPLC reported, Spencer explained in his podcast “Alt-Right” that the topic of “chain migration” “has never been in mainstream discourse in my memory and it has certainly never been part of a policy deal, and Stephen Miller deserves credit for that.”

Actually, it’s not Miller’s doing but Trump’s. But it seems Spencer has a soft spot for Miller, whom he views as his “mentee” because they knew each other from their days at Duke University.

Get The Beast In Your Inbox!

Daily Digest

Start and finish your day with the top stories from The Daily Beast.

Cheat Sheet

A speedy, smart summary of all the news you need to know (and nothing you don't).

By clicking “Subscribe,” you agree to have read the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy
Thank You!
You are now subscribed to the Daily Digest and Cheat Sheet. We will not share your email with anyone for any reason.

But after Trump’s SOTU on Tuesday, Spencer was giving Trump his just due with the tweet that translated for us the racist dog whistle Trump is blowing: “Trump said that he wants to maintain the ‘nuclear family’ by ending chain migration. Basically, he’s implying the superiority of the Prostestent [sic] ‘wife and kids’ over the South American and African extended family. Interesting rhetoric.” Interesting? Nah. A white supremacist dream? You betcha.

And Trump has also employed his allies at Fox News to help him mainstream the white nationalist goal of ending “chain migration.” As Media Matters recently noted, the term “chain migration” was mentioned zero times in 2016. How many times in 2017 was that phrase discussed on Fox News? Two hundred ninety-five!

This is a case study in how the long-held dream of white nationalists traveled from the extreme fringes of society into the Oval Office. No wonder David Duke declared in 2016 that voting for anyone but Trump is “treason to your heritage.” Trump is truly more than a president to these people—he’s more like their grand wizard.