Posted by Curt on 28 August, 2014 at 11:33 am. 2 comments already!


Bryon York:

Of all the arguments made in the long and contentious debate over immigration reform, the one heard most often, from all sides, is that our immigration system is “broken.” President Obama, John Boehner, Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, Chuck Schumer, John McCain, Dick Durbin — just about every politician who has ever weighed in on the issue has said it.

The only problem is, our immigration system is not broken. The part of the system that lets people into the United States is working — not without flaws, of course, but successfully managing the country’s immigration needs every day. And while the part that keeps people out of the country, or expels them if they overstay their permission to be here, is not working very well, it’s not because the system is broken, but because Congress and the president do not want it to work.

First, the part that lets people in. The United States grants legal permanent resident status — better known as a green card — to about one million people each year. The actual numbers, according to the Department of Homeland Security 2012 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics — the most recent full set of data available — were 1,031,631 in 2012; 1,062,040 in 2011; 1,042,625 in 2010; and so on going back. Legal permanent resident status is what it sounds: a recipient can stay in the United States permanently, and become a citizen if he or she chooses.

“We are the most generous nation on earth to immigrants, allowing over one million people a year to come here legally,” wrote Sen. Rubio in 2013. The new million each year come from all around the world, with heavy concentrations in a few places. According to the Yearbook, in 2012, 416,488 came from Asia, while 389,526 came from Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America. That’s a lot of the million right there; other sources include 103,685 from Africa and 86,956 from Europe.

Of the total, the vast majority — 680,799 in 2012 — were given green cards because they have family members in the United States. A much smaller group, 143,998, were admitted for employment reasons. The rest were given refugee status, or asylum, or came from the so-called “diversity” lottery.

Under current law — that is, if there is no immigration reform at all — those grants of legal permanent resident status will continue, million after million, year after year, for the foreseeable future. Under the Gang of Eight comprehensive immigration reform bill passed by the Senate last year, the one million each year would increase dramatically, perhaps even doubling to about two million. That’s one of the key debates, if not the key debate, about immigration reform: Is it wise to greatly increase the already large number of immigrants admitted to the country each year, especially in a time of high unemployment and economic anxiety?

Of course the U.S. admits many more people from foreign countries each year under different terms. In 2012, the U.S. gave out about 527,000 student and exchange visas. (These numbers come from the State Department and are a little less precise than those from DHS.) In the same year, there were about 690,000 visas granted to temporary workers and their families, a number which included about 135,000 of the much-discussed H-1B visas awarded to skilled workers.

Again, those numbers would increase dramatically under the Gang of Eight reform bill. But the current figures in no way suggest that the system is broken. In fact, they show that it is working, perhaps more effectively than those who favor limiting immigration would like.

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