Understanding America's Legal Immigration System

Report Author: 
Stuart Anderson
Original Date of Publication: 
December, 2017

This paper very briefly describes the U.S. immigration system, explains why immigration is important to the country, and addresses many of the myths prevalent in the immigration debate of today. In the context of current proposals to cut legal immigration, the author explains the importance of immigration for the growth in our workforce. He also notes that immigrants are disproportionately entrepreneurs, and immigrants who've come on family visas start many of America's small businesses. Immigrants have also made many important contributions in the fields of science and medicine. Temporary immigrants, too, are important to the U.S. economy, and the author runs through the alphabet soup of temporary worker visas and their purposes. As to the myths being repeated by advocates of lower immigration levels, the author notes that the number of new immigrants coming to the U.S. today is lower than it was in the early 1900s relative to total population, and that since 2001, the annual level of immigration has remained about the same. This contradicts those who say that "chain migration" is resulting in ever-greater migration. The author notes there are no visa categories for "extended" family members, and the wait for some close family members-brothers and sisters, for example-may be 20 years due to the limited number of visas available and per-country limits on visas awarded. The question of immigration's impact on native-born workers is also addressed, and there is little evidence for the idea that immigrants adversely impact native-born workers in any way. Finally, the author focuses on a topic that has so far received little press: education levels of new immigrants have been rising, and they are now, on average, higher than that of natives. (Maurice Belanger, Maurice Belanger Associates)

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Anderson, S. (2017). Understanding America’s Legal Immigration System (Policy Brief) (p. 19). Arlington, VA: National Foundation for American Policy. Retrieved from https://nfap.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/Understanding-American-Legal-Immigration-System.NFAP-Policy-Brief.December-2017-1.pdf

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