If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say that he opposes illegal immigration, but supports legal immigration, I could take a nice vacation. Early in my three-decade career covering immigration, advocating for legal immigration was, if you will, the popular thing to do. Illegal immigrants were, as the story went, lawbreakers. On the other hand, legal immigrants were an American tradition, and therefore good.
Problems surfaced however when analysts realized that during the past 30 years, legal immigration has continued – ballooned, really – unchecked. In the aggregate, since the late 1980s more than 30 million legal permanent residents have settled in the United States with no end in sight to this unsustainable population growth.
Along with more legal immigration comes chain migration at the rate of almost four more legal immigrants per each original immigrant. To fully grasp the enormity of legal immigration now, compare today’s more than one million annual arrivals to the 40-year period that led up to the 1965 Immigration Act when the yearly legal permanent resident average intake hovered around 178,000.
While legal immigration has many downsides, one of the most dramatic is that it expands the labor pool. Lawful permanent residents are work authorized for life, and compete directly with citizens for employment. Consider the sobering fiscal year 2017 annual report from the Department of Homeland Security, which shows the federal government issued a staggering 1,127,167 green cards for the year – the third highest total in the last decade. In nine of the last ten years, the federal government has granted more than one million green cards.
The immigration subcategory totals also are overwhelming. More than 267,000 green cards were allotted to chain migration categories; that is, relatives other than spouses and minor children of citizens and lawful permanent residents. Eventually, chain migrants will petition their own family members to join them. Green cards to refugees, 120,356, hit a ten-year high. Since refugees can’t apply for green cards until they have been in the U.S. for at least a year, the total doesn’t reflect the actual number of refugees admitted.
One more troubling statistic: the Congressional Research Service reported that in 2016 “employment-based admission has more than doubled from just over 400,000 in FY1994 to over one million in FY2014” and noted that many temporary guest worker programs “are not subject to any labor market tests.”
Numerous other reports show how immigration has harmed American employment opportunities. From the Obama White House came the 2016 overview titled “The Long-Term Decline in Prime-Age Male Labor Force Participation.” An excerpt: “Foreign-born prime-age men continue to participate at higher rates than the native-born. Their [the foreign-born] participation rate has actually risen slightly over the last two decades by 1.4 percentage points since 1994, while the native-born prime-age male participation fell by 4.4 percentage points….”
Examining a longer period, from 2000 through 2014’s first quarter, all of the net employment gains went to immigrant workers, while the native-born unemployed increased 17 million. Finally, from December 2007 through June 2015, all the net employment gains among women went to foreign-born. With immigration continuing at historically high levels, these disturbing trends are likely to continue unabated.
My challenge to readers: Begin a worldwide search to find a nation that has immigration laws more hurtful to its native worker population than the U.S. Hint: none will be found.