Making sense of U.S. immigration policies

Part One: Legal Immigration

I’m tired of being clueless about immigration.  Of course I’ve heard all the familiar rants such as “Illegal immigrants are taking all our jobs and are on welfare!” and “We are all immigrants, can’t we all just get along?” and “What about Hillary?” And on it goes.  TBH I don’t even know how many immigrants we allow legally every year, or how they decide who gets to come, and who can’t.  On the assumption that our readers- that’s you- might also want to get informed, the Voice will publish a series of articles trying to make sense of the topic.

First, some basics.  All of our statistics will come from either the official U.S. Government documents and reports, or other non-politically affiliated polling groups such as the Pew Research Center and when we draw conclusions or express opinions it will be clearly identified as such.

Permanent Resident Status (PRS)

About 80% of people applying for PRS do so through what is called Family or Employment related sponsorship.  Of the people applying for admission under the employment visa, the U.S. rates potential immigrants by what they are perceived to be able to contribute to the U.S. workforce- so the highly educated and wealthy people- are more likely to gain entry than would poorly educated manual laborers or service workers.

About 12% are admitted as refugees (the person fears for their life) or for political asylum.  8% are accepted through a Diversity lottery for people from countries who have a low rate of immigration to the U.S.

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

The INA allows the United States to approve up to 675,000 PRS applicants each year  In addition the INA sets no limit on the annual admission of U.S. citizens’ spouses, parents, and children under the age of 21 which means that the total number can be much higher.  Also every year the president is required to consult with Congress and set an annual number of refugees to be admitted to the United States through the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Process.

Although we used to have limits on the number of immigrants from each country, now we  no longer sets a limit for immigrants from specific countries, but no group of PRS immigrants from a single country can exceed seven percent of the total number of people immigrating to the United States in a single fiscal year. That means that only 47,250 people from each country are allowed legal entry each year (this doesn’t include refugees or political asylum seekers). Apparently this rule exists to make sure that no one immigrant group “dominates” the immigration pattern.

Next: Processes and procedures; timelines, the Immigration Courts