Blanketing opinions that I'll probably regret soon.

Friday, May 05, 2006

You Want "Huddled Masses"? How about 142,962 in 2005?

During the immigration debate, many people assume that the USA is stingy with allowing immigrants to come to the US legally, so it must be done through extra-legal means. That security-obssessed Uncle Sam is barring the poor and downtrodden from entering and defying our "nation of immigrants" heritage. That's total fantasy.

I just found a recent government (USCIS - formerly INS) report (PDF: 6 pages) which is very interesting with regards to US legal immigration.

The number of legal "asylees" and "refugees" who gained Legal Permanent Residence (LPR - "green card") in 2005 was 142,962 (page 2 of above report). Over the course of 2003-2005, the number of asylees and refugees totalled 259,119. Just some perspective: that's just under half the population of Washington, DC.

The overall total number of legal immigrants (LPRs) in 2005 was 1,122,373, just under the population of Dallas but larger than Detroit. Over the course of 2003-2005, the US gave LPR status to 2,786,083 legal immigrants. Check out what size US city that compares to here.

In addition, the US's Diversity Lottery allows 55,000 foreign nationals to become LPRs every year. The purpose of the program is to encourage citizens of countries "with low rates of immigration to the United States" to live the American dream. 55,000 is about half the size of Gary, Indiana. The program excludes Mexicans, because Mexico sends the US more LPRs than any other country, with 161,445 in 2005 (452,720 Mexican LPRs from 2003-2005).

It might sound cheesy, but these statistics make me proud of my country (this might be the first time I've ever said that). We really DO reach out to the world and get them a fair chance. So why do so many people think that the US is so unfair to immigrants? We're simply not. More people immigrate to the US than any other country. I asked people in my office (a very left-wing establishment) how many asylees and refugees they thought the US gave LPR status to in 2005. Their guesses ranged from 500 to 1,200. But they all sheepishly grinned when I said the actual number was well over 142,000.

I'm dumbfounded.

Anyway, I suppose these are forbidden thoughts and I'll surely be accused of being "right wing". Because, you know, it's always fascist to point out that maybe the USA isn't so bad after all ...
I don't really get what your point is. We have 300 million people in the US and you are bragging that we let in 1/10 of 1% of them as immigrants?

Why don't you tell us again about that dollar you gave a homeless guy in 1988?
I agree with you Lonnie. And I'll tell you why everyone thinks we are not fair to immigrants: the fucking American media. There is no news like bad news and when the recent immigration debate was started and immigrants (mostly mexicans) took to the streets to cause a stir, that's when the media reports on immigration policy. Not the good things, only the bad, bad=ratings.
LB, the shoe store called. They said your jackboots were polished and ready. Just kidding.

To me it boils down to an economy that depends on illegal immigration to float it along, so despite the couple million we've legally allowed in, the "market demands" more labor.

Of course, getting into that topic brings a whole new set of complications.

I'm glad you mentioned that perspective because it's something that the pro-illegal immigration side often mentions.

It's the "who will pick our grapes?" argument. Well, actually, there is a legal way to do it. It's called the H2A visa, for temporary agricultural labor. In fact, there was a long profile on TV 2 nights ago of a nursery in Texas who used H2A to employ about 130 Mexican day laborers legally---just like hundreds of other law-abiding companies in the US. The law requires the company to provide them higher than a prevailing wage, housing, transportation to and form work, etc. Read all about it. And there's a whole array of other H (temporary work) visas which are set up to meet the "market demands". Hell, I've got time. Let's begin.

The H2B is temporary non-agricultural work. The US allows in 66,000 H2Bs per year. They meet the demands of hundreds of industries, from crab pickers on the eastern shore (witnessed it myself), to Disneyland ticket sellers.

And the golden goose, the H1B visa, which allows 65,000 high skilled laborers into the US per year. Now in Congress, they're discussing allowing in about 115,000 for fiscal year 2007.

That's not to mention the special work visas (the "TN") the US allows Canada and Mexico only because of NAFTA. - Thousands more foreign nationals.

And how about the L-1A visa? for companies who have subsidiaries abroad? Thousands, my friend.

I could go on and on because the US provides a virtual alphabet soup of visa work categories to meet the "market demand". All the above visa categories just scratch the surface on non-immigrant visas. And those millions of non-immigrants are not even included in the 1,122,000 (2005) number I mentioned in my post!

It's strange, because in this debate the left often ends up arguing in support of US domestic capitalists who exploit the poor who come here from the 3rd World to work against the law.
Hey homeimprovementninja,
That number might not seem like a lot, but look at it this way: 33% of US population growth is from immigration.
LB -- sorry to get back so late -- but that's why I said it's all complicated, because obviously I'm not backing the exploitation of the ag workers. Gotta hurry here because of time but basically all the legal avenues are sort of moot since there's little incentive (in a real sense) for businesses to worry about the legality fo their workers.
It seems this whole debate is based on lack of real information. Thanks for providing all the real facts.

What I can't figure out is why the issue had been allowed to develop into such an emotional fustercluck. If the administration knew we needed all these agricultural workers, landscapers and nannies, why not just quietly extend the existing temporary visa program to meet the market demand?

In the interests of full disclosure I'm one those millions of legal immigrants, formerly H1B status, now LPR.

Thanks. You're the kind of immigrant the majority of Americans are happy to welcome to this country.

I think part of the reason that there are almost 12 million unlawful foreign nationals on USA soil is because in 1991 a record number of unlawful foreign nationals were given LPR status (see aforementioned report) under the Reagan amnesty so it was an incentive for millions more to come over the past 15 years, thinking they'd be able to do the same. And now it looks like they will be.

I also came across an interesting article about the effects of illegal immigrants and social security number fraud.
There you go, confusing us with facts again.
Who cares? Basically these immigrants are "illegal" because they didn't fill out a bunch of paperwork. Big deal.

What you're saying is that a country has no right to decide its own immigration policy. That any country's immigration policy should be set by those desiring to immigrate into it. The rules are null and void---unimportant.

We'll have to agree to disagree here, but I will remind you that around one billion people in the world live on less than one dollar a day, and would be happy to make the US home.
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