Government Data Shows Declines in Legal Immigration

Recently released data from the Department of Homeland Security for FY 2018 reveals a 7.35% decline in the number of new permanent residents to the U.S. since FY 2016.

The steepest drop in immigration is among family-based immigrants who are the immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and permanent residents.  New permanent resident family members fell by 13.6% from FY 2016 to FY 2018.

A deeper dive into the data is available here.  That January 20, 2020 analysis notes that immigration could further decline by hundreds of thousands fewer immigrants annually if an expansion of the “travel ban”, or if the new expanded “public charge” definition, were to take effect.   The Supreme Court has since allowed implementation effective on February 24, 2020 of the new public charge rule while challenges to its legality are underway, and the adminstration announced an expanded travel ban, to  take effect on February 21, 2020.

The  overwhelming brunt of the impact of these two developments will fall on intending immigrant immediate family members of U.S. citizens and permanent residents, and those selected in the annual diversity visa lottery.  While the “public charge” rule theoretically applies to all classes of immigrants,  immigrants through employment are almost exclusively professionals for whom the new English language proficiency and other public charge tests are a non-issue.   And the travel ban expansion applies only to citizens of the affected countries who are immigrating from outside the U.S.   Only a minority  of employment-based immigrants (20% in FY 2018) enter from outside the U.S. to become permanent residents, while a majority of immediate family (64% in FY 2018)  and diversity lottery (98% in FY 2018) immigrants do.

At a time when other industrialized nations with  similar demographic trends to ours of aging populations, declining birthrates, and shrinking workforces, such as Canada, Germany and Japan, are taking steps to increase immigration to their countries for the sake of maintaining healthy economies and communities, the U.S.’s policies decreasing immigration deserve close scrutiny.


New Census Bureau Report Confirms Immigration Stem U.S. Population Declines

A February 2020 report from the U.S. Census Bureau examines the effect on the U.S. population by 2060 if immigration were to continue at current rates,  higher rates, lower rates or if immigration to the U.S. were cut to zero.

Of particular interest is the “low immigration scenario”, which presumes immigration being cut to half of its 2011 to 2015 rates, or roughly to 515,000 new permanent residents iannually.  This scenario is relevant since recent administration policies are putting the country on the fast track to that low annual number, including:

    • reducing the refugee resettlement cap in FY 2020 by nearly 70,000 people compared to FY 2016;
    • the recently expanded travel ban:
      • 11,196 citizens from the newly added countries immigrated to the U.S. in FY 2019 who would have been blocked under the expanded travel ban had it been in effect;
    • the existing 2017 travel ban:
      • 25,547 citizens of Iran, Korea, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen immigrated in FY 2016 (the last fiscal year prior to the travel ban);
    • the new public charge rule, effective on February 24, 2020, whose English language proficiency and other new tests may make about half of all family-based immigrants ineligible to immigrate if they cannot show a household income of at least 250% of the annual federal poverty guidelines ($65,500 for a family of four in 2020), resulting in 300,000-400,000 fewer immigrants annually, including spouses of U.S. citizens.

Under its low immigration scenario, the news when considering a vibrant workforce, is somber.  The Census bureau projects:

    • more than 20% of the U.S. population nationwide will be older than 65 by 2026;
    • the number of people over age 65 will exceed those under age by 2031 (others project  Maine will reach that tipping point in 2020);
    • the number of children below age 18 will decline by a million by 2060;
    • total U.S. population will increase by only 16% by 2060

Maintaining current immigration levels, or increasing them,  would delay or mitigate all of these effects.

As this Brookings analysis of the Census Bureau report states, the

projections show that the current level of immigration is essential for our nation’s future growth, especially in sustaining the younger population.

If the U.S. wants to continue to have vibrant communities and a robust workforce and economy, the administration’s trend towards policies that reduce immigration may prove not to be in the nation’s best interest.




Updated Resource for Immigration Information and Data

The Migration Policy Institute has published a central resource for a broad array of immigration information and data, on topics including:

USCIS Update on H-2B Cap Count

As of February 10, 2020, USCIS had considered petitions on behalf of 21,226 non-agricultural seasonal workers counting towards the 33,000 H-2B visa cap for the second half of the FY 2020 fiscal year (April 1- September 30, 2020).  Petitions had been approved for 7770 beneficiaries and were pending a decision for 13,456 more.  You can keep track of the cap count here.

As Congress has done for multiple years now, it authorized a potential increase of up to 69,320 H-2B visas beyond the cap for the second half of FY2020 in its most recent budget bill, H.R. 1865, the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2020.  While that legislation’s enactment on December 20, 2019 was months earlier than in prior years, there has not yet been action announced by the administration to release additional visas, despite the fact that it is clear from the petitions filed for nearly 100,000 H-2B visas that once again, demand for the visas will far exceed the 33,000 cap.

Congress must make permanent changes, not year to year cap increases, if employers are to be able to rely on the H-2B program for their seasonal labor needs.


Children of Immigrants Have Positive Achievement Impact on K-12 Schools

An analysis from Brookings looks at resources consumed and outcomes in K-12 schools with Limited English Proficient (LEP) students, including first generation immigrant children and second generation U.S. citizen children of immigrant parents.

The report finds that the share of students with immigrant backgrounds in K-12 schools increased nationwide from 18% in 2000 to 32% in 2015.  And while teaching LEP students may demand more resources, the benefits of providing those resources not only helps LEP students to achieve, but also their non-LEP peers.

A comparison of K-12 schools with children attending who were exclusively three generations or more removed from their immigrant forebears (“isolated” schools), and schools with first and second generation children attending with third-plus generation students found that even after controlling for student backgrounds and school characteristics,

on average, third-plus generation students in isolated schools had lower test scores than their third-generation peers in schools that served immigrant students, despite isolated schools having more teaching resources and lower levels of poverty.

The analysis concludes that:

there is no direct evidence that the increased share of immigrant students in the U.S. has negatively affected the educational outcomes of third-plus generation students, either through peer effects or resource channels.

You can read the Brookings analysis here.

Immigrants from India Shifting to Canada as U.S. Raises Barriers to Legal Immigration

A recent Forbes article analyzing U.S. and Canadian immigration data indicates that international students and professional level immigrants from India are turning their sights to Canada, as the U.S. continues to raise barriers and delays to Indians trying to come to the U.S. to study or to live permanently.

In addition to the factors cited in the article that are reducing the attractiveness of the U.S. as a destination for professional level Indian immigrants is the administration’s intention to revoke a rule allowing spouses of H-1B visa holders who have been found eligible to immigrate but are on the wait list for residency, to get work permits in order to not have their own careers  put on hold during the many years Indian H-1B visa holders and their spouses will be waiting. The administration has long signaled its intention to revoke the work permit rule, as we’ve discussed previously, and may issue a proposed rule to that effect in March 2020, according to its Fall 2019 regulatory agenda.

The Forbes article points to Indian immigrants and international students more than doubling in Canada from 2016 to 2018, while their numbers have fallen in the U.S. during the same period, and explains several  contributing factors.  The takeaway:

New restrictions on H-1B visas and international students, combined with long waits for employment-based green cards, make America a less attractive destination than Canada for many high-skilled immigrants and their employers. Based on current trends, the situation is likely to grow worse for U.S. companies seeking to attract talent to America.

In addition, the administration’s trend since 2017 to cut all levels of legal immigration to the country, through dramatically lowered caps on refugee admissions, travel bans, reductions in immigration by members of the immediate families of U.S. citizens and permanent residents, among other measures, does not bode well for the U.S.’s ability to shore up an aging and shrinking workforce, and for the U.S. economy long-term.


New Travel Ban Further Restricts Legal Immigration

On January 31, 2020, the White House issued a Proclamation expanding application of the 2017 travel ban, adding six countries whose citizens will be restricted from U.S. visa issuance and entry to the U.S. as of February 21, 2020 due to concerns about the six countries’ identity-management and information-sharing deficiencies.

The countries are Eritrea, Kyrgystan, Myanmar (Burma), Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania, which are specifically impacted as follows:

Note that immigrants come to the U.S. to reside as permanent residents (“green card” holders) as immediate family members of U.S. citizens or permanent residents, through employment, or after selection in the Diversity Lottery.  Nonimmigrants, who are not banned under the Proclamation, are those coming to the U.S. for temporary purposes, such as visitors, students, or on temporary work visas, among others.

The new ban’s targeting of immigrants, who are closely scrutinized during a long petitioning process, is extremely concerning.   It will result in harming families and employers in the U.S. who will be deprived of their family members and employees.   For example, in FY 2018, 7,345 Nigerians were issued immigrant visas to join their U.S. citizen and permanent resident immediate family members here.   Another 495 immigrant visas were issued to Nigerians approved to immigrate based on employment.

The Proclamation rationalizes its focus on immigrants by stating they are harder to remove from the U.S. than non-immigrants, but that is inaccurate.  Nonimmigrants can apply for asylum and other forms of relief from removal, just as immigrants can.  And, for example, in FY 2018, while 7922 Nigerians obtained immigrant visas to enter the U.S., 221,819 nonimmigrant Nigerians  entered the U.S.   Given the ban’s stated security rationale, targeting only immigrants makes little sense, and prompts questions about the true motivation behind the ban.

The targeted countries, and critics within the U.S., have begun to push back noting not only the harm to families but also the economic damage that may flow both ways.

The new ban does not apply to individuals from the above countries who already were issued visas before the February 21, 2020 effective date, nor to those who are returning permanent residents or who now have U.S. citizenship and are returning from travels abroad using their U.S. passports, or who have dual citizenship and are traveling with their passports from a non-banned country.  Nor does it apply to refugees and those already granted asylum.

The six new countries join seven others who have been subject to the travel ban since December 4, 2017, including Iran (all immigrants and nonimmigrants banned, except for F and M students and J exchange visitors who are subject to extra scrutiny),  Libya (all immigrants and nonimmigrant visitors for business or pleasure banned), North Korea (all immigrants and non-immigrants banned),Somalia (all immigrants banned, and non-immigrants subject to extra scrutiny), Syria (all immigrants and non-immigrants banned), Venezuela (certain government official visitors and their families), and Yemen (all immigrants and nonimmigrant visitors for business or pleasure banned).