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 decline is actually 11% if refugees and asylees, who have been permanently living in the U.S. for well over a year by the time they get their green cards, are subtracted from the total.

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 noted 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.   Since it was written, the Supreme Court allowed implementation effective on February 24, 2020 of the new public charge rule while challenges to its legality are underway, and the administration announced an expanded travel ban,  effective 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 legal immigration deserve close scrutiny.