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Overview of US Immigration Policy


Overview of US Immigration Policy – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Overview of US Immigration Policy

Overview of US Immigration Policy
US immigration law is complex, with many
different categories for different kinds of
How does a non-citizen legally enter the US?
  • There are two distinct paths into the country
  • Permanent (immigrant) As a lawful permanent
    resident (LPR), one receives a permanent resident
    card (a green card), is eligible to work, and
    may later apply for US citizenship.
  • Temporary diplomats, tourists, temporary
    agricultural workers, students, intracompany
    business personnel. They are not eligible to get
    citizenship, may not work or work only for a
    particular place, and are required to leave the
    country when their visas expire.

You are not allowed into the country if
  • You are convicted of a felony.
  • You have a history of drug abuse.
  • You have a infectious disease (syphilis, HIV,
  • You may become a public charge.
  • These characteristics are also grounds for
    deportation once you have come in.

Some Statistics
  • The US admits approximately 900,000 legal
    immigrants (permanent residents) every year
    (900,000 is .3 of the US population).
  • The State Department issues 5 million visas
    authorizing temporary admission to the US.
  • The criteria for admission for permanent
    residence is much more stringent than for
    temporary visitors.

The goals of current immigration policy
  • To reunite families by admitting immigrants who
    already have family members living in the US
  • To admit workers in occupations with a strong
    demand for labor
  • To provide a refuge for people who face the risk
    of political, racial, or religious persecution in
    their home countries
  • To provide admission to people from a diverse set
    of countries

Category 1 Immediate Relatives of US Citizens
(43 of total LPRs)
  • Spouses and unmarried children (under 21 years)
    of US citizens
  • Parents of US citizens aged 21 and older

Category 2 Family-Sponsored Immigration (23)
  • In order of preference
  • 1) Unmarried sons and daughters (aged 21 and
    older) of US citizens
  • 2) Spouses and unmarried children of lawful
    permanent residents
  • 3) Married sons and daughters of US citizens
  • 4) Brothers and sisters of US citizens aged 21
    and over

Category 3 Employment-Based Immigrants (16)
  • Up to 155,000 visas in 5 preference categories
  • 1) Priority workers with extraordinary ability
    in the arts, athletics, business, education or
  • 2) Professionals with advanced degrees
  • 3) Skilled and unskilled workers in occupations
    deemed to be experiencing shortages
  • 4) Special immigrants such as ministers of
  • 5) People willing to invest at least 1 million
    in a business that create at least 10 new jobs in
    the US.

Category 4 Refugees and Asylum Seekers (8)
  • Refugees and asylum seekers are persons who are
    outside the country and are unable or unwilling
    to return to that country because of a
    well-founded fear that they will be persecuted
    because of race, religion, nationality,
    membership in a particular social group, or
    political opinion. In 2007, President Bush
    authorized the admission of 70,000 refugees
    annually into the country (.02).

Category 5 Diversity Immigrants (5)
  • Up to 50,000 green cards are given away through a
    lottery system to promote immigration from those
    countries that are not currently the principal
    sources of immigration to the US. Applicants must
    have a high school diploma or equivalent or at
    least two years of training or experience in an
    occupation and are selected through a lottery.

Top Sending Countries for LPRs
  • Within all these categories, there are either
    regional (continental) or national caps on the
    numbers of LPRs.
  • Top three source countries of LPRs are 1) Mexico,
    2) India 3) Philippines which together make up a
    third of all LPRs in the US.

Some History of Immigration Law
  • First law limiting immigration was in 1875 no
    criminals, prostitutes, or Chinese contract
  • After World War I, new restrictions
  • Quota law in 1921 each nationality had a quota
    based on its representation in past US census
    figures, with immediate relatives of US citizens
    exempt from the quotas.

Some History of Immigration Law
  • The quota system was abolished in 1965 and
    replaced with categorical preferences for
    relatives of US citizens and LPRs and for
    immigrants with job skills deemed useful to the
    US. This system is largely still in place.
  • Immigration Act of 1990 added a category of
    admission based on diversity (countries that were
    not historically sending countries to the US).

Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), 1986
  • Enhanced enforcement through sanctions on
    employers who knowingly hired or recruited
    unauthorized non-citizens.
  • Two amnesty programs for unauthorized
    non-citizens to legalize their status Seasonal
    Agricultural Workers (who had worked for 90 days)
    and Legally Authorized Workers (who lived in the
    US since 1982).

Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant
Responsibility Act, 1996
  • Doubled the number of border patrols and approved
    a fence along the most used areas of the
    US-Mexico border
  • Reduced government benefits available to
    immigrants. Legal immigrants lost benefits to
    food stamps and SSI illegal immigrants became
    ineligible for all government benefits except
    emergency medical care, immunization, and
    disaster relief
  • Instituted program so that employers could verify
    electronically or by telephone a potential
    workers eligibility to work

Becoming a US citizen Naturalization
  • Any lawful permanent resident who has maintained
    a period of continuous residence and presence in
    the US for 3-5 years can apply for citizenship.
  • He or she must have good moral character,
    knowledge of US history and government and the
    English language, and a willingness to support
    and defend the US and the Constitution.
  • About 500,000 LPRs became citizens in 2004.

Illegal Immigration
  • An estimated 300,000 people come to the US
    illegally every year.
  • Why are they here?
  • How did they get here?

Two Main Ways Into the Country for Illegal
  • Entering the country without going through a
    checkpoint (at airport, port, or border crossing)
  • Overstaying a temporary visa

Why is there Illegal Immigration?
  • What is Rob Parals answer to this question?

Why is there Illegal Immigration?
  • Pathways of legal immigration are slow and
    costly significant backlogs at USCIS. See
    handout, p. 3
  • Non-citizens with LPR petitions are denied
    temporary admission to the US.
  • Under the category of unskilled workers in
    shortage areas, there is a cap of only 10,000
    green cards annually.

Illegal and Legal Immigrants are not so different
as they seem
  • Illegal immigrants pursue legality through papers
    (drivers licenses, SS cards).
  • Many of those who are illegal have children or
    spouses who are legal residents or citizens.
  • Many illegal immigrants fall through the legal
    cracks in terms of paperwork.

Everyone Agrees the System is Broken As is. But
What to Do to Fix It?
  • Congress is currently debating more than a dozen
    proposals to alter or overhaul US immigration

Current Proposed Legislation
  • Enforcement
  • Increased surveillance at the US-Mexico border
    through the National Guard and Border Patrol
  • Construction of 700 miles of fence at the border
    (2100 miles long).

The Proposed US-Mexico Border Fence
US-Mexico Border at Nogales (Arizona and Sonora)
The Unintended Consequences of this Approach
  • It has not resulted in less movement across the
  • Rather, movement happens in more deserted areas
    the crossing routes are more dangerous (more
    isolated) and more expensive in terms of
    smuggling fees.
  • See handout, p. 4

Current Proposed Legislation
  • Employer and Employee Sanctions
  • Raids on illegal workers, as in Fall 2006, who
    are then detained and deported.
  • Sanctions (fines) or criminalization of employers
    or other people who give employment or other
    assistance to illegal workers.

What does Peter Kwong consider to be the
unintended consequences of this approach?
Current Proposed Legislation
  • Legalization
  • More legal routes of entry, whether a guestworker
    program or more green cards
  • Amnesty programs allowing illegal immigrants a
    pathway to legalization, provided they pay a fine

What does Peter Kwong consider to be some of the
unintended consequences of this approach?
What does Kwong propose as a solution?
  • What do you think of it? What are its pros and

Local Ordinances
  • Because of the failure at the federal level to
    fix the problem, attempts have been made at the
    local and state level.
  • Local ordinances to penalize employers and
    landlords who hire or rent to illegal immigrants
    Hazleton, PA and Riverside, NJ
  • English-only provisions in 23 states.

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