With 10% unemployment, one would think that the government would consider lowering the number of green cards issued to foreign workers until Americans were back on their feet. Amazingly, recently released data from the Department of Homeland Security shows that we have actually increased immigration. Far from reflecting supply and demand, our legal immigration numbers continue to climb no matter the state of the national economy.
The latest figures come from fiscal year 2009. The fiscal year began on October 1, 2008, which is when our economic collapse began and continued through September of 2009. Over five million Americans lost their jobs over that period.
America issued 1,130,818 permanent green cards, 808,478 of which were given to immigrants of working age. This is an increase over 2008 and 2007. Excluding the extra green cards given after the 1986 amnesty, this was the second highest number of green cards issued since 1914. From 2000 though 2009, we issued 10,299,430—the highest decade in American history.
In addition to the green cards, the government issued 881,840 temporary work visas and gave refugee or asylum status to 96,721 aliens. The total increase to the American workforce was 1.75 million foreign workers. According to the Census Bureau, 1 out of every 6 workers is foreign born.
What are the possible justifications for this policy? Are these immigrants taking jobs Americans won’t do? With the unemployment rate at nearly 10%, no one can say this with a straight face.
Does this create diversity? The pool of legal immigrants is rather un-diverse. Less than 10% of them come from Europe.
Does this decrease illegal immigration? If that were the case, you would have expected the illegal immigration numbers to decline as legal immigration increased. In fact, they have both skyrocketed.
Instead of talking about reducing these numbers, politicians are calling for raising the level of legal immigration. Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and Harry Reid (D-NV) recently released an outline for their ideas for “comprehensive immigration reform.” They call for adding an additional 3.4 million family visas and 550,000 work visas.
In the house, Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) and Solomon Ortiz’s (D-TX) introduced the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America's Security and Prosperity Act (H.R. 4321) which makes the same proposals for increasing family and work visas, but one ups them by adding a special new visa category of 100,000 permanent green cards a year to go specifically to Latin American countries.
There are two bills in Congress that will reduce legal immigration. Rep. Phil Gingrey’s (R-GA) Nuclear Family Priority Act (H.R.878) will limit family based immigration and reduce 111,800 green cards. Rep. Bob Goodlatte’s (R-VA) SAFE for America Act (H.R.2305 ) will eliminate the Visa Lottery category that grants 50,000 visas a year. Unfortunately, the Republican leadership is not backing these bills and they only have 30 and 57 co-sponsors, respectively.
These bills are a great start, but even if they passed we’d still issue nearly one million green cards a year. If we really want to put Americans back to work, we need a moratorium across nearly all categories of legal immigration. A moratorium will free up jobs for American citizens, reduce the stress on social services, and allow the immigrants already here to assimilate.
The only people who will lose out from a moratorium are the ethnic interests who want new constituents and the business lobbies who want cheap labor. Unfortunately, both political parties are more concerned with the well-being of these special interests than the well-being American citizens.
Virgil Goode represented Virginia’s 5th Congressional District from 1997 to 2009.