The last time Washington spoke coherently about immigration

The last time Washington talked coherently about immigration was during the 1990s, when the Commission on Immigration Reform (known as the Jordan Commission, for its chairwoman, Barbara Jordan 1936 – 1996, a then former Democratic congresswoman from Texas) issued a series of reports drawing upon its research and made a concerted and largely successful attempt by commission members to speak with one voice.

The commission examined and made recommendations on virtually every aspect of the immigration system: family reunification, employment-based immigration, enforcement measures to stem unauthorized immigration, and numerical limits on all classes of immigrants, non-immigrants, and asylees.

Between 1994 and 1997, it issued four reports. In the last report, “Becoming An American: Immigration and Immigrant Policy,” the commission defined a vision in 90 words:

“Properly-regulated immigration and immigrant policy serves the national interest by ensuring the entry of those who will contribute most to our society and helping lawful newcomers adjust to life in the United States. It must give due consideration to shifting economic realities. A well-regulated system sets priorities for admission; facilitates nuclear family reunification; gives employers access to a global labor market while protecting U.S. workers; helps to generate jobs and economic growth; and fulfills our commitment to resettle refugees as one of several elements of humanitarian protection of the persecuted.”

The commission recommended that permanent residency (“green card”) numbers go down by about a third from the prevailing annual level of about 600,000 then. Today, about one million green cards are issued annually.

The Biden immigration plan (The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021) would increase green cards by 28% from about 1,180,000 to 1,510,000. Family-related visas (immediate and relatives) are to remain basically flat, while employment-related visas are expected to grow by 285%. Family-related visas will decline from, 69% to 52% of all visas awarded; employment related from 12% to 34%. Refugee, asylee, and lottery visas will remain at about 18% of visas. (In chart below RAD = refugee, asylee, and diversity visas.) See my posting here.

How is the U.S. different today from 1995? In 1995, our population was 267 million, the birth rate was 1.5 per 100 population, and foreign born comprised 24.2 million, or 9% of total population. Today, our population is 328 million, the birth rate is 1.2 per 100 population, and foreign-born comprise 45 million, or 13.7% of total population.

For birthrates, go here.

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