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Overview of US Immigration Policy. US immigration law is complex, with many different categories for different kinds of people. How does a non-citizen legally enter the US?. There are two distinct paths into the country:

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us immigration law is complex with many different categories for different kinds of people

US immigration law is complex, with many different categories for different kinds of people.

how does a non citizen legally enter the us
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 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, tuberculosis).
  • You may become a public charge.

These characteristics are also grounds for deportation once you have come in.

some statistics
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
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
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
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
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 science;

2) Professionals with advanced degrees;

3) Skilled and unskilled workers in occupations deemed to be experiencing shortages;

4) “Special immigrants” such as ministers of religion;

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
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
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
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
Some History of Immigration Law
  • First law limiting immigration was in 1875: no criminals, prostitutes, or Chinese contract laborers
  • 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 law14
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
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
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 worker’s eligibility to work
becoming a us citizen naturalization
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
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 immigrants
Two Main Ways Into the Country for Illegal Immigrants
  • Entering the country without going through a checkpoint (at airport, port, or border crossing)
  • Overstaying a temporary visa
why is there illegal immigration

Why is there Illegal Immigration?

What is Rob Paral’s answer to this question?

why is there illegal immigration21
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 and Legal Immigrants are not so different as they seem
  • Illegal immigrants pursue legality through papers (driver’s 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

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 policy

current proposed legislation
Current Proposed Legislation


  • 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 unintended consequences of this approach
The Unintended Consequences of this Approach
  • It has not resulted in less movement across the border.
  • 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 legislation28
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.
current proposed legislation30
Current Proposed Legislation


  • 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 kwong propose as a solution

What does Kwong propose as a solution?

What do you think of it? What are its pros and cons?

local ordinances
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.