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Congress Is Overlooking Yet Another Crisis in Our Legal Immigration System

June 18, 2019 in Economics

By David Bier

David Bier

With so many immigrants crossing the border illegally, Congress
is overlooking another growing crisis in America’s legal
immigration system. The central finding of
a new study
this week shows that legal immigrants are waiting
longer than ever before for the chance to apply for green cards. If
Congress wants immigrants to follow legal pathways, it should start
by fixing the ones that already exist.

These waits were not caused by bureaucratic delays in processing
applications and petitions, though such delays have worsened.
Rather, the increasing delay is a result of the arbitrary annual
limits on green cards that Congress last created in 1990 —
226,000 for close relatives of citizens and legal permanent
residents, and 140,000 for workers and investors (as well as their
spouses and minor children).

Even as the U.S. population has grown by a third and the economy
has doubled in size, these limits have remained static. If the
numbers run out during the year, immigrants must wait. This
disconnect between a dynamic society and static immigration limits
forces legal immigrants to wait longer and longer for the chance to
apply for their green cards, as legal permanent residence is
known.

Before it demands harsher
treatment of illegal immigrants, Congress should first consider how
it is treating those trying to come the legal way. It can and
should do better.

In the three decades since the last reform, the average time
that it took a legal immigrant to get to the front of the lines
doubled from two years and 10 months to five years and
eight months, according to a
new analysis
from the Cato Institute. The average disguises
huge variation in the wait times because each line moves at
different speeds. More than 100,000 legal immigrants (28 percent of
the quotas) waited at least a decade — in some cases, two
decades — to apply for a green card.

Contrast that with 1991, when the current quotas went into
effect: Just 3 percent waited a decade or more. In fact, back then,
nearly a third had no wait at all because of the quotas. By 2018,
the share with no wait had fallen to just 2 percent.

But here’s the thing: It’s about to get much worse for legal
immigrants. The waits have caused a massive backlog of nearly 5
million immigrants waiting behind those who applied for their green
cards last year. In some categories, that means that new applicants
will face astronomical waits of a half century or more if everyone
sticks it out.

For example, it would take about a century to process
all married adult children of …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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