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Green Card Backlog Paralyzes Immigration System, Imperiling US Economy

-Editorial

This year, only about 3% of the people who have submitted green card applications will receive permanent status. Close to 35 million applications are pending, up from 10 million in 1996. The first backlogs started a century ago, when the first immigration caps were applied, and they have quickly accelerated as the immigration laws became more restrictive and complicated because of politics.

Caps and quotas, processing delays, and waste of available green cards are par for the course in a system that discourages legal and orderly immigration. Experts suggest that the best solution would be to lift caps and significantly expand legal immigration, and argue that the US economy would benefit tremendously, as would the Social Security fund.

In a recent press briefing by Ethnic Media Services, the panel discussed why the U.S. reached this crisis point in the legal immigration system, what the solutions are, and why the United States can easily absorb and benefit from the newly legalized population.

David J. Bier, Associate Director of Immigration Studies at the Cato Institute spoke during his PowerPoint presentation about the reasons behind the high number of pending green card applications. Bier clarified that the complexity of the process isn’t the main cause but rather the caps on green cards. The historical context is presented, showing a decline in approval rates since the imposition of caps in the 1920s.

Bier broke down the current situation, detailing the various categories of green card applicants and their respective approval rates. He emphasizes the impact of unchanged caps despite a significant increase in applications, concluding with a call to reevaluate the concept of a “small America” and embrace the potential contributions of immigrants.

In a report published by the Bipartisan Policy Center, millions found themselves in green card backlogs, enduring extended waits for permanent resident status in the United States. The backlogs, with substantial human and economic costs, left essential roles unfilled and restricted job opportunities. A comprehensive report delved into the economic benefits of clearing these backlogs, estimating trillions in GDP gains over a decade.

The report identified a backlog of 7.6 million individuals, including both processing and cap-based backlogs. Clearing these hurdles was projected to boost GDP by $3.9 trillion over 10 years, with the majority stemming from new entrants to the country.

Notably, adjustments from temporary to permanent status contributed positively, albeit on a smaller scale. The study emphasized the significance of policies like increasing green card limits and enhancing visa processing resources to maximize economic benefits.

California, New York, Florida, Texas, and New Jersey were poised to receive the highest GDP benefits, reflecting their large immigrant populations. The report suggested decentralized state-based visa programs as a means to distribute immigrants more evenly across the U.S., potentially addressing economic inequality.

The urgency for policy changes to handle green card backlogs was underscored, with a warning that failure to act would result in escalating human and economic costs for both foreign and native-born populations.

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