In his State of the Union address, President Trump railed against America’s current legal immigration system. Given that this system first originated in 1965, it is worth considering how his policies would have altered America’s flow of immigrants had Congress adopted his proposed policies in 1965. Based on his statements and bills that he has endorsed, President Trump’s ideal immigration policies would have banned at least 57 percent of all legal immigrants since 1965, nearly 23 million people. Such an extreme policy would have radically changed America’s population, economy, and culture.
How Trump’s Plans Would Have Cut Immigration
From 1965 to 2016, nearly 40 million immigrants received legal permanent residency in the United States. President Trump’s policies-fully implemented as he intends-would have reduced that number to just 17.2 million, banning at least 22.7 million people, a majority of all legal immigrants since 1965 (Table 1). Nearly 60 percent of the banned immigrants would have been sponsored by U.S. family members-children, parents, or siblings. The rest of the reduction would come from fewer refugees and asylees, no diversity visa lottery and similar categories, and a much smaller legalization program for illegal immigrants. See Table 2 at the end for a detailed breakdown of these categories.
Table 1: Legal Immigrants by Category,
Sources: Department of Homeland Security; Immigration and Naturalization Service; White House; S.354 - RAISE Act; H.R.4760 - Securing America’s Future Act. *The category for spouses and minor children of residents would be preserved, but under Trump-endorsed bills, no visas would be issued (see text below)
This estimate only considers the direct effects of his policies on the categories that he would reduce, not how those reductions would affect other categories. For example, fewer legal immigrants would reduce the number of naturalized citizens. This would, in turn, result in fewer citizens who could marry foreigners and sponsor their spouses and children. Conversely, the fact that his proposed legislation would issue no visas to spouses and minor children of permanent residents would cause more immigrants to naturalize and sponsor their spouses and minor children. These two effects would at least partially offset each other.