The 2016 GOP platform states that:
“In light of the alarming levels of unemployment and underemployment in this country, it is indefensible to continue offering lawful permanent residence to more than one million foreign nationals every year.”
What’s actually indefensible about our green card system is how few of them come here for work purposes. First, legal immigrant inflows to the U.S. as a percent of our population are small compared to other developed countries (Figure 1). The only countries with fewer immigrant inflows as a percent of their populations are Portugal, Korea, Mexico, and Japan. The United States does allow more immigration as an absolute number than any other country but we also have a very large population, making these annual flow figures seem small.
Immigrant Inflows as a Percent of Population, 2013
Sources: OECD, EuroStat, E-Stat, Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
These relatively small immigrant flows have only produced an immigrant percentage of our population that is midrange among the OECD countries (Figure 2). New Zealand has the highest at 28.4 percent of their population while Mexico has the lowest at 0.84 percent of theirs. The United States is in the middle at 13 percent. Our legal immigration system is so restrictive that without unauthorized immigrants the U.S. population of the foreign-born would only be about 9.5 percent of our population – a 28 percent reduction in present numbers.
Immigrant Stock as a Percent of the Population, 2013
Green card workers admitted as a percentage of the total annual immigrant inflow are far lower here than in other countries (Figure 3). Only about 7.7 percent of all green cards annually issued by the U.S. government are for workers – virtually all of them high skilled. The employment-based green card system allowed about 140,000 green cards to be issued annually but that number also includes the family members of those workers. In 2014, 56 percent of green cards set aside for skilled workers actually went to family while 44 percent were for the workers themselves. The GOP platform wants to decrease this already small number of green cards for skilled workers even further.