President Trump has repeatedly called for an immigration system like Canada’s. Unlike the president’s plans for immigration, however, the Canadian government announced last week that it would increase legal immigration by 13 percent from 310,000 in 2018 to 350,000 new legal permanent residents in 2021. This amounts to 0.9 percent of its 2021 population. By contrast, the United States allowed a rate of 0.3 percent of its population in 2017.
Figure 1 provides the breakdown of the Canadian and U.S. immigration rates right now by type of immigration. In 2017, Canada permitted virtually the exact same rate of family-sponsored immigration, double the rate of humanitarian immigration, and 11 times the rate of economic-focused immigration as the United States did. If the U.S. rate remains steady as it has, America will fall further behind in the international competition for labor.
Despite the overwhelming focus on economic-based immigration, Canadian immigrants are not more educated than U.S. immigrants, as I’ve described before. Canada is also not unusual in having a higher immigration rate. As I’ve written before, most other wealthy countries have higher immigration rates than the United States does.
Unless the United States adjusts its outdated immigration quotas, these disparities will only increase. Yet President Trump has endorsed proposals to cut legal immigration in half, meaning that Canada would be allowing in on a per-capita basis five times more immigration than the United States. Indeed, every proposal supported by the president so far has amounted to reduction in legal immigration. Cutting legal immigration would harm economic growth and make America less competitive economically.
If Congress wants to emulate Canada, it would double humanitarian immigration and increase economic-focused immigration by tenfold or more, while not cutting family-sponsored immigration as the president has suggested.