Looking Forward: U.S. Immigration Predictions for 2022

By CIS on December 31, 2021

In 2021, the United States experienced the highest number of arrests in history by the Border Patrol at the Mexican border, a dramatic decline in deportations (including the deportation of convicted criminals), and the granting of work permits and Social Security numbers to an estimated one million illegal immigrants. With the Biden administration’s disregard for immigration control and an apparent desire to effectively legalize illegal immigration, the Center for Immigration Studies approaches the new year with pessimism mixed with hope for the long term.

Experts at the Center share their views on the important immigration stories likely to occupy the news in 2022.

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Prediction: The overall size of the foreign-born population will continue to grow rapidly, further impacting labor force participation.

The level of immigration (legal and illegal together) will continue to increase under the Biden Administration, after falling during the Trump years, even before Covid hit. As a result, the overall size of the foreign-born population will continue to grow rapidly. It hit a record 46.2 million in November of 2021, based on the monthly Current Population Survey (CPS). While there will be variation from month to month, the overall size of foreign-born population will hit a new record high in the CPS in the coming year. Further, unlike during the Trump years when labor force participation actually improved for the first time in decades, perhaps because immigration was lower, the share of prime-age men (25-64) in the labor force (working or looking for work) will not return to the level of 2019, even if the overall economy improves.

– Dr. Steven Camarota, director of research

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Prediction: Illegal migrants will continue to be released en masse into the U.S.

Border Patrol apprehensions at the Southwest border are running at all-time highs, with hundreds of thousands of aliens evading agents and entering the United States. I predict that this national-security and human-rights disaster at the Southwest border will continue unabated in the new year. The Biden administration, however, will attempt to hide the scope of the crisis by expediting the admission of illegal migrants into the United States. They will do this under an extremely limited congressional grant of authority known as “parole”, which was intended by Congress to be used by DHS only “on a case-by-case basis for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit” – not en masse as the Biden administration has been doing. The administration has been forced by the courts to re-start Remain in Mexico rather than just continuing to release illegal immigrants, but it is complying with a load of caveats and conditions, ensuring that the steady and overwhelming flow of migrants will continue.

– Andrew Arthur, resident fellow in law and policy

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Prediction: A spike in Other than Mexican (OTM) migrants at the southern border.

The fact that the GOP is expected to retake the House and possibly the Senate will probably become a very strong pull-factor for irregular migrants in Latin-America. Smugglers might push the notion that the good days of open borders will be over after the midterm election, telling migrants that "if you want to make it to the US, you should leave now." Consequently, I predict a spike in border apprehensions before the election and possible before the new Congress comes into session. I also expect the percentage of OTM/OTN migrants at the Southern border to continue to increase following the trend we have seen since May 2021.

– Dr. Kristof Gyorgy Veres, visiting fellow

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Prediction: Use of secretive deportations to hide the border crisis.

I foresee an attempt by the Biden administration to reduce border apprehensions among Central Americans by the continued deterring use of secretive air “expedited removal” deportations ahead of the 2022 mid-term elections. These ICE air flights to Guatemala City and to southern Mexico began in August 2021 and coincided with the first monthly apprehension declines of the year. The air deportations probably account for some 100,000 mainly family units, women and children, caught at the border, not from the interior, where ordinary deportation operations are largely suspended.

– Todd Bensman, senior national security fellow

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Prediction: U.S. refugee policy will continue to privilege people fleeing poverty (migrants), not those fleeing danger (refugees).

  • Resettled refugee admissions should remain low and President Biden’s 125,000 ceiling out of reach. Instead of giving protection to real refugees in need of resettlement, this administration will keep prioritizing “Afghans at risk” and evacuees as well as Central American (and other) migrants who, for the most part, are using asylum claims as an entry ticket to the United States. The definition of asylum protection will further be stretched to fit most migration needs.
  • Federal agencies’ resources will keep being drained by illegal border crossings and the processing of asylum claims (whether in or out of country) and other visa procedures such as Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) and adjustment of statuses. 
  • The Biden administration will remain dedicated to the “protection of refugee data and privacy” while overlooking transparency issues. Previously publicly available information regarding resettled refugees will likely remain censored.
  • Trump was criticized for not signing onto the “Global Compact on Refugees” in 2018; Biden is yet to reverse his predecessor’s decision, but I predict that Biden will endorse the compact in 2022.
  • I expect refugee advocates’ ongoing praise of Biden’s refugee policy, regardless of its accomplishments (or lack thereof).

– Dr. Nayla Rush, senior researcher

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Prediction: Asylum will increasingly be seen as the key immigration-control weakness.

The accelerating border disaster over the past decade has been driven by asylum policy. Illegal migrants from around the world, coached by smugglers and their immigration-activist fellow-travelers in the U.S., have used asylum claims as a gambit to gain release. Once released, many don't bother to actually pursue the asylum claims, while those who do, even if they are rejected, simply remain. The immigration courts are overwhelmed with asylum cases and cannot realistically be expected to dig out from under them.

In 2022, calls to dispense with the Cold War-era asylum system will grow, including by withdrawing from the UN treaty governing the issue.

– Mark Krikorian, executive director

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Prediction: State governments will push back against federal action that attracts illegal settlement to their states.

I predict that more than 20 state governments will take either legislative or executive action to try to deter settlement of illegal aliens in their states. These steps will include increasing use of E-Verify, preventing access to public benefits, law enforcement actions, and strategic regulation of NGOs that assist the federal government in relocating illegal border crossers. These actions will be well-justified and politically popular as communities grapple with the enormous fiscal and public safety costs associated with the border influx and the collapse of enforcement within the country.

– Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies

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Prediction: Enforcement will continue to deteriorate, impacting crime numbers and attracting more illegal immigration until Republicans realize there are actions they can take if they take the majority in the U.S. House in 2022.

  • The number of people being victimized by foreign nationals in the United States will continue to grow with the Biden administration and media largely ignoring the fallout of this anti-public safety agenda.
  • Look for changes in detention policies (e.g., closure of detention facilities, more limits on who can be detained), bonds management (e.g., a more liberal use of bonds and no follow-through for those in violation of the terms), and even greater restrictions on, and micromanagement of, ICE field officers (e.g., more limits on who can be arrested, limits on which officers can make arrests, more paperwork, and body-cams for immigration-focused officers).
  • Arrest and deportation numbers will continue to go down and illegal immigration will continue to rise as foreigners discover few repercussions for overstaying a visa or crossing the border illegally. Foreign nationals from countries of concern will expand their exploitation of sensitive fields on America's college campuses.
  • The GOP will begin to realize that it must implement mandatory minimums on arrests, removals, and detention should they take control of Congress.

– Jon Feere, director of investigations

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Prediction: Foreign labor population will increase and the computer industry will experience a massive data breach.

I make two predictions. First, the Biden administration will revive the claim that it has unlimited authority to permit foreign labor through regulation, publishing new regulations permitting alien labor that have not been authorized by Congress. Thus, America will continue the Biden trend of being governed through regulation pitched by Big Tech instead of by an elected Congress. Second, 2022 will be the year that the use of foreign labor and outsourcing by a computer industry focused on cheap labor produces the inevitable result of a massive data breach on scale that has never before seen.

– John Miano, fellow

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Prediction: Democrats will continue to push for amnesty without acknowledging the costs that it would impose on Social Security and Medicare.

In 2021, congressional Democrats repeatedly tried to insert a large-scale amnesty into their star-crossed Build Back Better (BBB) bill. The Senate parliamentarian rejected each of these efforts as outside the rules for budget reconciliation, and then the whole bill sank when Sen. Joe Manchin announced his opposition. Nevertheless, we will likely see new attempts at amnesty in 2022, either through executive action or a resurrected BBB.

In making these attempts, amnesty proponents will continue to ignore the cost to Social Security and Medicare. Many illegal immigrants currently pay taxes into our entitlement programs but are not eligible for benefits. Amnesty would grant them benefits without generating nearly enough new tax revenue to make the up the difference. The net cost to taxpayers could be upwards of $1 trillion in present value, but the bulk of the outlays will not occur until amnesty recipients retire years from now. In publishing a special 20-year cost estimate, the CBO has acknowledged that amnesty "would have long-term budgetary effects that are noticeably greater than those in the first decade," due in part to entitlement costs. Nevertheless, I predict that amnesty-hungry lawmakers will offer no such acknowledgment.

 – Dr. Jason Richwine, resident scholar

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Prediction: Democrats will use the lame duck post-election session to push open-border agenda.

As the Republicans will almost certainly take back the House and very possibly the Senate in the mid-term elections, House and Senate Democrat Leadership will view the lame duck post-election session as their last, best opportunity to enact a massive amnesty, dramatically ratchet up legal immigration levels, and statutorily handcuff immigration enforcement agents. They will face great temptation to dismantle every parliamentary guardrail in their way (even those that would protect Democrats under a Republican majority). The billion-dollar question is “What will Joe Manchin do?”

– George Fishman, senior legal fellow

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Prediction: Biden’s immigration coalition will fracture.

Throughout this past year, amnesty advocates and business groups teamed up to urge the new administration to pass a bill that includes a large-scale legalization and significantly increases legal immigration. I do not believe that either interest group cares about the other, but they both realize that the only way to get their respective preferred legislative outcomes is to team up. Now that this effort has failed, I believe that the Biden administration will prioritize the “humanitarian” issues in 2022 at the expense of business interests. Mainly, this will manifest in the long overdue U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) fee rule.

Unlike most of the federal government, USCIS is funded by the fees paid by those who actively engage in the legal immigration system. Current fees fail to fully cover the costs of adjudications, so the agency is operating at a loss of $3 million per business day. The Biden administration has already tipped its hand that it will cut the price charged for naturalization, and likely for family-based green cards. Deprived of revenue from the corrupt EB-5 investor program, someone is going to have to pay more for these subsidized immigration benefits. I expect employment-based green cards, H-1Bs, and possibly even H-2Bs, to be significantly overcharged compared to true cost recovery. There is no such thing as a free immigration benefit, and Big Tech should expect to be stuck with the tab.

– Robert Law, director of regulatory affairs