A Radical Suggestion Regarding Immigration Backlogs

By David North on February 22, 2010

In a recent blog, "Our 89-Year-Old, Self-Created Booby Trap in Immigration Policy," I pointed out how huge backlogs of approved visas for would-be immigrants have always caused additional pressure to expand immigration.

The U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform (the Barbara Jordan Commission), some 13 years ago, noted an even more significant problem regarding these backlogs, particularly in the siblings, nieces, and nephews program:

"These extended waiting periods mean that most siblings enter well into their working lives, limiting the time during which they can make a contribution to the U.S. economy. More than one-half of all the siblings and their spouses admitted in FY 1996 were above the age of 45. In other immigration categories, most principals are in their twenties or thirties."
(See p. 66 of the Commission's 1997 Recommendations.)

If this situation was grim in 1997, when the longest wait was for the siblings program was in the Philippines and was for 20 years, it is now grimmer; that wait there is now more than 22 years. World-wide, according to the March 2010 Visa Bulletin the wait is more than 10 years in the siblings program. (The Visa Bulletin is one of the few government publications that is dated in the future.)

What to do?

Some open-borders people say that all the people on the various waiting lists should be accommodated by expanding the number of immigration slots. The Commission recommended that the fourth family preference (of 65,000 slots a year for siblings and their children) should be abolished and the slots transferred to other, closer relatives.

Yet another approach would be for Congress to simply abolish the preference and its waiting list. That would probably be the best approach, but in case Congress is unwilling to do anything that sweeping, let me suggest a slightly complicated compromise for the siblings category.

It would do the following: 1) it would not increase legal immigration; 2) it would give everyone on the current sibling waiting list something; 3) it would increase the education and prosperity level of the incoming siblings and their children; and 4) it would lower the average age of the incoming siblings.

Bear in mind that a year ago the Visa Bulletin said that the backlog overseas in the fourth family preference was 1,206,397 people, and this did not include another large number of people in the U.S. waiting to adjust status to fourth preference immigrants.

The compromise I have in mind would, first, abolish the future issuances of family fourth preference petitions and visas, thus freezing those on the waiting list as the only siblings that can be admitted. This step, obviously, would mean that the backlog could only contract in the future. But by cutting off future visas, it would not harm those who were on the waiting list.

The second step would be to create a re-ordering and of those on the current waiting list, in favor of younger, better-educated siblings, all within the current 65,000-a-year and country-of-origin limitations within the overall system.

Siblings low on the list, with college educations, would be permitted to buy visa slots from people higher on the list in transactions more or less supervised by the embassies and consulates. The visas would carry a minimum payment of $500, per visa, to the holders, with the maximum price being what the market would bear. Siblings wanting to go to the head of the line would be required to buy at least two visa slots for every one they wanted before they could move up on the list. In this way every admission of anyone with a sibling preference would mean that the backlog would diminish by three slots.

A further refinement would be the creation of a points system (along the lines of those used by Australia, Canada, and Great Britain) for re-positioning people on the sibling waiting lists. To get into this select class, the principal (the sibling of the U.S. citizen) would have to be: under 40, a college graduate, possessor of two purchased visa slots for each desired visa, and willing to pay the U.S. government a $1,000 fee for each visa used by the applicant's family. (The federal fee would be over and above the cost of buying the visa slots from other aliens.)

Then a points system would place the various advanced applicants in a sequence, with more points for youth, for graduate degrees, and for the numbers of visas above the minimum of two that had been purchased. Additional points would be awarded for purchasing visa slots high on the current waiting list.

The system would allocate 80 to 90 percent of the visas to the younger, more prosperous applicants, leaving the balance to people who simply had seniority on the old lists.

The proposed system can be criticized as nasty to the aging, and favorable to both the young and the affluent, but it would produce a stronger, younger immigrant cohort for America until the fourth family preference plays out for good.

The current system simply produces a population that will not have time to make much of an economic contribution, as the 1997 Commission report pointed out, an incoming population that will, in too many cases, wind up on the welfare rolls, particularly SSI. And that statement becomes more true with each passing month.