September Measures: Government Issuing More Visas than Prior Month

By David North on October 24, 2020

We have been following nine migration measures over the last few months, and the September data (when compared with that of the prior September) show that the U.S. government, while not opening the gates to their fullest potentials, was allowing some more inward traffic.

In each of the nine measures we find a lesser reduction in the September-September comparisons than we did in the August-August ones. This is particularly true in the H-2B class of non-ag, non skilled workers, as well as in the H-2A farm worker category.

The differences in the border crossing data, however, are relatively small. There continued to be, in September, a relatively open border with Mexico and nearly no crossings from Canada, as we have reported for earlier months (see the numbers for July here and for August here).

What the measures show in the table that follows are some of the program-by-program and month-by-month variations within the big picture of lower net migration generally, as my colleagues Steven Camarota and Karen Zeigler, have reported based on their study of totally different data systems than the ones I am using.

Impact of Trump Policy and Covid-19 on Select
Migration Measures, September 2019 and
September 2020 (in ascending order of negative impact)

Pct. Change,
August 2019
to August 2020
Pct. Change,
to September
H-2B (non-ag, unskilled) visas
issued in Mexico and Jamaica
2,552 4,934 -90.70% +93.3%
SW border apprehensions 40,507 54,771 -7.60% +35.2%
H-2A (farmworker) visas issued
in Mexico
13,435 16,493 -2.70% +22.7%
Issuances of E-2 (nonimmigrant
investor) visas in Canada, Great
Britain, and Italy
647 371 -87.60% -42.6%
Border crossings from Mexico,
five largest ports of entry
8,535,759 4,130,395 -51.90% -51.6%
Immigrant visas, world-wide* 39,473 14,894 -83.90% -62.2%
Nonimmigrant visas, world-wide 646,913 111,034 -87.30% -82.8%
K-1 (fiancée) visas issued in
Philippines, Mexico, Vietnam
951 131 -90.10% -86.2%
Border crossings from Canada,
five largest ports of entry
2,712,944 155,653 -96.10% -94.2%

Sources: Various government databases, such as DHS, DOT, and State. When numbers
are shown for several countries, as with E-2, for example, they are for the largest providers
of migrants in that category.

* This number may appear to be misleading, as it would suggest only 474,000 immigrants a
year; hundreds of thousands of new permanent resident aliens are not new arrivals, but have
adjusted status while in the U.S.

Let’s flesh out these changes with the numbers involved with the granting of the H-2B visas. In August 2019, there were 672 of these visas issued in Mexico and Jamaica; a year later that number had dropped to 62. But in September 2019, 2,552 of these visas were issued, rising to 4,934 in September of this year. That’s a massive move in a small program.

What the table shows is that the government, while still reducing migration generally, is loosening its own rules a bit — to a lot — in all categories. We chose this set of varied measures several months ago, have followed them carefully, and so cannot be accused of cherry-picking the data to make a point of some kind. Eight of these measure government migration control actions, while the Southwest border apprehension data — on the arrests of illegal aliens — can be regarded as an indirect measure of the number of arriving illegal immigrants.

We also looked at visa data on several other situations where the government might have been tempted to permit more visas for a favored sector. Thinking that Major League Baseball might be so regarded, we checked on P-1 visas for young baseball players from the Dominican Republic and found 359 issued last summer, but only one this summer. Then there were P-1 visas in Canada, which might involve hockey players, telling the same story: 15 visas in the summer of 2019, and only one this summer.

On a grimmer note, were we issuing more nonimmigrant visas in Afghanistan on the grounds that we are about to pull out our troops, which may well lead to serious problems for our allies there? Not so, there were 666 such visas (in nine subcategories) issued in the summer of 2019, and only 94 in those categories this year. I worry that the end of the fighting there will lead to Taliban rule and a flood of refugees coming at us, like the rush after the fall of Saigon.

All of the changes we noted in the table will likely reduce, or at least postpone, some chain migration, and that may have an impact for many years to come, even if the policies were to be changed should Joe Biden win the election.

The author is grateful to CIS interns Jackson Koonce and Kevin Berghuis for their research assistance.