All in the Family

By Jessica M. Vaughan on March 24, 2011

The release of new Census data based on the 2010 count has focused public attention on immigration's role in driving U.S. population growth. I recently completed a report on how our prioritization of family immigration guarantees this outcome.

Among the findings:

  • Family immigration added more than six million people in the last decade.
  • While Congress has set limits on some immigration categories, those limits have become noticeably less effective in moderating immigration overall. Last decade, admissions in the unlimited categories for spouses and parents of U.S. citizens went up 76 percent.
  • The fastest growing category is parents, which grew from 67,000 admissions in 2000 to 120,000 in 2009.
  • The category for spouses of U.S. citizens has also increased rapidly, from 196,000 in 2000 to 317,000 in 2009.
  • The quota-limited family categories are chronically overbooked. The waiting list now stands at five million people, with the waiting time exceeding five years in most categories (and up to 20 years in others).

In order to stabilize immigration at a level more consistent with our country's economic needs, Congress must consider cutting categories for non-nuclear family members (as recommended by the Jordan Commission), placing limits on the admission of parents, and regulating the spouse categories more closely to prevent fraud.