Immigration rivals agree; Senate bill will legalize more than 30 million migrants

Neil Munro | White House Correspondent

The Center for American Progress says the Senate’s pending immigration bill will help legalize 32.5 million migrants over the next 10 years.

The estimate is only slightly less than the initial 33.5 million estimate prepared by NumbersUSA, which opposes the bill.

Both groups produced similar estimates, but couched them very differently, for very different political purposes.

The NumbersUSA group said their estimates were cautious, while the Center for American Progress (CAP) group said their April 30 study shows the Senate bill will actually reduce the current inflow of immigrants.

Their similar estimates match the May 3 prediction of a 32.7 million inflow offered by Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, the ranking Republican on the Senate’s banking committee, and a leading opponent of the bill.

In his statement, Sessions also highlighted the additional inflow of 25 million short-term and long-term agricultural, blue collar and professional workers over the next decade. Sessions has repeatedly said the inflow of 57 million immigrants and guest-workers will damage the wages and job prospects of Americans.

Sessions also predicted the inflow would be high because the new immigrants will use the bill’s family unification provisions to quickly bring in their relatives.

“The Gang of Eight’s bill will drastically increase low-skill chain migration,” said his statement. For example, amnestied agricultural workers and younger illegals will bring in an extra 3 million people within 10 years, said Sessions’ estimate.

However, an e-mail to the Powerline blog from a staffer for Sen. Marco Rubio’s office disputed the predictions of a 30-million inflow.

“Your 30 million number is simply not accurate,” said the unattributed email.

“There are approximately 11 million illegals currently in the US, and many of them won’t be eligible for legalization (because they haven’t been here long enough, don’t pass background checks, can’t afford the fines, etc.) and will have to be deported,” said the email.

“Those given legal status will not be able to use chain migration or anything else to bring family members into the US,” the email claimed.

That statement is partly accurate. Under the bill, roughly 8.5 million illegals won’t be able to bring in relatives until after they get legal permanent residency in 10 years, or until they get citizenship 13 years later. But roughly 2.5 million younger illegals, dubbed ‘Dreamers,’ will be able to seek an visas for their foreign family members in only five years.

There is little evidence that ineligible illegal aliens will be deported.

Currently, the U.S. population is 311 million. Population growth is powered by an annual inflow of 1 million immigrants, and by the birth of 4 million Americans minus the routine deaths of roughly 3 million Americans.

The CAP and NumbersUSA estimates are similar, despite a series of very different assumptions and portrayals that reflect very different political priorities.

NumbersUSA wants to reduce current inflow, and offers cautious numbers to counter push-back from progressives and the media.

For example, its 32.5 million estimate does not estimate how many people will use a series of proposed uncapped channels for some types of workers and ignores the possible role of fraud.

In contrast, CAP is a progressive group closely aligned with the White House. It supports the pending Senate immigration bill, and it has an incentive to minimize the reported inflow of immigrants.

The inflow is politically contentious.

An April 20-22 poll by Fox News of 1,009 registered voters showed that 55 percent of respondents want a reduction in the number of legal immigrants. That 55 percent includes 45 percent of non-whites and 62 percent of people without college degrees.

The new bill will actually reduce annual immigration to the United States to only 1.59 million people, down by 151,000 from the organization’s estimate of recent annual immigration, said Philip Wolgin, a senior policy analyst at CAP.

Over a decade, the bill will add only 17 million new immigrants to the population, he told The Daily Caller.

CAP’s immigrant number is lower that NumbersUSA’s estimate, said Wolgin, partly because the CAP doesn’t count the amnesty of 11 million illegal immigrants as immigration.

“It is disingenuous to actually include the 11 million people. … These aren’t new immigrants, they’re already here, they’re already working,” he said.

Similarly, CAP excludes another group of roughly 4.5 million foreigners now waiting in line to join their relatives in the United States. They’re already slated to eventually join their U.S. relatives, so the bill’s decision to provide them an immediate entrance shouldn’t increase the bill’s 17 million inflow, Wolgin said.

“What we’re doing with this bill is taking a rather chaotic and unwieldy system which has hundreds of thousands of people coming in without legal status and moving them into legal channels,” he said.

Wolgin also said CAP’s estimate of future inflow is based on the average immigration inflow for 2002 to 2011.

But CAP’s analysis excludes two years with very high inflow of illegals — 2000 and 2001 — and includes several recession years with very low inflow.

Those two high-inflow years were excluded, he told TheDC, because “if we had used the full ten-year span, we were worried that it would be skewed towards much higher numbers.”

NumbersUSA also excludes 2001 and 2001, and bases its predictions on the inflows from 2003 to 2012 to counter likely criticism from immigration-advocates in the media.

The lower average past inflow helped CAP to lower the likely future legal inflow to 1.6 million per year, and also the likely future illegal inflow to only 69,000 per year, Wolgin said.

Wolgin’s team predicts a total family unification inflow of 4.7 million relatives, not counting the 4.5 million waiting in line.

Sessions predicts a family unification inflow of 8.6 million, plus the 4.5 million now waiting in line.

NumbersUSA predicts an inflow of 9.3 million relatives, plus the 4.5 million now in line.

CAP also estimated that worldwide demand for U.S. citizenship would not keep pace with the bill’s increased number of job-related opportunities for immigration increased.

The number of immigrants who get green-cards from multinational employers will remains flat at 1.5 million over the next decade, Wolgin said.

In contrast, Sessions’ estimate combined several non-agricultural work-related channels and predicted that the number of employment-related immigrants and their families will double to 4.32 million over a decade.

NumbersUSA predicts the inflow of non-agricultural immigrant employees with green cards will climb to at least 3.1 million, and will be accompanied by 3 million spouses and children. The NumbersUSA estimate does not estimate the number of green cards for several programs that do not have limits.

Wolgin says the number of family unification immigrants will not rise.

For example, he said, the inflow from Mexico has declined in recent years as Mexico’s economy has grown and the U.S. economy has suffered through a recession, Wolgin said. “I haven’t seen anything plausible … that we would see higher numbers” once the U.S. economy improves, he said.

But an April 29 report by Pew Research said that 35 percent of the country — or roughly 39 million people — would be willing to move to the United States. Roughly 23 million Mexicans are willing to move illegally, said Pew.

Some news reports say the illegal movement has already begun.

“In Texas, just the debate itself is drawing new immigrants over the border … Border patrol agents in the Rio Grande sector tell CBS News apprehensions have risen from 2,800 in January to 7,500 in March,” said a May 1 CBS report.

Wolgin downplayed the worldwide appetite for a U.S. lifestyle.

“I’d like to go to California tomorrow, but I have a job here,” he told TheDC. “There’s a difference between aspiration and people who would pick up tomorrow and come here,” he said.

A worldwide Gallup survey reported in March that the United States is the first choice of 138 million of the 630 million people who want to leave their home country. The 138 million includes 19 million Chinese, 13 million Nigerians and 10 million Indians.

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