Legal Immigration Increased (YES—INCREASED!) During The Recession

At VDARE.com, we've been virtually alone in pointing out that U.S. policy on legal immigration has remained unchanged despite the recession i.e. where's the moratorium?

Now the release of the Department of Homeland Security's Yearbook of Immigration Statistics of Legal Permanent Residents for Fiscal Year 2009 [PDF] last week shows that we were wrong.

Legal immigration to the U.S. has actually increased.

Fiscal Year 2009 began on October 1, 2008 and ended on September 30, 2009. Economists and politicians may bicker about when the economic downturn technically began, but the magnitude of it certainly became clear in September and October of 2008. So these statistics represent the Obama/Bush immigration policy from the start of the economic crisis. During this time period nearly 6 million Americans lost their jobs.

DHS has not yet released its figures for temporary workers or illegal aliens. The few Democrats and left wing groups who make any opposition to immigration usually focus their attention to temporary workers, while conservatives limit their opposition to illegal immigration. But the fact is that legal permanent immigration is by far the most important category of immigration to reduce. While illegal aliens can get amnesty, and "temporary" workers often end up staying here permanently—with anchor babies exacerbating both problems—both groups in theory will eventually be out of the country. Legal Permanent Residents, in contrast, are here, displacing American workers and using taxpayer-funded services, for good.

Many Americans, and certainly our elites, seem to think that immigration simply is a natural economic process that will fluctuate with supply and demand. The truth, however, is that as long as America has a higher standard of living than the rest of the world, there will be an unlimited supply of people willing to come here. And the number of immigrants coming here is determined solely by government policy.

Any sane policy would reduce immigration as American unemployment rises. But Washington is not doing it. In the post-Crash year of 2009, the U.S. issued 1,130,818 green cards—an increase, from 1,107,126 in 2008 and 1,052,415 in 2007. In contrast, during the Great Depression from 1930-1939, we issued only 699,375 during the entire decade.

The 2009 total is the fourth highest number of green cards issued since 1914—behind 1990, 1991, and 2006. (And it is worth noting the bulk of the green cards issued in 1990 and 1991 were not given to new legal immigrants but to illegal aliens granted amnesty in 1986—so in terms of new arrivals, 2009 was actually higher.)

In the first decade of this millennium, the U.S. issued a total of 10,299,430 green cards—the highest number of any decade in American history. This is over 3 million more green cards issued over the entire forty year period of 1930-1969.

You can be sure that the Open Borders lobby will crow about how we only issued 144,034 employer-based green cards in 2009—a decrease from 2008. But of that 1,130,818 green cards, 808,478 were given to working age immigrants 20-64. All immigrants who get green cards are eligible for work. So most of the 664,444 immigrants of working age will be competing against Americans for work.

(And I'm being cautious—I'm not counting the 94,801 15-19 year old immigrants, many of whom will be competing against American workers too.)

Immigration enthusiasts will protest that employment is not a zero sum game—that these immigrants will grow the economy. When a billionaire comes into America and opens up a factory, he creates jobs. Generally, while skilled immigrants create their own set of problems, depending on their circumstances they can create some economic growth.

But most immigrant workers only create economic growth in so far as they lower labor costs for employers, possibly causing them to further invest. This effect is always much smaller than the jobs and wages immigrants take from Americans, to say nothing of the government services spent on them. However, with our record unemployment, even these marginal economic benefits disappear.

And in 2009, as always, most of the legal immigrants are low-skilled. Immigrants of exceptional ability, with advanced degrees, or investors make up a measly 8% of all immigrants combined. No doubt this has much to do with the system's ongoing bias toward Third World immigrants through its "family reunification" mechanism. Only 9.3% of all new green cards went to Europeans. In contrast, 14.6% went to Mexicans alone.

The obvious solution: a moratorium on immigration. And. insofar as we have immigration, make it a bit more, well, diverse, by stopping Mexico and the Third World from hogging the inflow.

But instead of doing this, the two major pieces of immigration legislation currently proposed will increase legal immigration.

The Gutierrez-Ortiz Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America's Security and Prosperity Act of 2009 ("CIR ASAP"), with nearly 100 Democratic co-sponsors in the House, will create at least 550,000 new work visas in guise of "recapturing" imaginary unused visas from the last 20 years. It will also create a new category to "prevent unauthorized migration." This will create 100,000 additional visas each year to the countries where the most illegal aliens come from— namely Mexico, El Salvador, and Guatemala.

In the Senate, Chuck Schumer and Lindsay Graham are expected to introduce their own "Comprehensive Immigration Reform" any day. When the text comes out, you can be sure that there will many increases in permanent legal immigration. But all we've seen up to now is their Washington Post Op Ed describing their principles. They proposed a "rational system for admitting lower-skilled workers." However, these "temporary" workers "who have succeeded in the workplace, and contributed to their communities over many years, the chance to earn a green card" a.k.a. amnesty. [ The Right Way to Mend Immigration, Chuck Schumer and Lindsay Graham, Washington Post, March 19, 2010]

Government policy got us into our economic disaster. A new government policy of reduced immigration is the only way to get us out.

Sadly, not one politician had called for a moratorium.

Hopefully these new 2009 figures will wake Americans up to the enormity of our immigration disaster—and force the Washington Establishment to take notice.

"Washington Watcher" [email him] is an anonymous source Inside The Beltway.