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How Changes to Family Immigration Could Affect Source Countries' Sending Patterns

Press Release
Wednesday, June 20, 2007

How Changes to Family Immigration Could Affect Source Countries' Sending Patterns

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Senate is poised to resume debate on a comprehensive immigration bill.  The Secure Borders, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Reform Act of 2007 (reintroduced as S. 1639) would substantially revise the family-based permanent immigration system. While this aspect of the bill has been a subject of controversy, to date the potential impacts of this change have not been well studied.

new MPI Fact Sheet shows that the current system allocates about two-thirds of permanent visas to family members while the Senate bill, which includes changes to family categories and a new points-based system, would likely result in less than half of all visas going to family members. At the same time, using the points system, the share of visas going to employment-based immigrants would increase from less than one-fifth currently to about two-fifths.

Drawing on data from the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the Census Bureau, MPI’s analysis also finds that elimination of some family-based categories will most affect migration from Latin American and Caribbean countries, particularly Mexico and the Dominican Republic. Elimination of other categories will most affect migration from Asia, notably India, China, and the Philippines.

Immigrants from some of these Asian sending countries are more likely to possess the characteristics that would earn them points under the proposed points-based selection system.

For example, immigrants from India, who dominate entrance through the current sibling-sponsored category, tend to have high levels of English ability and high educational attainment; immigrants from the Dominican Republic, who dominate entrance through the current category for the unmarried adult children of legal permanent residents (LPRs), are less likely to have completed college and more likely to have limited English skills. Immigrants from both countries, however, tend to work in some of the high-skill or high-demand occupations favored by the points system.

The MPI Fact Sheet, “How Changes to Family Immigration Could Affect Source Countries' Sending Patterns,” is available online.