NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 4, 2007

The most important quality a would-be immigrant needs today to get a U.S. green card -- a document that grants legal permanent residence -- isn't job skills, an ability to speak English or any likelihood that he or she will be a productive member of American society.  It's a family member who's already here legally, says USA Today.


  • Since 1965, family members of legal residents have jumped to the head of the line for admission.
  • That has produced "chain migration" -- a steady stream not just of immediate family members such as spouses and young children, but also of relatives such as adult brothers and sisters and adult children, all of whom may have immediate families of their own, who can then qualify for entry.
  • Overall, from 2002 to 2006 almost two-thirds of the approximately 1 million people receiving green cards each year were sponsored by relatives.

The immigration bill that senators are debating would change this system in a way that makes sense.  You wouldn't know it from the impassioned rhetoric of opponents, but the proposal wouldn't do away with all family preferences, says USA Today.  Roughly half of green cards would still go to relatives.  But it would sharply reduce preferences for a legal resident's parents and end them for siblings and adult children.

This change would make room for a controversial points system that would hand out roughly a third of green cards on the basis of qualities such as education, age, ability to speak English and work history, says USA Today.  Though this plan would give advantages to people with doctoral degrees who speak perfect English, it would also add points for lower-skilled people, such as health care workers, who the U.S. economy desperately needs.

Source: Editorial, "Our view on who gets in: Entry to United States is all relative — and that's the problem," USA Today, June 4, 2007.


Browse more articles on Government Issues