Suggesting that recent protests against Arizona's new immigration law are unreasonable, Fox & Friends claimed the United States naturalized "a lot of people" from Mexico in 2009. However, immigration policy experts have pointed out that the U.S. immigration system offers very few channels for legal entry for low-skilled workers, who are drawn to the country by the demand in the labor market.
Doocy: "[A] lot of people are coming in" legally; "Just sign the guest book"
Doocy: "[B]ig number" of people "immigrate to this country from Mexico ... legally." From the May 6 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
STEVE DOOCY (co-host): But when you look at the statistics about the number of people who are actually made citizens, who immigrate to this country from Mexico, it's a big number -- legally. Take a look: for 2009, 111, 000 from Mexico; 52,000 from India; the Philippines, about 40,000; China, about 40,000; and Vietnam, 30,000 as well. So a lot of people are coming in, and officially signing the guest book, as you're supposed to.
MALKIN: Yes, that's right. And I'm so glad that you've highlighted those statistics. Shout them from the rooftops, because when we hear Mexican President Felipe Calderon and other foreign leaders assailing this country as akin to a fascist state because one state is trying to take border security seriously, it really behooves people in this country. Where's the president to defend this country as still the most generous in the world in welcoming people here?
If not for that generosity, I wouldn't be here. I wouldn't be able to do what I do. I remember that every single day. And the fact is that there are legal immigrants, naturalized citizens who you do not hear from, who are not on the front pages because they are not playing into this narrative of grievance-mongering from the left and from the open-borders lobby.
Fox's Doocy: We don't have "an iron border"; "Just sign the guest book." From the May 5 edition of Fox & Friends:
DOOCY: More than 100,000 people from Mexico are legally allowed in the United States every year. A hundred thousand -- that's a lot of people, isn't it? So why all the protests?
GRETCHEN CARLSON (co-host): Well, do you think America is intolerant? Let's look at some of the facts and figures. The top five countries for 2009: Mexico, India, Philippines, China, Vietnam.
BRIAN KILMEADE (co-host): Legal immigrants that came to this country.
CARLSON: These are all the people who were allowed to become citizens from these countries.
KILMEADE: And they passed the test.
DOOCY: Look at the top number -- 111,000 from Mexico. So it's not like, you know, we've got an iron border and nobody's getting in legally. Just sign the guest book.
Experts: Rigid limits on legal entry into U.S. fuel illegal immigration
National Immigration Forum: "There is no real line for unskilled workers." In his April 29 Miami Herald column, Andres Oppenheimer reported that, according to the National Immigration Forum, "The U.S. labor market demands up to 500,000 low-skilled workers a year, while the current U.S. immigration system allows for only 5,000 permanent visas for that category." From the column:
First, there would be nothing wrong with demanding that immigrants come to the United States legally if we allowed them to do so. But we don't -- they are coming through the back door to take jobs we offer them, because we don't allow them in through the front door. Legal immigration quotas were set more than 20 years ago, when the U.S. demand for unskilled and highly skilled workers was much smaller than today's.
The U.S. labor market demands up to 500,000 low-skilled workers a year, while the current U.S. immigration system allows for only 5,000 permanent visas for that category, according to the National Immigration Forum, a pro-immigration reform advocacy group.
"There is no real line for unskilled workers,'' says Maurice Belanger, the Forum's public information director. "If you are a Mexican wanting to get a legal visa to work as a waiter in the United States, you would be dead before you get your visa.''
It's somewhat easier to immigrate legally if you have close family members who are U.S. citizens, but often not by much. According to the latest U.S. State Department's visa bulletin, there is a lengthy backlog in several family visa application categories.
The U.S. government is now processing 1992 applications of Mexican adult children of U.S. citizens, and 1987 applications of Filipino brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens.
"Many people think we have good laws and bad people who are breaking them," says Frank Sharry, head of America's Voice, a pro-immigration reform advocacy group. "But we have bad laws and mostly good people who have no line to get into legally."
Immigration Policy Center: "The legal immigration system is inadequate to meet the needs of the U.S. in the 21st century." In a March 2010 report, the Immigration Policy Center reported that the "legal immigration system is inadequate to meet the needs of the U.S. in the 21st century," and that "[i]nsufficient numbers of visas are made available to bring in either high-skilled or less-skilled workers at the levels needed to meet the changing needs of the U.S. economy and labor market."
From the report:
The current number of permanent employment-based visas available each year was set by Congress in 1990 and has not been adjusted since. The number of temporary visas has been adjusted infrequently. This current system does not have the flexibility to nimbly adjust the number of visas available to align with changing economic conditions.
[O]nly 5,000 permanent visas are available each year for lower skilled workers, making it virtually impossible for someone who comes on a temporary visa to transition to a more permanent status. This lack of flexibility ensures that good workers who want to stay and contribute often have no choice but to return home or go elsewhere, making American companies less competitive.
Migration Policy Institute: "Green cards are almost entirely unavailable to low-skilled workers" and visa programs "vary little over the economic cycle." In a December 2009 report for the Migration Policy Institute, economist Gordon Hanson wrote that "[l]egal mechanisms for low-skilled immigration, at least in their current form, are not designed to meet the changing demands of US employers" and that undocumented immigrants "respond to market conditions in ways that legal immigration presently cannot, making them particularly appealing to US employers." From the report:
Not only do unauthorized immigrants provide an important source of low-skilled labor, they also respond to market conditions in ways that legal immigration presently cannot, making them particularly appealing to US employers. Illegal inflows broadly track economic performance, rising during periods of expansion and stalling during downturns (including the present one). By contrast, legal flows for low-skilled workers are both very small and relatively unresponsive to economic conditions. Green cards are almost entirely unavailable to low-skilled workers; while the two main low-skilled temporary visa programs (H-2A and H-2B) vary little over the economic cycle and in any case represent scarcely 1 percent of the current unauthorized population, making them an inconsequential component of domestic low-skilled employment. [Page 4]
Legal mechanisms for low-skilled immigration, at least in their current form, are not designed to meet the changing demands of US employers. To enter legally, foreign workers either have to obtain a green card (given US immigration law, this effectively requires them to have close family members in the United States), or secure a temporary work visa. The H-2A and H-2B visa programs are the main temporary avenues through which low-skilled workers enter the country. The total supply of H-2A and H-2B visas is scarcely 1 percent of the current unauthorized population, making foreign guest workers a negligible part of the low-skilled US labor force. [Page 7]
Daniel Griswold: U.S. "immigration system contains no legal channel for lower-skilled, foreign-born workers." Daniel Griswold, director of the Center for Trade Policy Studies at the libertarian Cato Institute, wrote in the current issue of the Albany Government Law Review that "[l]arge-scale illegal immigration will end only when America's immigration system offers a legal alternative." Griswold reported:
[T]he United States' immigration system contains no legal channel for lower-skilled, foreign-born workers to enter the country legally to fill the jobs that an insufficient number of Americans want. Visa categories, such as the H1-B program, exist for highly skilled foreign-born workers such as computer scientists, physics professors, and even think-tank policy analysts. Other categories exist for close family relatives of immigrants already in the country legally. But a peaceful, hardworking twenty-four year old in Mexico or Central America who knows of a job in the United States for which no Americans are available, simply has no legal means of entering the United States. The result of this missing channel in the U.S. immigration system, unfortunately, is wide-scale illegal immigration. [Page 6]
Large-scale illegal immigration will end only when America's immigration system offers a legal alternative. If foreign-born workers are allowed to enter the country through a safe, orderly, and legal path, the number choosing to enter illegally will drop sharply. [Page 9]
Vast majority of legal immigrants to U.S. are relatives of Americans
Homeland Security: "Nearly two-thirds" of new permanent residents are relatives of Americans. In its April 2010 report, the Homeland Security Office of Immigration Statistics reported that, in 2009, "a total of 1,130,818 persons became LPRs [legal permanent residents] of the United States," and that "[n]early two-thirds [747,000] were granted permanent resident status based on a family relationship with a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident of the United States. The leading countries of birth of new LPRs were Mexico (15 percent), China (6 percent), and the Philippines (5 percent)."
Homeland Security: Majority of foreign nationals "already lived in the United States when they were granted lawful permanent residence." In its report, the Office of Immigration Statistics reported that the majority of foreign nationals, 59 percent, "already lived in the United States when they were granted lawful permanent residence." According to the report, about 460,000 foreign nationals granted permanent-resident status were new arrivals into the United States, most admitted based on a close family relationship.