An Analysis of the U.S. Citizenship Act

Date of Publication: 
January, 2021
Source Organization: 
National Foundation for American Policy

The annual number of legal immigrants admitted to the United States would rise to about 1.5 million starting in the first year under a new bill backed by the Biden administration, but during the 2020s the level would be higher at times as the family-sponsored and employment-based immigrant backlog is eliminated and people who are legalized under the bill are counted as lawful permanent residents, according to a new analysis by the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP). The analysis finds that with FY 2016 as a baseline, the annual number of legal immigrants admitted will be an estimated 28% or 330,063 higher if the bill were to become law. Increasing legal immigration by 28% a year would increase the average annual labor force growth in the United States by 23% over current U.S. projections, which would help economic growth and address a slower-growing U.S. workforce. The average annual labor force growth could be even more than 23% compared to a scenario of no immigration increases because the Bureau of Labor Statistics currently projects the U.S. labor force will grow by 800,000 a year, and that baseline growth may be lower after 2029 without the increase in immigration contained inthe bill. In contrast, if the United States continued the Trump administration’s policies that administratively reduced legal immigration by approximately 49%, average annual labor force growth would be approximately 59% lower than compared to a policy of no immigration reductions, according to a NFAP analysis. Under policies that reduced legal immigration by half, in 40 years the United States would have only about 6 million more people in the labor force than it has today. Admitting fewer immigrants results in lower economic growth because labor force growth is an important element of economic growth and immigrants play a major part in both current and future labor force growth. The U.S. Citizenship Act’s provisions on legalization and backlog reduction in family and employment categories would provide a one-time increase in legal immigration of approximately 11.5 million between FY 2022 and FY 2031. In doing so, it addresses what many consider to be significant policy shortcomings in the current U.S. immigration system, including decades-long waits for many employment-based immigrants, long waits for familysponsored immigrants and the lack of a legislative solution for Dreamers. The projection on labor force growth does not include the one-time increase in legal immigration from backlog reduction and legalization. It also does not take into account future growth from the children of immigrants who would receive permanent residence under the bill. If this analysis underestimates the amount the bill increases legal immigration, the positive impact of the legislation on average annual labor force growth and the U.S. economy could be greater.

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NFAP (2021, January). Mapping Key Detriments of Immigrants’ Health in Brooklyn and Queens. National Foundation for American Policy.