Border Chaos and the Catch‐​22 of Immigration Reform

Alex Nowrasteh
Date of Publication: 
August, 2022
Source Organization: 
Cato Institute

The immigration system of the United States is more restrictive than most other developed countries. As my colleague David Bier has shown, the foreign‐​born U.S. share of the population is the 35th highest out of 47 countries, including illegal immigrants. The United States has a foreign‐​born share of the population between Spain and Estonia. Using just the legal immigrant share of the population, the United States would have the 40th highest share that is foreign‐​born, between Denmark and France.

A big difference in immigration between the United States and Europe is that illegal immigrants are about 3.1 percent of the U.S. population. In Europe, by contrast, less than 1 percent of the population are illegal immigrants. However, Europe and the United States have a similar share of the foreign‐​born population who are illegal immigrants at slightly over 20 percent, if one only examines non‐​EU and non‐​EFTA immigrants in Europe. Immigration is a major political issue in Europe, but the illegality of immigrants is less salient because there are many fewer illegal immigrants. In the United States, policy and political disagreements over immigration are linked with the large illegal immigrant population, illegality, and the chaos from large black markets.

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Nowrasteh, A. (2022, August). Border Chaos and the Catch‐​22 of Immigration Reform. Cato Institute.