Current and Estimated Future Immigration Based on the Senate’s Immigration Reform Bill

Rev. Eugene Barnes of Champaign, Illinois, and president of Illinois People's Action, joins immigration advocates gathered outside the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on immigration reform in the Senate Hart Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, April 22, 2013, to recount personal stories of how they were affected by being undocumented in America.

The bipartisan Senate “Gang of 8” immigration bill, S. 744, which was introduced in the Senate on April 16, 2013, lays out a clear road map to citizenship for the 11.1 million unauthorized immigrants living in the United States and creates a system to handle future immigration in an orderly and fair way. The bill clears the backlog of green cards that has meant decades-long waiting times for families to reunite and for America to benefit from critically needed workers. Most importantly, it moves what has been a chaotic process of unauthorized entry into legal channels by combining increased border security and workplace enforcement with enhanced legal means to enter the country.

Opponents of the bill have and will continue to insist that S. 744 will bring in large numbers of immigrants in an attempt to scare the public. In reality, however, approximately 150,000 fewer people will enter the country each year under the Senate plan. (see table below)

While it is true that up to 11 million people will be provided a road map to citizenship, these people are already living here. Likewise, anyone currently waiting for a green card on a backlog has already qualified for a visa based on family or employment sponsorship, so these people will come regardless of immigration reform. S. 744 simply shortens the waiting times for families and employers. Even accepting that some small number of unauthorized immigrants will arrive in the future, the United States will still see fewer people entering the country each year once the Senate immigration plan becomes law.

The Senate bill provides a coherent and controlled admissions process that will ensure that those entering the United States come through orderly channels.


[1] Estimates based on prior demand do not necessarily predict future flow.

[2] Based on prior demand, FY 2002–2011. Includes 168,000 estimated beneficiaries of employment-based visa holders (based on a 1-1.2 ratio of current employment-based visa holders to beneficiaries over the 10-year period); people of extraordinary abilities (3,071); professors and researchers (3,186); executives and managers (8,240); physicians (1,500 max allowed under the Conrad 30 program); actual demand may be slightly lower); and doctoral degree holders and advanced degree holders in the STEM fields from a U.S. university (no more than the 22,000 EB-2, nonbeneficiary visas allotted on average from 2002–2011, including the current backlog). Since these visas are current for all but India and China, and new immigrants need a job offer in this category to get a visa in the first place, it is unlikely that future demand will exceed current demand. Section 2307, S. 744. See Department of Homeland Security, Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, Table 7, FY 2002–2011.

[3] Includes a new “EB-6” visa for entrepreneurs; 10,000 EB-6 visas per year. Section 4802, S. 744.

[4] Merit-based visas fluctuate between 120,000 and 250,000 visas per year depending on the state of the economy. Note that this merit-based category will be used to help clear the employment backlogs for the first five years postenactment. 185,000 represents the midpoint. Section 2301, S. 744.

[5] Average yearly visa issuance, 2002–2011. Department of Homeland Security, Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, Table 6, FY 2002–2011.

[6] Section 2305, S. 744. Based on prior demand (2002–2011 average) and the number of people currently waiting for a second-preference family visa. Department of Homeland Security, Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, Table 6, FY 2002–2011; Jacquellena Carrero, “The Immigration Line: Who’s on it and for how long?”, NBCLatino, April 11, 2013, available at

[7] Based on prior demand (FY 2002–2011) average. Includes refugees, asylees, parolees, children born abroad to alien residents, people under the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act, cancellation of removal, people under the Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act, and “other.” Department of Homeland Security, Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, Table 6, FY 2002–2011.

[8] Average unauthorized entry from 2002–2009. Note: We have excluded the boom years of unauthorized entry between 1999 and 2001 and included the lower-flow period of the Great Recession. Without reform, we would expect future unauthorized immigrant flows to rebound from the lower Great Recession period. This estimate should be taken as a conservative one. See Robert Warren and John Robert Warren, “Unauthorized Immigration to the United States: Annual Estimates and Components of Change, by State, 1990 to 2010,” International Migration Review 47 (1) (2013), Table 3, available at

[9] While S. 744 will go a long way toward ending unauthorized immigration, we assume that some small number of people will still enter outside of status, here estimated at 10 percent of the average.