White House Proposes Substantial Cuts to Legal Immigration in Exchange for Dreamer Protection

The White House released its Immigration Framework on January 25, 2018, which President Trump echoed in his State of the Union Address. In addition to increased funds for border security and “the wall,” the White House seeks legalization for DACA recipients with a 10-12 year path to citizenship, institution of limits on family sponsorships to spouses and minor children only for both U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents, and elimination of the Visa Lottery. It is on Congress to flesh out the details through legislation, but the new plan would cut the number of legal immigrants by up to 44 percent or half a million immigrants annually according to the CATO Institute.

The White House plans to end legal immigration categories currently in place for parents and siblings of U.S. citizens, and adult children of citizens and legal permanent residents. The proposed restrictions on legal immigration will have far-reaching negative consequences on economic growth in the United States. In addition to reductions in labor force growth and economic growth, the National Academy of Sciences has estimated that the average immigrant contributes, in net present value terms, at least $92,000 more in taxes than they receive in benefits over their lifetime, will affect government finances. Diversity and family-sponsored immigrants, who would be banned in the proposed White House Framework, are better educated than the average immigrant (and American) according to the Cato Institute report. Therefore, before enacting the proposed White House Framework, Congress should consider the widespread effects such proposed measures on the United States.

On February 5, 2018, Senators John McCain (R-Arizona) and Chris Coons (D-Delaware) introduces their "clean" DACA bill that would grant permanent legal status to dreamers who have been in the country since December 31, 2013 and bolstering security through drones and other technology on the U.S. border with Mexico. The legislation would require the Secretary of Homeland Security to submit to Congress a new southern border security strategy prior to funding new wall and fencing construction. This bill is similar to the USA Act, introduced by Representative Will Hurd (R-Texas) and Representative Pete Aguilar (D-California) in January. Neither bill mentions cuts to family-based immigration nor the Visa Lottery.