"You have people like [Republican Sen.] Jeff Sesisions and Numbers USA putting out these wild estimates," says Phil Wolgin, a senior immigration analyst with CAP. "Here’s the reality: We’re taking what has been a chaotic system of unauthorized entry on top of legal entry, and we’re moving unauthorized [immigrants] into legal streams."
Not surprisingly, the dueling studies show starkly different assumptions about how to calculate the future flow of immigrants.
For example, CAP does not count the estimated 11.1 million undocumented immigrants currently in the US and who could achieve legal status (and potentially permanent residence and citizenship). It argued that those people are already in the US and thus aren’t “new” to the immigration stream.
Furthermore, they don’t account for the more than 4.5 million prospective immigrants who are waiting in family- and employment-based backlogs. CAP argues that because those people have already been cleared to receive permanent residency – but are waiting for their turn in a sometimes years-long line to get a green card – they don’t count as “new,” either.
The Senate bill would clear the family- and employment-based backlogs before any undocumented person is allowed to achieve permanent residency.
What CAP does do is add the new ways for foreigners to become US residents under the bill (such as a new “merit-based” system) while subtracting reduced or eliminated visa programs (like the diversity visa lottery). That would boost legal migration by some 500,000 new residents per year, CAP estimates.