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Why immigration reform's simplest question has no easy answer (+video)

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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.

Then, CAP attempts to account for how the new immigration system – which includes new border-security and employment-verification measures – would affect illegal immigration. Citing a February analysis by two University of Minnesota scholars, CAP argues the US would slash illegal immigration down to just 10 percent of the average 680,000 illegal immigrants who entered the country annually from 2002 to 2009.

Thus a 500,000 increase in immigration, minus a massive dip in illegal immigration, equals a relative decline in overall migration levels.

“The Senate bill provides a coherent and controlled admissions process that will ensure that those entering the United States come through orderly channels,” according to the analysis.

Other groups question many of CAP's assumptions.

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