Does Immigration Law Discourage Legal Immigration?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con), an immigration lawyers referral website, defined immigration law as follows (accessed June 11, 2007):

"Immigration law is the name given to the branch of law that covers U.S. citizenship, loss of citizenship, and the admission and removal of aliens. Legal immigration involves immigrants, i.e., persons seeking a permanent residence card or 'green card,' and non-immigrants, persons seeking temporary entry to the U.S. under a non-immigrant visa category. Immigration also encompasses asylum, naturalization, denaturalization, deportation, as well as immigration crimes, including illegal immigration, or aliens who enter the U.S. and obtain work illegally."

June 11, 2007 - 

The Congressional Research Service (CRS), in a May 20, 2003 report entitled "Immigration and Naturalization Fundamentals," offered the following:

"Four major principles underlie U.S. policy on legal permanent immigration: the reunification of families, the admission of immigrants with needed skills, the protection of refugees, and the diversity of admissions by the country of origin. These principles are embodied in federal law, the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) first codified in 1952. Congress has significantly amended the INA several times since... The conditions for the admission of immigrants are much more stringent than nonimmigrants, and many fewer immigrants than nonimmigrants are admitted. Once admitted, however, immigrants are subject to few restrictions; for example, they may accept and change employment, and may apply for U.S. citizenship through the naturalization process, generally after 5 years."

May 20, 2003 - Congressional Research Service (CRS) 
CRS 2003 Immigration and Naturalization Fundamentals Report (44 KB)  

PRO (yes)

National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP), in a May 2006 study entitled "Legal Immigrants: Waiting Forever An Analysis of the Green Card Backlogs and Processing Delays Affecting Families, Skilled Professionals and U.S. Employers," concluded:

"Why don’t people wait to immigrate legally to the United States? The answer is that many people do come here legally but processing delays and the family and employment-based immigration quotas legislated by Congress result in significant wait times – and much frustration – for potential immigrants and U.S. employers.... Many Americans do not realize the significant waiting times foreign visitors and business travelers experience to obtain a visa to enter the United States...

Those who 'play by the rules' are likely to wait many years to become a lawful permanent resident, whether they are sponsored by an employer or a family member. Waits for green cards (permanent residence) in the Skilled Workers and Professionals category have worsened considerably in the past few years, with the current wait for a newly sponsored high skill immigrant in this category exceeding 5 years...

Siblings of U.S. citizens can expect to wait 11 to 12 years from today before immigrating to America (22 years from the Philippines). Unmarried adult children can anticipate waiting 6 years, but 13 years if from Mexico and 14 years from the Philippines. A spouse or minor child of a legal resident (green card holder) from Mexico has a 7 year wait (a 5 year wait from other countries)."

May 2006 - National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) 

Phil Gingrey, MD, U.S. Representative (R-GA), in a May 8, 2007 congressional hearing testimony to the House Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law entitled "The Role of Family in Immigration," stated:

"An often overlooked problem is our flawed system of legal immigration and how it may contribute to illegal immigration... it is one of the fundamental reasons why our businesses have problems sponsoring legal immigrants, why our federal caseworkers have problems with paperwork backlogs, and why our system has become so frustrating that individuals outside the United States would rather risk immigrating here illegally than wait forever in line... Depending on the country of application it could be 10 to 40 years or more before that visa is available under regular skill-based circumstances. As a result, a third of current legal immigrants... first came here as illegal aliens until their visa came up and they then went home to process the paperwork."

May 8, 2007 - Phil Gingrey, MD 

The Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC), in a section entitled "The State of Immigration Law" on its website (accessed June 11, 2007), offered:

"U.S. immigration laws and policies have become increasingly restrictive and challenging for immigrants and asylum seekers. The current immigration law does not provide a pathway for undocumented people to legalize their status. It does not provide an adequate number of visas for immigrants seeking to work in service sector positions. Catholic immigration legal service programs therefore have to turn down services to most undocumented people because there is no immigration benefit for which the agency can help them apply. The result is that many otherwise law-abiding residents are forced to live in the shadows of society. The current law provides disproportionate punishments for minor civil immigration violations, which forces undocumented immigrants to hide deeper in the shadows."

June 11, 2007 - Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC) 

CON (no)

Barry Chiswick, PhD, Distinguished Professor and Head of the Department of Economics at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), in an Apr. 25, 2006 hearing before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary entitled "Immigration: The Economic Impact" stated:

"Current U.S. immigration law, however, encourages the legal immigration... This encouragement comes through the kinship preferences for various relatives built into our legal immigration system and to the smaller diversity visa program. Our immigration law permits a 'snowball effect' where even immigrants granted a visa for the skills they bring to the U.S. labor market can sponsor low-skilled relatives who will then legally work in the U.S.

Of the 946,014 people who received Permanent Resident Alien visas in 2004, 65.6 percent entered under one of the several kinship categories, 8.8 percent entered as refugees or asylees, 5.3 percent entered under 'diversity' visas, and 3.5 percent had a cancellation of deportation order. The 155,330 employment-based visas represented only 16.4 percent of the total. However, only about half of those who received an employment-based visa were themselves skill-tested (less than 73,000), while the remainder of these visas were received by their spouses and children.

Under two major amnesty provisions legal status was granted to nearly 3 million undocumented individuals, nearly all of whom were low-skilled workers, and millions more have subsequently been able to immigrate as their relatives."

Apr. 25, 2006 - Barry Chiswick, PhD 

Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), in a May 11, 2007 website article entitled "Chain Migration and Its Link to Runaway Population Growth: The Legacy of Amnesty That Washington Would Rather Not Discuss," wrote:

"Chain migration results from the snowballing numbers of foreign nationals who are allowed to immigrate because current law allows immigrants who become U.S. citizens to bring in adult children, siblings, and parents. This is in addition to the nuclear family - spouse and minor children - who may accompany an immigrant. Chain migration is the reason legal immigration in the US quadrupled from 250,000 per year in the 1950s and 1960s to the present with more than one million a year."

May 11, 2007 - Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) 

Steve Malanga, MA, Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, in an Autumn 2006 City Journal article entitled "The Right Immigration Policy," wrote:

"New legislation in the mid-1960s unintentionally precipitated the waves of low-skilled immigration that we now see. The new law... had far-reaching unanticipated consequences, dramatically increasing the immigration of unskilled workers from poorer countries... our family unification policy, our current immigration law’s centerpiece, not only does not serve our economy but goes way beyond preserving the nuclear family. Current law allows not only the spouses and minor children of permanent residents and American citizens—both native-born and naturalized—to come here, but also their adult sons and daughters, as well as the parents and adult siblings of citizens."

Autumn 2006 - Steve Malanga, MA