Current Immigration Statistics

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Chapter 3
Current Immigration Statistics

To understand the scope of the immigration issue in the United States, it is important to know the number of immigrants in the country, where they came from, why they came, and why some did not get to stay. Because immigrant statistics have been the basis for legislation and project funding, information about immigrants' ages, skills, ability to work, and location of settlement in the United States is collected in a variety of forms. The U.S. Bureau of the Census uses statistical methods to estimate the nation's population size based on the most recent census counts and also estimates the foreign-born population.

In October 2006 the Census Bureau announced that the population of the United States had reached a new milestone: 300 million people ("Nation's Population to Reach 300 Million on Oct. 17," October 12, 2006, The Census Bureau based the nation's headcount on statistical averages it had developed, including one birth every seven seconds, one death every thirteen seconds, and one new immigrant arriving in the country every thirty-one seconds.

When the U.S. population reached 100 million in 1915, immigrants comprised 15% of the total ("Special Edition: 300 Million," August 9, 2006, The U.S. population reached 200 million in 1967; at that time only 5% were foreign born, and the greatest share of immigrants had come from Italy. As of 2006 the Census Bureau estimated the foreign-born population at 31.2 million, with the largest share having been born in Mexico. The foreign-born population is projected to rise from 10.8% of the total U.S. population in 2006 to 13.3% in 2050, and then drop to 10.9% by 2100. The immigrant population is projected to top fifty million by 2050. (See Table 3.1.)


U.S. immigration law defines an immigrant as a person legally admitted for permanent residence in the United States. Some arrive in the country with immigrant visas (government authorizations permitting entry into a country) issued abroad by U.S. Department of State consular offices. Others who already reside in the United States become immigrants when they adjust their status from temporary to permanent residence. These include individuals who enter the country as foreign students, temporary workers, refugees and asylees (those seeking asylum), and illegal immigrants.


Region of Birth

In A Statistical Portrait of the Foreign-Born Population at Mid-Decade (October 2006,, the Pew Hispanic Center estimates that more than one-third (38%) of the U.S. foreign-born population in 2005 came from Central American countries, including Mexico, which represented the largest single source of immigrants. (See Figure 3.1.) Asia was the birthplace of 23% of foreign-born people living in the United States. These numbers reflect a major shift in immigration patterns during the twentieth century. Between 1900 and 1909 the vast majority (93%) of immigrants came from Europe. (See Table 1.1 in Chapter 1.) The 38,529 immigrants who arrived between 1900 and 1909 from Central America and Mexico represented only 0.5% of the 8.2 million immigrants who arrived in the United States during that time.

Where the Foreign-Born Population Chooses to Live

Table 3.2 offers greater detail from the Pew Hispanic Center study about the birthplaces of the foreign-born population and where they lived in 2005. States are listed in rank order by the size of their foreign-born populations. California was home to 9.6 million immigrants, including the largest populations from Mexico (4.3 million) and Asia (2.9 million). Florida, with the fourth largest total foreign-born population, had the largest population born in Caribbean countries (1.2 million). The greatest concentrations of people born in South America lived in New York and Florida. Table 3.3 shows that between 2000 and 2005 Georgia and Arizona experienced increases in their foreign-born population of 38.1% and 30.5%, respectively. The number of foreign-born in California increased as well, but at a much slower rate (9.5%).

Population projections for native and foreign-born, selected years 20062100
[Numbers in thousands]
July 1, 2006July 1, 2025July 1, 2050July 1, 2075July 1, 2100
Source: Adapted from "Projections of the Resident Population by Race, Hispanic Origin, and Nativity: Middle Series, 19992100 (NP-T5-C; NP-T5-F; NP-T5-G; NP-T5-H)," U.S. Census Bureau, (accessed February 8, 2007)
    Percent of total100.0100.0100.0100.0100.0
Native population258,917296,999349,890420,957508,694
    Percent of total89.287.986.787.689.1
Foreign-born population31,23540,81453,79659,54662,259
    Percent of total10.812.113.312.410.9


The Pew Hispanic Center reports that foreign-born residents are more likely than natives to be married and less likely to be divorced. (See Table 3.4.) In 2005, 61.8% of foreign-born residents were married, compared with 51.9% of natives. Just 6.7% of the foreign born were divorced, compared with 10.8% of natives (this data refers to current marital status and does not record previous divorces). The lowest share of foreign-born divorced residents were from Mexico (4.4%) and Asia (4.8%).

Foreign-born families tended to be larger than native families in 2005, according to the Pew Hispanic Center in A Statistical Portrait of the Foreign-Born Population at Mid-Decade. Just 11.4% of native families had five or more people, compared with 24.2% of foreign-born families. (See Table 3.5.) The greatest share of foreign-born families with five or more members were from Mexico (37.8%) and Central America (27.4%). Foreign-born women were more likely to have given birth within the past year. Of foreign-born women in 2005, 9.1% had given birth during the past year, compared with 6.6% of native women. (See Table 3.6.) Mexican women accounted for 43.1% of all births to foreign-born women.

The Pew study found little difference among native and foreign-born people regarding the share of children living in 2005 with at least one parent (89% and 85%, respectively). (See Table 3.7.) However, 6.5% of native children lived with a grandparent, compared with 3% of foreign-born children. A significant difference between the two groups was that 11.9% of foreign-born children lived with someone other than a parent or grandparent, compared with just 4.5% of native children. Foreign-born children most frequently living with someone other than a parent or grandparent in 2005 were from Central America (16.8%) and Mexico (16.3%).

Foreign-born by state and region of birth, 2005
[2005 household population]
Total populationRegion of birth
Native bornForeign bornMexicoSouth and East AsiaCaribbeanCentral AmericaSouth AmericaMiddle EastAll other
Note: Middle East includes Afghanistan, Cyprus, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, Yemen, Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, and Sudan.
Source: "Table 9. Foreign Born by State and Region of Birth: 2005," in A Statistical Portrait of the Foreign-Born Population at Mid-Decade, Pew Hispanic Center, October 2006, (accessed December 12, 2006). © 2006 Pew Hispanic Center, a Pew Research Center project,
New York14,716,4443,962,767194,504842,885967,645238,709564,539146,3471,008,138
New Jersey6,869,0311,655,83790,588448,343250,699107,439273,80068,121416,847
North Carolina7,838,442559,343226,09095,25819,40358,03723,28017,468119,807
South Carolina3,954,211173,18058,01831,3795,83713,6429,6076,91147,786
New Mexico1,721,769165,020117,88016,3412,0894,4303,2802,08618,914
Rhode Island905,097128,1874,95516,46320,48718,89013,5102,24851,634
New Hampshire1,196,51175,38652819,4964,5993,2734,2562,92540,309
District of Columbia442,83165,7413,42910,2897,84015,3086,1211,65521,099
West Virginia1,760,39821,4191,8516,7749702613872,2378,939
South Dakota735,76619,3862,5813,32109501342,26010,140
North Dakota606,56414,4999353,9691549493556727,465


Native and foreign-born residents find work in varied occupations, according to the Pew report. Educational levels and English-language skills are likely factors in some of the occupational differences. The greatest percentage of native workers in 2005 were found in office and administrative support (15.4%), sales (12.1%), and management (8.9%) occupations. (See Table 3.8.) A larger share of people from the Middle East (11.4%) held management positions than native born (8.9%) and people from Asia (8.3%). Foreign-born workers were found in greatest numbers in production (10.5%), office and administrative support (9.7%), and construction trades (9.4%). In 2005 the education, health, and human services industry attracted the largest share of people from the Caribbean (25.5%), other countries (22.2%), South and East Asia (20.9%), the Middle East (20.1%), and South America (16.8%). (See Table 3.9.) The largest share of people from Mexico (19.1%) and Central America (16.3%) worked in construction.

Top ten states by percentage growth of foreign-born population, 2000 and 2005
20052000Change 20002005Percent change 20002005
Source: Adapted from "Table 11. Change in Foreign-Born Population by State: 2000 and 2005," in A Statistical Portrait of the Foreign-Born Population at Mid-Decade, Pew Hispanic Center, October 2006, (accessed December 12, 2006). © 2006 Pew Hispanic Center, a Pew Research Center project,
New York3,962,7673,819,028143,7393.8
New Jersey1,655,8371,459,007196,83013.5
Marital status of native and foreign-born by region of birth, 2005
Now marriedWidowedDivorcedSeparatedNever married
Source: Adapted from "Table 12. Marital Status by Region of Birth: 2005," in A Statistical Portrait of the Foreign-Born Population at Mid-Decade, Pew Hispanic Center, October 2006, (accessed December 12, 2006). © 2006 Pew Hispanic Center, a Pew Research Center project,
Percent distribution
    Total native born51.
    Total foreign born61.
South and East Asia68.
Central America51.
South America57.
Middle East67.
All other62.


The Pew Hispanic Center notes that the median 2005 income for native households was $46,000, compared with $42,000 for all foreign-born households. Median income was highest for Asian households ($59,000) and Middle Eastern households ($49,000). Mexican households had the lowest median income at $32,000. Household incomes varied by the number of people in the household with jobs and whether jobs were full time, part time, or seasonal. Table 3.10 offers more comparative detail about household incomes. Native households were evenly distributed across the scale with about 20% in each earning category. Among Middle Eastern households the largest income groups were at the bottom and top ends of the scale (21% with incomes less than $18,999 and 27.2% with incomes greater than $89,600). The share of Asian households grew progressively larger at each income quartile, ending with 30.4% in the top income quartile.

Family size for native and foreign-born residents by region of birth, 2005
Two person familiesThree to four person familiesFive or more person families
Source: Adapted from "Table 17. Family Size by Region of Birth: 2005," in A Statistical Portrait of the Foreign-Born Population at Mid-Decade, Pew Hispanic Center, October 2006, (accessed December 12, 2006). © 2006 Pew Hispanic Center, a Pew Research Center project,
Percent distribution
    Total native born47.740.911.4
    Total foreign born28.947.024.2
South and East Asia28.352.619.0
Central America23.948.727.4
South America31.850.118.0
Middle East30.946.922.2
All other47.140.712.2

In A Statistical Portrait of the Foreign-Born Population at Mid-Decade the Pew Hispanic Center reports that the 2005 poverty rate for natives was 12.8%, compared with 17.1% for foreign-born residents. (See Table 3.11.) The lowest poverty rate (11.6%) was found among people from "all other" countries. Among the population aged sixty-five and over, 23.4% of Caribbean-born people and 22.6% of Mexican-born lived in poverty.


Figure 3.2 illustrates age differences between the foreign-born and native populations in 2005. Most foreign born were in the prime working agesmidtwenties to midfortiesrepresented by the great bulge in the middle of the stacked bar graphs. By contrast the graph for the native population is heavy with children at the bottom and narrows with increasing age, except for a slight bulge of baby boomers in the forty to fifty-five age range. Past age sixty-five the two graphs appear similar. The Census Bureau, whose data was the basis for these graphs, notes that the small proportion of foreign-born children can be explained by the fact that most young children of immigrant parents are born in the United States and are counted as natives.

Fertility in past year for native and foreign-born women, 2005
[By maternal birth region]
Women with a birthPercent of women with a birthShare of foreign-born women with a birth
Note: Middle East includes Afghanistan, Cyprus, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, Yemen, Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, and Sudan.
Source: "Table 13. Fertility in the Past Year by Region of Birth: 2005," in A Statistical Portrait of the Foreign-Born Population at Mid-Decade, Pew Hispanic Center, October 2006, (accessed December 12, 2006). © 2006 Pew Hispanic Center, a Pew Research Center project,
South and East Asia184,5347.921.4
Central America66,2108.97.7
South America50,4437.35.8
Middle East25,5979.33.0
All other104,1256.912.1
    Total foreign-born863,0689.1
    Total native-born3,359,0126.6
Living arrangements of native and foreign-born children by region of birth, 2005
Parent householderGrandparent householderOther
Source: Adapted from "Table 18. Living Arrangements of Children by Region of Birth: 2005," in A Statistical Portrait of the Foreign-Born Population at Mid-Decade, Pew Hispanic Center, October 2006, (accessed December 12, 2006). © 2006 Pew Hispanic Center, a Pew Research Center project,
Percent distribution
    Total native born89.06.54.5
    Total foreign born85.03.011.9
South and East Asia88.33.58.1
Central America79.53.716.8
South America86.53.69.9
Middle East93.00.96.1
All other91.91.46.7


There are various ways to qualify for immigration to the United States, but the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) generally classifies admissions into four major groups:

  • Family-sponsored preference
  • Employment-based preference
  • Diversity Program
  • Otherincluding Amerasians (typically children of Asian mothers and U.S. military or civilian personnel), parolees, refugees and asylees, individuals whose order for removal was canceled, and other legal provisions

With the passage of the Immigration Act of 1990 (IMMACT), the number of immigrants was limited to a total of 675,000 per year. However, the annual limit is flexible; it can exceed 675,000 if the maximum number of visas are not issued in the preceding year. For example, Table 3.12 reports the total immigrants from 2000 to 2005; in 2001, 2002, and 2005 the number of immigrants admitted exceeded one million. How did this happen?

The USCIS reports that some major categories of immigrants are exempt from the annual limits. These include:

  • Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens
  • Refugee and asylee adjustments
  • Certain parolees from Indochina and the former Soviet Union
  • Certain special agricultural workers
  • Canceled removals
  • Aliens who applied for adjustment of status after having unlawfully resided in the United States since January 1, 1982

In 2002 the number of immediate relatives admitted hit a high of 483,676. (See Table 3.12.) In 2002 and 2005 the number of refugees admitted exceeded 100,000, compared with a low of 34,362 in 2003. The 30,286 asylees admitted in 2005 was nearly triple the number admitted in this category in any of the previous five years.

New Arrivals

The United States offers two general methods for foreign-born people to attain immigrant status. In the first method aliens living abroad can apply for an immigrant visa and then become legal residents when approved for admission at a U.S. port of entry. In 2005, 384,071 such people entered the United States; identified in statistics as "new arrivals," they accounted for 34% of all immigrants admitted in 2005. (See Table 3.12.)

Adjustment of Status

The second method of gaining immigrant status is by "adjustment of status." This procedure allows certain aliens already in the United States to apply for immigrant status, including certain undocumented residents, temporary workers, foreign students, and refugees. The 738,302 individuals who had their status adjusted in 2005 accounted for about two-thirds (66%) of all immigrants admitted. (See Table 3.12.)

Occupation for native and foreign-born by region of birth, 2005
Percent distribution
Occupation groupTotalRegion of birth
Native bornForeign bornMexicoSouth and East AsiaCaribbeanCentral AmericaSouth AmericaMiddle EastAll other
Note: Middle East includes Afghanistan, Cyprus, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, Yemen, Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, and Sudan.
Source: Adapted from "Table 22. Occupation by Region of Birth: 2005," in A Statistical Portrait of the Foreign-Born Population at Mid-Decade, Pew Hispanic Center, October 2006, (accessed December 12, 2006). © 2006 Pew Hispanic Center, a Pew Research Center project,
Business operations1.
Computer and mathematics1.
Architecture and engineering1.
Life, physical, and social sciences0.
Community and social services1.
Education, training, and library6.
Arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media2.
Healthcare practitioners and technical4.
Healthcare support2.
Protective services2.
Food preparation and serving5.37.310.
Building and grounds cleaning and maintenance3.
Personal care and services3.
Office and administrative support15.
Farming, fishing, and forestry0.
Construction trades5.69.418.51.45.715.
Extraction workers0.
Installation, maintenance, and repair workers3.
Transportation and material moving6.

There was a noticeable dip in the number of adjustments in status in 2003. (See Table 3.12.) The sudden decrease resulted from the Legal Immigration Family Equity (LIFE) Act of 2002, which resolved three class action lawsuits. Eligible people had one year (until June 4, 2003) to apply for this particular adjustment of status. Key to eligibility was proof that by October 1, 2000, the applicant had filed a written claim for class membership in one of three lawsuits commonly referred to as CSS, LULAC, and Zambrano. Applicants also had to prove they entered the United States before January 1, 1982, resided in continuous unlawful status through May 4, 1988, and were continuously physically present in the United States from November 6, 1986, through May 4, 1988. Eligible applicants, and certain spouses and children, were protected from removal or deportation while their adjustment applications were pending. Also, they could be eligible for employment authorization while waiting.

LIFE Act applications were submitted by the tens of thousands. In the 2003 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics (September 2004), the Office of Immigration Statistics notes a backlog of 1.2 million adjustment-of-status cases pending decisions at the end of fiscal year (FY) 2003. The volume of applications clogged the system, resulting in fewer approved adjustments in 2003.

New Arrivals by Adoption

Included in the category of immediate relatives are orphans adopted by U.S. citizens. In October 2000 Congress passed the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, granting automatic U.S. citizenship to foreign-born biological and adopted children of U.S. citizens.

In FY2005 the number of foreign adopted children who were admitted to the United States totaled 22,710. As shown in Table 3.13, girls outnumbered boys 2 to 1 (14,982 to 7,728). The vast majority of foreign adopted children were four years of age or younger. According to the Office of Immigration Statistics, in 2005 Yearbook of

Industry of employment for native and foreign-born by region of birth, 2005
Percent distribution
IndustryTotalPercent of region of birth
Percent of native bornPercent of foreign bornMexicoSouth and East AsiaCaribbeanCentral AmericaSouth AmericaMiddle EastAll other
Note: Middle East includes Afghanistan, Cyprus, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, Yemen, Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, and Sudan.
Source: Adapted from "Table 23. Industry by Region of Birth: 2005," in A Statistical Portrait of the Foreign-Born Population at Mid-Decade, Pew Hispanic Center, October 2006, (accessed December 12, 2006). © 2006 Pew Hispanic Center, a Pew Research Center project,
Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting1.
Nondurable goods manufacturing4.
Durable goods7.08.08.410.
Wholesale trade3.
Retail trade12.49.97.511.310.59.010.519.410.4
Transportation and warehousing4.
Information and communications2.
Finance, insurance, real estate, and rental and leasing7.
Professional, scientific, management, administrative, and waste management services9.510.99.811.
Educational, health and social services20.816.37.220.925.511.616.820.122.2
Arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodations, and food services8.911.514.411.09.211.811.39.48.8
Other services (except public administration)
Public administration5.
Active duty military0.
Unemployed, no work experience in past five years0.
TABLE 3.10
Household income for native and foreign-born by region of birth, 2005
1st quintile ($0-$18,999)2nd quintile ($19,000-$35,999)3rd quintile ($36,000-$56,499)4th quintile ($56,500-$89,599)5th quintile ($89,600 +)Total
Note: Middle East includes Afghanistan, Cyprus, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, Yemen, Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, and Sudan. Quintiles are based upon 2005 total household income distribution. Figures based on reported incomes, not adjusted incomes.
Source: "Table 28. Household Income Distribution by Region of Birth: 2005," in A Statistical Portrait of the Foreign-Born Population at Mid-Decade, Pew Hispanic Center, October 2006, (accessed December 12, 2006). © 2006 Pew Hispanic Center, a Pew Research Center project,
Percent distribution
    Total native born19.619.920.020.320.2100.0
    Total foreign born21.122.320.018.018.6100.0
South and East Asia16.514.717.321.130.4100.0
Central America20.127.823.618.010.5100.0
South America16.922.522.720.317.6100.0
Middle East21.016.917.517.427.2100.0
All other20.518.717.918.724.3100.0
TABLE 3.11
Persons living in poverty for native and foreign-born by age and region of birth, 2005
Poverty rate (%)
Under 18 years18 to 64 years65 and overTotal
Note: Middle East includes Afghanistan, Cyprus, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, Yemen, Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, and Sudan.
Source: "Table 30. Poverty by Age and Region of Birth: 2005," in A Statistical Portrait of the Foreign-Born Population at Mid-Decade, Pew Hispanic Center, October 2006, (accessed December 12, 2006). © 2006 Pew Hispanic Center, a Pew Research Center project,
    Total native born18.
    Total foreign born29.315.916.217.1
South and East Asia16.811.215.012.0
Central America25.816.316.617.0
South America17.610.717.611.9
Middle East33.215.416.617.0
All other21.510.212.311.6

Immigration Statistics (November 2006,, of the 3,537 children aged five years and over, more than one-third (38%) came from Russia, the second leading source country for children adopted by American families. Figure 3.3 shows the leading countries of origin for orphans adopted by U.S. citizens during FY2005. Nearly half of all foreign adopted children (10,558) came from Asia. The People's Republic of China was the largest single source with 7,939 children adopted, or 35% of the total for all ages. Ninety-five percent of adopted Chinese children were females, primarily under the age of four years. Holt International Children's Services, a nonprofit adoption service, notes in "FAQs about the China Adoption Process: How Do Children Come into Care?" (2006, that nearly all children available for adoption from China were abandoned, usually left in public places with no identifying information.

In "China: Population May Peak under 'One-Child' Policy" (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, January 6, 2005), Daisy Sindelar explains China's efforts at population control. Fear of widespread famine if the population continued to grow at the 1950s birth rate of six children

TABLE 3.12
Immigrants admitted by class of admission, fiscal years 200005
Class of admission200020012002200320042005
aIncludes spouses and children.
bIncludes orphans.
cIncludes categories of immigrants admitted under three laws intended to diversify immigration: P.L. 99-603, P.L. 100-658, and P.L. 101-649.
Source: "Table 6. Immigrants Admitted by Class of Admission: 2000 to 2005," in Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2007, U.S. Census Bureau, (accessed December 21, 2006)
New arrivals407,279410,816384,289358,333373,962384,071
Family-sponsored preferences235,092231,699186,880158,796214,355212,970
   Unmarried sons/daughters of U.S. citizens and their children27,63527,00323,51721,47126,38024,729
   Spouses, unmarried sons/daughters of alien residents and their children124,540112,01584,78553,19593,609100,139
   Married sons/daughters of U.S. citizensa22,80424,83021,04127,28728,69522,953
   Brothers or sisters of U.S. citizensa60,11367,85157,53756,84365,67165,149
Employment-based preferences106,642178,702173,81481,727155,330246,878
   Priority workersa27,56641,67234,16814,45331,29164,731
   Professionals with advanced degrees or aliens of exceptional abilitya20,25542,55044,31615,40632,53442,597
   Skilled workers, professionals, unskilled workersa49,58985,84788,00246,41585,969129,070
   Special immigrantsa9,0148,4427,1865,3895,40710,134
   Employment creation (investors)a21819114264129346
Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens346,350439,972483,676331,286417,815436,231
Asylees6,83711,11110,19710,40210,21 730,286
Cancellation of removal12,15422,18823,64228,99032,70220,785
Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA)20,36418,6639,3072,4982,2921,155
Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act (HRIFA)43510,0645,3451,4062,4512,820
TABLE 3.13
Immigrant orphans adopted by U.S. citizens, by gender, age, and region of birth, fiscal year 2005
MaleFemaleUnder 1 year1 to 4 years5 years and overUnknown
Represents zero.
D Data withheld to limit disclosure.
Source: Adapted from "Table 12. Immigrant Orphans Adopted by U.S. Citizens by Gender, Age, and Region and Country of Birth: Fiscal Year 2005," in 2005 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of Immigration Statistics, November 2006, (accessed December 7, 2006)
North America4,2612,0522,2092,999846416
South America453211242141107205

per woman drove the Chinese government to implement a policy of one child per family in 1979. Even though some rural families were allowed a second child if the first was a girl, in most areas enforcement was strict. Punishment for exceeding the limit included forced abortions, beating of men whose wives gave birth to too many children, and sometimes jail terms or sterilization. The restrictions brought the fertility rate down to 1.8 by 2005 but not without negative side effects. The strong cultural preference for a son resulted in the abortion of female fetuses and the killing or abandonment of infant girls.

In December 2006 Chinese officials began briefing foreign adoption agencies about new rules for adopting Chinese orphans to be implemented by May 2007. In "China Tightens Adoption Rules for Foreigners" (New York Times, December 20, 2006), Pam Belluck and Jim Yardley report that these changes are intended to provide the greatest chances that adopted children will be raised by healthy, economically stable parents. The new rules bar adoption by people who are single, obese, older than fifty, or have criminal records. Couples applying to adopt Chinese orphans have to be married at least two years and have no more than two divorces between them. If either is divorced, the required years currently married increases to five. Health requirements include freedom from the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), cancer, and certain mental health conditions. New financial minimums include a net worth of at least $80,000 and household income equivalent to at least $10,000 per person, including the prospective adoptive child. Belluck and Yardley note that other countries, such as Guatemala and Vietnam, have even stricter foreign adoption rules.

Despite adoption fees of about $15,000, China has long been a top source of orphan adoptions. According to Belluck and Yardley, Americans have adopted some fifty-five thousand Chinese children since 1991. In FY2006 the State Department granted 6,493 visas to Chinese orphans.

Employment-Based Admissions

In the decade before 1991 employment-based admissions accounted for a small percentage of total immigration. One of the major goals of IMMACT was to increase the number of highly skilled workers entering the United States. In 2005, 246,877 individuals (22% of all admissions for the fiscal year) entered the United States under employment-based preferences, according to the Office of Immigration Statistics. (See Table 3.14.) However, spouses and children continued to claim a significant portion of this class of admission.

Thirty-eight percent (94,910) of 2005 employment-based admissions were identified as having "no occupation/not working outside the home"; most were home-makers and students or children. (See Table 3.14.) The remaining 151,967 employment-based admissions who were actually seeking jobs represented just 13% of total immigrants admitted for the fiscal year. The majority (84,753 or 56%) of the actual job seekers in this category were prepared by training and experience to fill management, professional, and related occupations.


Naturalization refers to the conferring of U.S. citizenship on a person after birth. A naturalization court grants citizenship if the naturalization occurs within the United States, whereas a representative of the USCIS confers naturalization if it is performed outside the United States. Beginning in 1992 IMMACT also permitted people to naturalize through administrative hearings with the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (now the USCIS). When individuals become U.S. citizens, they pledge allegiance to the United States and renounce allegiance to their former country of nationality.

General Requirements

To naturalize, most immigrants must meet certain general requirements. They must be at least eighteen years old, have been legally admitted to the United States for permanent residence, and have lived in the country continuously for at least five years. They must also be able to speak, read, and write English; know how the U.S. government works; have a basic knowledge of U.S. history; and be of good moral character.

TABLE 3.14
Persons obtaining legal permanent resident status by broad class of admission and occupation, fiscal year 2005
CharacteristicTotalFamily-sponsored preferencesEmployment-based preferencesImmediate relatives of U.S. citizensDiversityRefugees and asyleesOther
Source: Adapted from "Table 9. Persons Obtaining Legal Permanent Resident Status by Broad Class of Admission and Selected Demographic Characteristics: Fiscal Year 2005," in 2005 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of Immigration Statistics, November 2006, (accessed December 7, 2006)
Management, professional, and related occupations134,86111,08484,75324,7509,8443,742688
Service occupations49,58910,9459,33814,5214,1649,0291,592
Sales and office occupations34,9239,4673,97813,0062,7155,158599
Farming, fishing, and forestry occupations12,3626,0095964,993278242244
Construction, extraction, maintenance and repair occupations10,4721,1082,8693,4172582,182638
Production, transportation, and material moving occupations51,04015,6584,37916,0081,80010,5822,613
No occupation/not working outside home514,340120,51394,910219,73818,43454,2026,543
    Students or children292,22781,10957,60491,25215,01242,6534,597

Special Provisions

A small share of people are naturalized under special provisions of the naturalization laws that exempt them from one or more of the general requirements. Spouses of U.S. citizens can become naturalized in three years instead of the normal five. Children who immigrated with their parents generally receive their U.S. citizenship through the naturalization of their parents. Aliens with lawful permanent resident status who served honorably in the U.S. military are also entitled to certain exemptions from the naturalization requirements.

Expedited Naturalization of Active-Duty Military

In testimony before the Senate Committee on Armed Services, the USCIS director Emilio T. Gonzalez estimated that more than 45,000 noncitizen, immigrant personnel were on active or reserve duty in the U.S. armed forces during 2006 (July 10, 2006, In 2002 President George W. Bush issued an executive order that provided "expedited naturalization" of noncitizen men and women serving on active-duty status since September 11, 2001 (9/11). Gonzalez stated that under the new guidelines, USCIS had "naturalized more than 26,000 service men and women since September 11, 2001 in the U.S. and overseas."

Naturalization Rates

The longer immigrants live in the United States, the more likely they are to become naturalized citizens. Luke J. Larsen reports in The Foreign-Born Population in the United States: 2003 (August 2004, that 81% of those who entered the United States before 1970 were naturalized, compared with 15% of those who arrived in 1990 or later.

National Origins of Naturalized Citizens

For much of the twentieth century quotas established by immigration legislation favored people from Europe, resulting in higher numbers of naturalizations among immigrants from European countries. Once the quotas ended with the Immigration and Nationality Act Amendments in 1965, the regional origin of people immigrating and naturalizing shifted to Asian countries. The rapid growth of the Asian share of naturalizations from 12.9% in the 196170 decade to 48.8% in the 198190 decade is illustrated in Figure 3.4. Legal immigrants to the United States from North American countries, primarily Canada and Mexico, began to increase in the mid-1980s, resulting in North American immigrants accounting for 40% of naturalizations in the 19912000 decade. From 2001 through 2005 Asian immigrants claimed the greatest share (41%) of naturalizations, whereas naturalization of immigrants from North America declined to 30%. (See Figure 3.5.) According to the 2005 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, the top countries of origin for people becoming naturalized U.S. citizens in 2005 were Mexico (77,089), the Philippines (36,673), India (35,962), Vietnam (32,926), and China (31,708).

Trends in Naturalization

Michael E. Fix, Jeffrey S. Passel, and Kenneth Sucher of the Urban Institute identify three areas of concern about future candidates for naturalization: limited English skills, little formal education, and low incomes (Trends in Naturalization, August 2003, They find that 52% of naturalized citizens who had arrived recently (that is, had lived in the United States less than fourteen years) had limited English proficiency. Even greater English-language limitations were noted among the legal immigrant population eligible to naturalize, that is, those aged eighteen and older who had had resided in the United States at least five years or who had lived in the United States for three years and were married to a U.S. citizen. Among those eligible to naturalize, six out of ten (3.5 million adults) had limited English proficiency. For those who would soon be eligible for citizenship (defined as legal permanent residents who had not lived in the United States long enough to qualify for citizenship), 67% (1.5 million adults) had limited English. Fix, Passel, and Sucher suggest that publicly supported English classes and civics courses might be needed to help this population achieve the language skills and knowledge of U.S. history and government required for citizenship.

In education Fix, Passel, and Sucher describe two significant clusters of immigrants: those with less than a high school education and those with college degrees. Compared with 9% of the recently naturalized with less than a ninth-grade education, 25% of current and 21% of soon-to-be eligible candidates for naturalization had less than a ninth-grade education. (See Figure 3.6.) This suggests that literacy is a significant issue, besides English-language skills, in preparing this group of immigrants to qualify for future citizenship. Fix, Passel, and Sucher also find that, even though 35% of the recently naturalized had bachelor's degrees or higher, just 23% of currently eligible and 30% of the soon-to-be eligible held such degrees.

In addition, Fix, Passel, and Sucher indicate that a far greater share of the future naturalization candidates had incomes under 200% of the poverty level. They note that the combination of limited English skills, low level of education, and low income present greater barriers to naturalization among the pool of future candidates for naturalization.


Tourists, Business People, Foreign Government Officials, and Foreign Students

Table 3.15 lists nonimmigrant visa classifications and numbers of nonimmigrant visas issued by the State Department for FY2001 to FY2005. The impact of increased security following 9/11 can be seen in the almost 24% drop from 7.6 million total visas issued in 2001 to a total of 5.8 million in 2002. Totals continued to drop to a low of 4.9 million in 2003. By the end of 2005 nonimmigrant visas still had not regained the 2002 level.

Half (50.3%) of all nonimmigrant visas issued in 2005 went to 2.7 million visitors who came to the United States for business combined with pleasure (B1/B2 visas). (See Table 3.15.) Another 1.7% of visas were issued to 94,222 officials of foreign governments, their families, and employees (A1, A2, and A3 visas). Students and their family members totaled 255,951 in 2005, or 4.7% of all visas issued.

There are no restrictions on the number of nonimmigrants allowed to enter the United States. In fact, the United States, like most other countries, encourages tourism and

TABLE 3.15
Nonimmigrant visas issues by classification, fiscal years 200105
Visa symbol/class20012002200320042005
A1Ambassador, public minister, career diplomat, consul, and immediate family9,66210,4529,1529,5629,944
A2Other foreign government official or employee, and immediate family66,39871,72873,09281,53683,051
A3Attendant, servant, or personal employee of A1 and A2, and immediate family2,2281,9711,2591,2581,227
B1Temporary visitor for business84,20175,64260,89253,24552,649
B1/B2Temporary visitor for business and pleasure3,527,1182,528,1032,207,3032,340,7952,709,468
B1/B2/BCCCombination B1/B2 and border crossing card1,990,4021,399,819836,407740,616732,566
B2Temporary visitor for pleasure381,431255,487271,358279,106245,816
C1Person in transit27,23124,20734,66481,29265,272
C1/DCombination transit/crew member (indiv. iss.)167,435175,446210,648228,778229,115
C2Person in transit to United Nations headquarters2481521 44
C3Foreign government official, immediate family, attendant, servant, or personal employee in transit5,6976,0246,1607,96310,537
DCrew member (sea or air) (individual issuance)21,61513,67116,12516,89619,988
DCREWCrewlist visas8,4808,3994,6311,0550
E1Treaty trader, spouse and children9,3097,8117,5908,6088,867
E2Treaty investor, spouse and children27,57725,63324,50628,21328,290
E3Australian specialty occupation professional00004
E3DSpouse or child of Australian specialty occupation professional00003
E3RReturning Australian specialty occupation professional00000
F1Student (academic or language training program)293,357234,322215,695218,898237,890
F2Spouse or child of student26,16022,21219,88518,89318,061
F3Border commuter academic or language student0001642
G1Principal resident representive of recognized foreign member government to international organization, staff, and immediate family5,2744,9054,5555,0184,995
G2Other representative of recognized foreign member government to international organization, and immediate family8,8259,1447,19410,89913,703
G3Representative of nonrecognized or nonmember foreign government to international organization, and immediate family13499146266309
G4International organization officer or employee, and immediate family16,99917,37418,09120,01720,930
G5Attendant, servant, or personal employee of G1 through G4, and immediate family1,6451,4821,117945998
H1ATemporary worker performing services as a registered nurse00000
H1BTemporary worker of distinguished merit and ability performing services other than as a registered nurse161,643118,352107,196138,965124,100
H1B1Free Trade Agreement professional00072274
H1CShortage area nurse3421219111063
H2ATemporary worker performing agricultural services31,52331,53829,88231,77431,892
H2BTemporary worker performing other services58,21562,59178,95576,16987,492
H2RReturning H2B worker00001,643
H4Spouse or child of H1A/B/B1/C, H2A/B/R, or H395,96779,72569,28983,12870,266
IRepresentative of foreign information media, spouse and children13,79918,18712,32916,39016,975
J1Exchange visitor261,769253,841253,866254,504275,161
J2Spouse or child of exchange visitor38,18932,53929,79627,87528,661
K1Fiance(e) of U.S. citizen24,97328,33825,30429,65833,910
K2Child of K13,7354,2983,7524,6945,308
K3Certain spouse of U.S. citizen35,07812,40313,62311,312
K4Child of K311,2943,1743,8273,438
L1Intracompany transferee (executive, managerial, and specialized personnel continuing employment with international firm or corporation)59,38457,72157,24562,70065,458
L2Spouse or child of intracompany transferee61,15454,90353,57159,16457,523
M1Vocational and other nonacademic student5,3734,1164,1574,8175,822
M2Spouse or child of vocational student28516114495153
M3Border commuter vocational or nonacademic student00000
N8Parent of SK3 special immigrant8811810
N9Child of N8 or of SK1, SK2 or SK4 special immigrant64734

tries to attract as many visitors as possible. Even though it is easy to get in, strict rules do apply to the conditions of the visit. For example, students can stay only long enough to complete their studies, and business people can stay only six months (although a six-month extension is available). Most nonimmigrants are not allowed to hold jobs while in the United States, although exceptions are made for students and the families of diplomats. An undetermined number of visitors, amounting to many tens of thousands, overstay their nonimmigrant visas and continue to live in the United States illegally.

TABLE 3.15
Nonimmigrant visas issues by classification, fiscal years 200105 [continued]
Visa symbol/class20012002200320042005
*North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.
Source: "Table XVI(B). Nonimmigrant Visas Issued by Classification (Including Crewlist Visas and Border Crossing Cards) Fiscal Years 20012005," in Report of the VISA Office 2005, U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, 2005 Preliminary Data, (accessed December 24, 2006)
NATO1Principal permanent representative of member state to NATO* (including any of its subsidiary bodies) resident in the U.S., and resident members of official staff; principal NATO officers; and immediate family424161228
NATO2Other representatives of member states to NATO (including any of its subsidiary bodies), and immediate family; dependents of member of a force entering in accordance with provisions of NATO agreements; members of such force if issued visas4,2825,1955,3646,2345,893
NATO3Official clerical staff accompanying a representative of member state to NATO, and immediate family00241
NATO4Officials of NATO (other than those classifiable as NATO1), and immediate family9589133255353
NATO5Experts, other than NATO4 officials, employed in missions on behalf of NATO, and their dependents121179914969
NATO6Members of a civilian component accompanying a force entering in accordance with the provisions of NATO agreements, and their dependents22019293168201
NATO7Attendant, servant, or personal employee of NATO1 through NATO6, and immediate family18315
O1Person with extraordinary ability in the sciences, art, education, business, or athletics6,6666,0266,1266,4376,712
O2Person accompanying and assisting in the artistic or athletic performance by O11,9181,9722,4722,6113,387
O3Spouse or child of O1 or O22,2871,7601,5521,6791,861
P1Internationally recognized athlete or member of an internationally recognized entertainment group24,37824,28725,64322,26923,907
P2Artist or entertainer in a reciprocal exchange program12511993211125
P3Artist or entertainer in a culturally unique program8,4958,1317,7278,6899,611
P4Spouse or child of P1, P2, or P31,0209388958711,022
Q1Participant in an international cultural exchange program1,4321,4691,5791,5701,972
Q2Irish peace process trainee18632938911 6
Q3Spouse or child of Q20120 0
R1Person in a religious occupation8,5038,6468,6368,8068,538
R2Spouse or child of R13,0093,1753,1622,9763,267
S5Informant processing critical reliable information concerning criminal organization or enterprise00000
S6Informant processing critical reliable information concerning terrorist organization, enterprise, or operation00000
S7Spouse, married or unmarried son or daughter, or parent of S5 or S600000
T1Victim of a severe form of trafficking in persons00000
T2Spouse of T100207435
T3Child of T1003814565
T4Parent of T100007
T5Unmarried sibling under 18 years of age on date T1 applied00005
TDSpouse or child of TN1,0418567961,2681,941
TNNAFTA professional7876994239081,902
U1Victim of criminal activity00000
U2Spouse of U100000
U3Child of U100000
U4Parent of U100000
V1Certain spouse of legal permanent resident9,12718,02013,9836,896911
V2Certain child of legal permanent resident14,80519,52312,9187,217951
V3Child of V1 or V21,40019,56716,3026,8561,165
Other nonimmigrant classes
BCCBorder crossing card00000
    Grand total7,588,7785,769,4374,881,6325,049,0995,388,937

Temporary Foreign Workers

A temporary worker is an alien coming to the United States to work for a limited period. The major nonimmigrant visa category for legal temporary workers is the H visa, which includes the H2/H2A, H1B/H1B1, and H1C visas.


The H2 Temporary Agricultural Worker Program, authorized by the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, was a flexible response to seasonal agricultural labor demands. Since 1964 it has been the only legal temporary foreign agricultural worker program in the United States. In 1986 the H2 program was amended to specify categories of workers. H2A temporary workers perform agricultural services, H2B workers perform other services, and H2R workers are former H2B workers authorized to return. The H2 temporary program is based on employer needs and has no set numerical limit on the number of workers allowed per year.

Under the H2A program employers who anticipate a shortage of domestic workers file an application with the U.S. Department of Labor stating that there are not enough workers able, willing, qualified, and available. Employers must certify that the employment of aliens will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers. The employer must also certify that the jobs are not vacant because of a labor dispute. The employer pays a fee of $100, plus $10 for each job opportunity certified, up to a maximum fee of $1,000 for each certification granted.

Hiring foreign workers under the H2A program places a number of requirements on the employer, including advertising for and hiring qualified domestic workers, providing workers compensation insurance or equivalent insurance for all workers, and following specific pay and recordkeeping procedures. In some situations the employer may be required to pay for transportation and provide housing and meals for workers.

The employer is required to pay all workers the higher of (1) the Adverse Effect Wage Rate (AEWR) determined by the Labor Department for each state, (2) the applicable prevailing wage for the state, or (3) the statutory minimum wage. The federal minimum wage in 2006 was $5.15 per hour, an amount set by law in 1997. Table 3.16 lists the 2006 AEWR for all states. State hourly AEWRs ranged from a low of $7.58 in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi to $9.49 in Iowa and Missouri. Hawaii was highest at $9.99.

The Labor Department (November 8, 2006, reports that in FY2006, 6,550 employers were certified under the H2A program to hire up to 64,146 foreign workers. A total of 59,112 workers gained visas for these jobs. Ten states employed 56% of H2A farm workers and one state, North Carolina, claimed 12% (7,803) of all H2A workers in 2006. (See Table 3.17.)


The H1 program allows employers to temporarily employ foreign workers on a nonimmigrant basis in a specialty occupation or as a model of distinguished merit and ability. A specialty occupation requires the theoretical and practical application of a body of specialized knowledge and a bachelor's degree or the equivalent in the specific specialty (e.g., sciences, medicine and health care, education, biotechnology, business specialties, and so on). No visas were issued between 2001 and 2005 under the H1A program for temporary nurses. In 2000 the last such temporary nurses (a total of two) were issued visas. H1B visas are issued to professionals other than nurses. Effective January 1, 2004, the H1B1 program became available, allowing employers to request specialty foreign workers from Chile and Singaporecalled Free Trade Agreement Professionals. There were 72 H1B1 visas issued in 2004 and 274 in 2005. (See Table 3.15.)

TABLE 3.16
Adverse effect wage rates, 2006
Source: "Adverse Effect Wage RatesYear 2005," U.S. Department of Labor, March 16, 2006, (accessed December 15, 2006)
Arkansas7.58New Hampshire9.16
California9.00New Jersey8.95
Colorado8.37New Mexico8.00
Connecticut9.16New York9.16
Delaware8.95North Carolina8.51
Florida8.56North Dakota9.23
Indiana9.21Rhode Island9.16
Iowa9.49South Carolina8.37
Kansas9.23South Dakota9.23
Minnesota9.43West Virginia8.24
TABLE 3.17
Top ten states by number of H-2A workers, fiscal year 2006
Top ten H-2A employer statesNumber of H-2A workers
Source: Adapted from "H-2A Regional Summary, Fiscal Year 2006 Annual," U.S. Department of Labor, Employment & Training Administration, (accessed December 26, 2006)
North Carolina7,803

A foreign worker can be in H1B status for a maximum continuous period of six years. After the H1B expires, the worker has to remain outside the United States for one year before another H1B petition can be approved. Certain foreign workers with labor certification applications or immigrant visa petitions in process for extended periods may stay in H1B status beyond the normal six-year limitation, in one-year increments. Extensions and renewals are allowed under the H1B program; however, adjustment of status to another nonimmigrant category or to legal permanent residency is not permitted.

The Immigration Act of 1990 set the ceiling on H1B admissions for initial employment at sixty-five thousand beginning in FY1992, but demand for H1B workers grew. The American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act of 1998 temporarily raised the maximum number of petitions for initial H1B employment to 115,000 for FY1999 and FY2000.

The American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act of 2000 increased the H1B annual limit for initial employment to 195,000 for FY2001, FY2002, and FY2003. The cap reverted back to sixty-five thousand for FY2004. When the H1B1 visa was introduced in 2004, the 6,800 allowable H1B1 visas were deducted from the total H1B program. This left 58,200 H1B visas available per year. On October 1, 2004, the first day of FY2005, the USCIS announced that it had already received enough H1B petitions to meet the annual cap for FY2005. The H1B Visa Reform Act of 2004 made an additional twenty thousand visas for individuals with a master's degree or a more advanced degree from U.S. graduate institutions.

Figure 3.7 shows major source countries for H1B workers in 2005. Of the total 124,100 H1B workers admitted in FY2005 (see Table 3.15), the vast majority (66%) came from Asia. Europe was a distant second source for 20% of H1B workers.


According to Stuart Anderson and Michaela Platzer in a survey commissioned by the National Venture Capital Association, foreign-born scientists and engineers play a key role in the U.S. economy (American Made: The Impact of Immigrant Entrepreneurs and Professionals on U.S. Competitiveness, November 15, 2006, Anderson and Platzer contacted 342 privately held venture-backed businesses. Sixty-five percent of respondents used H1B visas for specialty staffing. Nearly all reported that restrictive U.S. immigration laws for skilled professionals harmed U.S. competitiveness. Forty percent said the lack of enough H1B visas to fill their staffing needs had negatively affected their ability to compete globally. One-third of responders said the lack of enough H1B visas had influenced their decision to staff facilities abroad or to outsource functions to other countries.

In discussing concerns about the future availability of scientists and engineers, Anderson and Platzer note that the number of first-time enrollments of international graduate students in science and engineering programs at U.S. universities declined 20% from 34,179 in 2001 to 27,486 in 2004. However, Table 3.18 shows that the number of doctorates awarded to noncitizens increased 25% in the same period. International students received 11,516 (or 41%) of U.S. science and engineering doctorates in 2005.


The Nursing Relief for Disadvantaged Areas Act of 1999 allowed qualifying hospitals to employ foreign registered nurses for up to three years under H1C visas. Only five hundred H1C visas could be issued each year during the four-year period of the H1C program (200004). The sponsoring employer paid a filing fee of $250 for each application filed with the Labor Department. H1C nurses were admitted for a period of three years and the law did not provide for an extension of that time frame. The H1C program ended June 15, 2005, with a total of 610 visas issued since June 2001.

TABLE 3.18
Doctorates in science and engineering awarded by U.S. universities to citizens and noncitizens, 200105
Characteristic of recipient20012002200320042005% change
Source: Adapted from Susan T. Hill, "Table 1. S&E Doctorate Awards, by Selected Characteristics of Doctorate Recipients, 200105," in InfoBrief: S&E Doctorates Hit All-Time High in 2005, National Science Foundation, Directorate of Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences, NSF 07-301, November 2006, (accessed December 8, 2006)
All doctorates25,49624,58225,27426,27227,9749.76.5
U.S. citizen15,04914,34114,63514,74114,9120.91.2
Non-U.S. citizen9,2138,8619,48010,15411,51625.013.4


"Americans have benefited from our nation's openness toward skilled immigrant baseball players, just as the country has gained from the entry of other skilled foreign-born professionals." This was the conclusion by Stuart Anderson and L. Brian Andrew of the National Foundation for American Policy in Coming to America: Immigrants, Baseball, and the Contributions of Foreign-Born Players to America's Pastime (October 2006, 1006.pdf). Major league rosters offer a fixed number of jobs750 (30 teams with a maximum 25 players on the active rosters)unlike fluctuating jobs in other industries. According to Anderson and Andrew, "Even though only a fixed number of jobs exist on active major league rosters one never hears complaints about 'immigrants taking away jobs' from Americans in the major leagues."

Anderson and Andrew further note that increased competition from foreign-born players has not lowered salaries for native ballplayers. Even though the proportion of foreign-born players more than doubled from 1990 to 2006, major league salaries more than quadrupled. (See Figure 3.8.) Anderson and Andrew credit improved quality of playcontributed to by foreign-born playersfor the increase in major league ballpark attendance from 54.8 million in 1990 to 74.9 million in 2005.

Number of Foreign-Born Players

As of August 2006, 175 (23%) of the 750 players on active major league team rosters were born outside the United States. This was an all-time high level of foreign-born players. Anderson and Andrew note that they use the term foreign born instead of immigrants because many players hold P1 temporary visas and have not yet received green cards.

Before 1960 foreign-born players comprised less than 5% of major league rosters. (See Figure 3.9.) Restrictive immigration laws passed in the 1920s, the Great Depression, and tighter State Department visa restrictions in the 1930s limited the entry of foreign-born players.

Until 1947 only light-skinned foreign-born players were accepted in the major leagues. Most Cuban players joined Negro League teams. Then Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier, and opportunities for other players of color expanded. In 2006, however, Cuban-born players represented only 2% of major leaguers. (See Figure 3.10.) The Dominican Republic was the greatest source of U.S. baseball talent, representing 46% of foreign-born major league players.

Success of Foreign-Born Players

Anderson and Andrew indicate that 31% of players selected for the 2006 All-Star Game were foreign born. In 2006 foreign-born players claimed seven of the top nine batting averages in the American League. Six foreign-born major league players have been elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

The Major League Players Association complains that the limited availability of H2B temporary visas hampers the recruiting of foreign-born players. Most players are first hired in the minor leagues on H2B temporary visas, which can be extended for up to three years. If players move up to the major leagues, they can apply for P1 visas (internationally recognized athlete or member of an internationally recognized entertainment group), which are good for five years with extensions up to ten years. Part of the P1 application process requires the USCIS to consult any participating labor union to see if there are objections. The players' union assumes that anyone who receives an offer of a major league contract meets the P1 visa application criteria. Players who get to the major leagues and qualify for P1 visas can then apply for an employment-based permanent residency, usually under the category of "extraordinary ability."


State Department officials in foreign countries screen applicants and deny visas on a variety of bases. For example, in Report of the Visa Office, 2005 (March 5, 2007,, the State Department reports that in 2005, 3,626 applicants for immigrant visas and 6,885 applicants for nonimmigrant visas were denied for misrepresentation of facts in their applications. Applicants were given the opportunity to correct any errors. Just 12% (1,307 of a total 10,511 applicants) were able to "overcome ineligibility" and obtain a visa.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspectors determine the admissibility of aliens who arrive at any of the approximately three hundred U.S. ports of entry. Aliens who arrive without required documents, present improper or fraudulent documents, or who are on criminal wanted lists are deemed inadmissible. New rules that became effective in 1997 under the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) provide two options to the inadmissible alien: voluntary departure or removal proceedings. The 2005 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics reports that over 965,000 inadmissible aliens chose voluntary departure in FY2005 (82% of the total 1.2 million inadmissible aliens). More than 208,000 remaining aliens were deported under removal proceedings.

TABLE 3.19
Aliens formally removed by administrative reason for removal, fiscal years 19962005
Administrative reason for removal1996199719981999200020012002200320042005
Note: Data for 1999 to 2005 reported as of January 2006. The administrative reason for formal removal is the legal basis for removal. Some aliens who are criminals may be removed under a different administrative reason (or charge) for the convenience of the government.
Source: "Table 40. Aliens Formally Removed by Administrative Reason for Removal: Fiscal Years 19962005," in 2005 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, Office of Immigration Statistics, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, November 2006, (accessed December 7, 2006)
Attempted entry without proper documents or through fraud or misrepresentation15,41235,73879,32891,89189,93576,29241,39252,72850,72775,532
Criminal violations27,65534,11335,98442,02841,15540,19637,81640,35642,83540,018
Failed to maintain status7081,0319968117487291,2571,3341,1251,042
Previously removed, ineligible for reentry2,0063,3407,2019,48311,90610,82713,23918,59521,50418,203
Present without authorization23,52239,29748,53135,08940,50148,15055,73375,32986,31372,229
Public charge103725781,2611,4611,296560676857824
National security and related grounds36301510131211151210
Smuggling or aiding illegal entry275385498409494511582624729540

Removal Proceedings

Most removal proceedings involve a hearing before an immigration judge, which could result in removal or adjustment to a legal status, such as granting asylum. Removal proceedings can also involve fines or imprisonment. The IIRIRA empowered immigration officers to order an alien removed without a hearing or review through a process called expedited removal. This process applies to cases in which the officers determine that the alien is inadmissible because the alien engaged in fraud or misrepresentation or lacked proper documents. In 2005, 208,521 aliens were removed by formal proceedings; nearly one-fifth (40,018) were removed for criminal violations. (See Table 3.19.) Nine countries accounted for 92.5% of all formal removals. (See Table 3.20.) With 144,840 aliens removed, Mexico alone accounted for the majority (69.5%) of the 208,521 alien removals in 2005.

Aliens with Communicable Diseases

Aliens with "communicable diseases of public health significance" are not permitted to enter the United States. In 1990 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as part of the Immigration Act of 1990, declared that tuberculosis (TB) and AIDS were a public health threat. In 1993 Congress added the human immunodeficiency virus (the virus that causes AIDS) to the list of grounds for exclusion (denial of an alien's entry into the United States).

TABLE 3.20
Aliens formally removed, by nationality, fiscal year 2005
CountryNumber removedPercent of total
Source: Adapted from "Table 41. Aliens Formally Removed by Criminal Status and Region and Country of Nationality: Fiscal Years 19982005," in 2005 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of Immigration Statistics, November 2006, (accessed December 7, 2006)
    Total all removals208,521
    Total removals Central and South America192,971
El Salvador7,2353.5%
Dominican Republic2,9291.4%

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC; December 12, 2005, lists the following as "Communicable Diseases of Public Health Significance": TB, HIV infection, gonorrhea, syphilis, chancroid (a sexually transmitted bacterial infection), granuloma inguinale (a sexually transmitted bacterial disease), lymphogranuloma venereum (a sexually transmitted infection involving the lymph glands in the genital area), and Hansen's disease (leprosy). A communicable disease of public health concern is not a legal ground for deportation of immigrants already in the country, and illegal aliens bypass any screening or treatment for communicable diseases.


The CDC monitors TB cases in the United States. In Reported Tuberculosis in the United States, 2005 (September 2006,, the CDC states that the 14,097 cases of TB reported in 2005 represent a 47% decrease from the 26,673 cases reported in 1992. However, the number of TB cases in foreign-born people remains relatively constant. (See Figure 3.11.) With the continuing decline of TB cases among the native-born population, the foreign born represent an increasing percentage of all TB cases. In 1993 foreign-born people accounted for 29% of all TB cases; in 2005 they accounted for 55% of all TB cases.

The CDC indicates that in 2005 twenty states reported increases in TB cases. Four significant destination states for foreign-born peopleCalifornia, New York, Texas, and Floridatallied 48% of all TB cases in 2005. In twenty-two states foreign-born residents accounted for more than 50% of all TB cases, and in six states (California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Utah) they accounted for more than 70%. The top five countries of origin for foreign-born people with TB are Mexico, the Philippines, Vietnam, India, and China. The CDC notes that "fluxes in immigration patterns are leading to changes in the distribution of TB cases by global region of origin." From 1993 through 2005 the proportion of TB cases among people from Southeast Asia nearly doubled (from 6% in 1993 to 11% in 2005) and cases among people from Africa more than tripled (from 2% in 1993 to 7% in 2005).

Of further concern to the CDC are cases of TB that prove resistant to standard drugs used to treat the disease. As drug-resistant cases among natives dropped sharply, by 1995 cases of drug-resistant TB in foreign-born people became an increasingly greater share of total cases. (See Figure 3.12.) The drug-resistant strains of TB required more patients to be placed on an initial treatment regimen of three or more drugs.

To address the high rate of TB cases among the foreign born, the CDC is collaborating with other national and international public health organizations to:

  1. Improve overseas screening of immigrants and refugees
  2. Strengthen the internal system for alerting local health departments of the arrival of immigrants or refugees with suspected TB
  1. Improve coordination of TB control activities between the United States and Mexico to ensure completion of treatment among TB patients who cross the border
  2. Test recent arrivals from high-incidence countries for latent TB infection and treat them
  3. Survey foreign-born TB patients in the United States to identify opportunities to improve prevention and control

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