Now that we know that the Gang of Eight's immigration overhaul would issue more than 33 million green cards in the first decade, if passed, the question is: where are all the new green cards coming from?
Here's a breakdown of where the other 22 million come from in the first decade.
(For more details on each calculation and estimate see the chart prepared by our Capitol Hill team.)
10,647,000 -- green cards currently being issued in all categories per decade
+13,364,000 -- green cards in the newly created merit-based track two category (Surprisingly, "merit" includes most of the amnesty)
+1,337,000 -- green cards in the newly created merit-based track one category
+2,510,000 -- green cards for spouses and minor children of employment-based green cards (a new category)
+2,500,000 -- green cards to DREAMers
+864,000 -- green cards to Agricultural workers
+1,177,000 -- recapturing "unused" green cards
+676,000 -- others
33,057,000 total green cards in the first decade!
MERIT-BASED TRACK TWO
The Gang of Eight creates two so-called merit-based green card categories, simply called track one and track two. Track two will have the single greatest impact on the number of green cards issued in the first decade since it deals with most of the 11 million illegal aliens that receive amnesty through the bill. It will grant 13,364,000 green cards in the bill's first 10 years.
Illegal aliens that don't qualify for either the DREAM Act or the agricultural amnesty can get a green card through the merit-based track two category in the bill's 10th year. This accounts for 7,736,000 of the 13,364,000.
This category also "clears the backlog." According to the Department of State, 4,299,635 applicants are on the waiting list for a green card through one of the four family-sponsored green card categories - a.k.a., chain migration. The track also allows anyone who has lived in the United States for at least 10 years with Temporary Protected Status, Deferred Enforced Departure, or other long-term nonimmigrant visas to qualify for a green card. These individuals combined with the "backlog" and the amnestied illegal aliens brings the estimated number of green cards for this new category to 13,364,000.
MERIT-BASED TRACK ONE
Beginning in 2015, 120,000 green cards will be issued each year through the merit-based track one category. In 2019, the number can be increased by 5% per year up to 250,000 if at least 75% of the green cards are issued and the unemployment rate for the civilian workforce 18 years or over is at or below 8.5%. (The Gang of Eight conveniently removes the 16-19 year olds who historically have a high unemployment rate.)
Assuming unemployment stays at or below 8.5% and at least 75% of the green cards are used, we estimate that 1,336,741 green cards will be issued through the merit-based track one category in the bill's first decade.
EMPLOYMENT-BASED GREEN CARDS FOR SPOUSES AND MINOR CHILDREN
Under current law, green cards for spouses and minor children of employment-based green card holders count towards the employment-based annual cap. In other words, if an exceptional foreign professor is issued an EB-1 green card (priority worker), and the professor has a spouse and two minor children, all four green cards count towards the EB-1 cap.
The Gang's bill creates a new, uncapped preference under the employment-based category for spouses and minor children of employment-based green card recipients.
Historically, spouses and minor children have accounted for 54% of all green cards issued in the employment-based categories. The current annual cap on employment-based green cards is 140,000, but the Gang eliminates the cap on several of the high-skilled green card preferences and creates two new preferences, so we estimate the new annual number of green cards to be about 216,000 per year. (This increase is included in the "others" section below.)
If spouses and minor children historically account for 54% of the total, and the number of green cards issued to the employers is 216,000 per year, then roughly 251,000 green cards will be issued per year. That's 2,510,000 green cards in this new category in the bill's first decade.
DREAMers AND AGRICULTURAL WORKERS
The Gang of Eight's bill includes the DREAM Act amnesty and the AgJobs amnesty. Illegal aliens that qualify under either of these programs get a green card in the bill's fifth year. These green cards aren't counted against caps in any other category.
The Migration Policy Institute estimates that 2.1 illegal aliens would qualify for the DREAM Act with a maximum age of 35. The bill has no upper age limit, so we estimate the number of green cards issued to DREAMers to be about 2,500,000.
According to the Pew Hispanic Center, 400,000 illegal aliens work in agriculture and could be eligible for the Agriculture amnesty. Spouses and minor children of these illegal aliens also qualify, so we estimate the number of green cards issued to Agriculture workers and their families to be about 864,000.
RECAPTURING 'UNUSED' GREEN CARDS
The Gang of Eight's bill requires that all supposedly "unused" green cards from 1992-2013 in both the family-sponsored and employment-based categories be recaptured and issued in 2015.
Under current law, the annual cap for all preferences in the family-sponsored green card category is 226,000. Between 1992 and 2012, the U.S. failed to issue the full number of green cards in 14 of the 21 years, amounting to 298,436 green cards. These green cards would be issued in 2015.
In the employment-based category, the annual cap between 1992 and 2013 was 140,000 green cards. The U.S. failed to grant the full number of green cards in 10 of those 21 years, amounting to 404,658 green cards. But that's not all. Remember, the Gang's bill creates a new employment-based preference for spouses and minor children of employment-based green card holders. Using the same 54% from before and applying it to the 404,658 recaptured employment-based green cards, that's another 474,000 green cards that would be issued in 2015!
That makes a grand total of 1,177,000 green cards issued through this additional provision.
There is some good news. The Gang eliminates the Visa Lottery, but only after 2015. The 10-year average for green cards issued through the lottery is 50,000, so this eliminates about 450,000 green cards that will be issued if the Gang's bill doesn't pass.
But there are another 1.1 million green cards spread out over the 10 years that don't fall into any of the above sections. I mentioned above that we estimate the number of green cards issued in the employment-based category (minus the new preference for spouses and minor children) is 216,000. That's up from 140,000 under current law.
Also under current law, green cards for spouses and minor children of legal permanent residents are subject to an annual cap, but the Gang moves them out of of the capped family-sponsored category and into the uncapped immediate relatives category.
They also create a new preference under the immediate relatives that includes spouses and minor children of spouses and minor children of legal permanent residents. Sound confusing? Let's say the 16-year-old daughter of a legal permanent resident has a child of her own. Under current law, there's no way for the child to get a green card. This new preference creates one.
For a line-by-line analysis of the impact of the Gang of Eight's bill on all green card categories and subcategories, see the chart prepared by our Capitol Hill team. All the estimates are based on averages from the last 10 years, and in some areas we believe the estimates may be conservative. We also have no way to estimate the numerical impact of two newly created preferences in the employment-based category.
CHRIS CHMIELENSKI is the Director of Content & Activism for NumbersUSA