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U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform (Jordan Commission)

The U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform was mandated by the Immigration Act of 1990 in order to examine and evaluate U.S. immigration policy, and to provide recommendations for its improvement.

The Commission’s initial recommendations were released in 1995, and were endorsed by President Clinton. The final report was presented to Congress in 1997.

President Clinton said the proposals “reflect a balanced immigration policy that makes the most of our diversity while protecting the American work force so that we can better compete in the emerging global economy. (“Clinton Embraces a Proposal to Cut Immigration by a Third,” The New York Times, June 8, 1995).

The Commission is now commonly referred to as the “Jordan Commission” after its most well-known chair, the esteemed Barbara Jordan.

We are a nation of immigrants, dedicated to the rule of law. That is our history – and it is our challenge to ourselves.…It is literally a matter of who we are as a nation and who we become as a people. E Pluribus Unum. Out of many, one. One people. The American people.”

–Barbara Jordan, 1995


Click here to learn more about about Barbara Jordan’s life and her work on immigration reform.

The Commission’s Guiding Principles

  1. Clear goals and priorities must define U.S. immigration policy;
  2. Effective policy means enforcement of immigration limits;
  3. Regular review is needed to ensure flexibility to adjust to changing circumstances in the United States;
  4. Immigration policy should be comprehensible and its implementation efficient;
  5. Sponsors are responsible for ensuring that immigrants do not become burdens on the American taxpayer;
  6. Immigration policy must protect U.S. workers against unfair competition from foreign workers, with an appropriately higher level of protection for the most vulnerable in our society;
  7. Both temporary and permanent admissions categories must be seen as integral parts of a cohesive immigration policy;
  8. A sound immigration policy supports Americanization, meaning that immigrants share with Americans such values as the belief in liberty, democracy, and equal opportunity;
  9. Fundamental immigration reform requires a period of transition to get from the present system to the new one.

The Commission’s Recommendations

Following the above principles, the Commission recommended the creation of a “credible, coherent immigrant and immigration policy” and a “credible, efficient naturalization process” which included the following:

View the following reports:
Adult unmarried sons/
daughters of U.S. citizens and
their children
Adult married sons/daughters
of U.S. citizens and their
Brothers/Sisters of U.S.
citizens (21+ years) and their
spouses and children
Refugees/Asylees 50,000127,300
Diversity Lottery041,781
*The U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform would have eliminated adult children of citizens and legal permanent residents as a family-based admission category (see “The Commission’s Recommendations” above). The Commission’s definition of Nuclear Family included: (1st Priority) Spouses and minor children of U.S. Citizens; (2nd Priority) Parents of U.S. Citizens; (3rd Priority) Spouses and minor children of legal immigrants.
“Average Annual Admissions 2012-2021” were compiled from figures in Department of Homeland Security, 2021 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, “Persons Obtaining Lawful Permanent Resident Status by Type and Major Class of Admission: Fiscal Years 2012 to 2021,” Table 6. These are the most recent figures available.

1997266.5 million24.6 million8.7 million
2023334.2 million49.5 million12.9 million