In the Commission's 1994 report to Congress, we provided a preliminary picture of legal immigration under the Immigration Act of 1990. The Commission now is considering options to improve legal immigration policies. The Commissioners plan to complete their deliberations by the end of this month. Barbara Jordan, the Commission's Chair, instructed me to tell you that she would be pleased to testify as soon thereafter as is convenient for you.
Today, I will present a brief profile of recent legal immigration, based on our 1994 report as updated by more recent statistics on FY 1994 admissions. I also will describe the process that the Commission has been following in developing the interim recommendations that will be available in June and touch briefly on the issues that the Commission is considering.
The legal immigration provisions of the Immigration Act of 1990 [IMMACT, P.L. 101-649] attempted to balance a number of competing interests by (1) encouraging overall limits on legal immigration through establishment of annual numerical targets for total immigration, (2) permitting continued reunification of close family members with a guaranteed minimum for family preference visas if there are increases in the number of immediate relatives of U.S. citizens seeking entry, (3) meeting present and future labor market needs by increasing the proportion admitted for employment-based reasons, giving higher priority to the entry of professionals and highly-skilled persons, and retaining a procedure for helping to ensure that foreign workers do not adversely affect employment opportunities for U.S. workers, (4) providing greater national origin diversity by offering new opportunities for migration from countries that have not recently experienced much emigration to the United States, and (5) establishing a timely and more efficient naturalization process.
Immigrants fall into two major categories: those whose numbers are subject to annual statutory limits and those whose numerical limits can change each year (primarily refugees) or who have no numerical limits at all. Overall admissions of legal immigrants averaged about 640,000 annually during the five-year period prior to the implementation of IMMACT. These numbers include all immigrants, whether admitted within or outside any statutory limits. As the attached Table shows, overall admissions since IMMACT, just over 800,000 in FY 1992 and about 880,000 in FY 1993, dropped in FY 1994 to 798,394. (These numbers do not include adjustments to permanent resident status of the 2.7 million illegal aliens legalized under IRCA.)
The total admissions under the statutory cap were about 662,000 in FY 1994.
Family-Sponsored Immigration. Concerned that a worldwide limit on family-sponsored immigration had a potential to disrupt family reunification, Congress established an overall cap that could be pierced if the number of immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, for whom there are no numerical limits, exceeded expectations. IMMACT established a minimum floor of 226,000 per year for numerically-limited, family-sponsored preferences to ensure that these visas would continue to be available. Should the number of unrestricted immediate relatives exceed 239,000 (465,000 less 226,000) in FYs 1992-1994 or 254,000 (480,000 less 226,000) after FY 1994, the family- sponsored cap would be pierced. Under the flexible cap, the number of spouses, minor children, and parents of U.S. citizens admitted in the previous year is subtracted from the overall numbers available for family sponsorship, and (as of FY 1994) the number of unused employment-based visas from the previous year is added to the total. In no event, however, can the remaining family-based visas be less than 226,000.
The family numbers were less than 500,000 in FY 1994. More specifically, the family numbers are divided as follows:
Immediate Relatives of U.S. Citizens. There are no numerical limits on the admission of the spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens or the parents of U.S. citizens. The number of immediate relatives entering in FY 1994 showed a modest decline from previous levels, mostly attributed to a drop in the number of parents of U.S. citizens who entered. The total number of immediate family was just under 250,000.
Unmarried Adult Children of U.S. Citizens (FB-1). The FB-1 limit is 23,400 visas, plus any unused numbers from the siblings of U.S. citizens (FB-4) category, a reduction from the previous limit of 54,000 because Congress recognized that this category has always been underutilized (averaging 11,000 in the second half of the 1980s) and annual increases have been low. In FY 1994, about 13,000 immigrants entered in this category.
Despite the worldwide low usage, waiting lists for FB-1 visas have existed for certain countries due to per-country limits, which are prorated among the various preferences. Prior to the implementation of IMMACT, some 29,000 Filipino applicants were on the waiting list, and those who had applied six years before were being admitted. Some 52,000 Filipino and 4,000 Mexican applicants now are on the waiting list. Mexicans who have been waiting for one year and Filipinos who have waited nine years are being admitted. This wait for unmarried Filipino adult children of U.S. citizens is considerably longer than the current five-year wait for unmarried adult children of permanent residents. IMMACT has thus exacerbated the backlog, which will continue to grow, as only 1,600 Filipino applicants will become eligible for admission in this category annually. While the real wait for new applicants cannot be predicted with certainty due to changing factors over time, even if the maximum number of Filipinos receive visas every year, it will take more than thirty years to admit the current 52,000 on the waiting list.
Spouses, Minor Children, and Unmarried Adult Children of Permanent Residents (FB-2A and 2B) and Legalization Dependents. IMMACT increased the family second preference allotment from 70,200, plus any unused first preference numbers, to at least 114,200 visas, plus unused FB-1 numbers. In FY 1994, 115,000 immigrants were admitted in FB-2A and 2B. An additional 34,000 spouses and minor children of legalization petitioners also entered in FY 1994.
One objective of IMMACT was the reduction in the waiting period for reunifying spouses and children of permanent residents, particularly those from countries with significant backlogs. Prior to IMMACT, applicants from most countries were admitted after about two years. For applicants from a few nations, the waiting period was far longer. The elimination of the per-country limits for a proportion of the FB-2 visas was adopted with the purpose of reducing the waits for such groups. IMMACT accomplished that goal: it equalized the FB-2 waiting time for Mexican, Filipino, and Dominican spouses and children with the worldwide one.
The waiting list for the FB-2 category, however, remains very large and is increasing annually. As of January 1995, it was some 1.6 million, composed largely, but not exclusively, of the spouses and children of legalized aliens. Demand for 2A visas for spouses and children of legalized aliens appears to have peaked, but the relatives of other legal permanent residents are behind them on the waiting list.
Of the FB-2 backlog, more than 1.1 million are in the 2A category, some 850,000 of whom are spouses and children of legalization immigrants. 2A applicants from all countries who have waited about three years are being admitted. While the actual 2A wait for new applicants is not known, it would take at least ten years at the expected FY 1994 usage of 2A visas (about 95,000) to work through the more than one million waiting applicants. The wait may be reduced if large numbers of those who legalized under IRCA naturalize and their spouses and minor children enter under the exempt immediate relative category.
The 2B visas are now available for applicants who have been waiting about four and one-half years. The real wait for a new 2B applicant is estimated at more than fifteen years if the 28,500 limit were reached each year, unless naturalization rates increase significantly. Should the petitioner become a citizen, the 2B beneficiaries would be transferred to the first preference category (unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens), thereby increasing that backlog, particularly for Mexico.
Married Children of U.S. Citizens (FB-3). The annual visa limit was lowered from 27,000 to 23,400 (plus any unused FB-2 visas) by IMMACT, which was about the average for this category in the latter part of the 1980s. In FY 1994, about 22,000 immigrants entered in this preference.
About 250,000 applicants are waiting for a visa in this category. Prior to IMMACT, visas were available for applicants who had waited about one year, with the exception of those from Mexico and the Philippines, where visas were available for those who had waited about eight and nine years, respectively. Visas are now available for those who have waited about two years from most countries. Those from Mexico and the Philippines who have waited about eight and eleven years, respectively, now have visas available to them.
Siblings of U.S. Citizens (FB-4). IMMACT essentially maintained the 65,000 visas in this category (adding any unused FB-3 visas). About 62,000 immigrants were admitted in FY 1994.
There are more than 1.6 million FB-4 registrants. Prior to IMMACT, visas were available for applicants who had waited nine years from most countries; now they are available for those who have waited ten. The longest wait is for those from the Philippines: visas were available for those who had waited fourteen years prior to IMMACT; currently they are available for those who have waited eighteen years. While for certain nationalities the wait continues to grow in this category, the numbers added each year to the backlog are decreasing, perhaps due to the very extensive waiting period. Nevertheless, it is estimated that a new applicant from the Philippines would not reach the top of the list until 43 years after approval of a petition.
Employment-Based Immigration. IMMACT extensively revised the employment-based categories and numbers to emphasize skill and, for the first time, include immigrant investors. Prior to IMMACT, 54,000 visas were available annually for occupation-based immigration, not including the special immigrants now admitted under the employment-based categories. IMMACT allows up to 140,000 employment-based visas to be issued each year to applicants and their spouses and children.
Employment-based immigration rose from an annual average of 58,000 in FY 198791 to 147,000 in FY 1993 (the latter includes unused FY 1992 employment-based numbers) and then fell to 123,000 in FY 1994. These numbers are deceptive, however, since they includes some 27,000 and 21,000, respectively, who adjusted status under the Chinese Student Protection Act [CSPA]. The economic recession may have led employers to petition for fewer immigrant workers than the number possible under the new employment ceilings. Of the 100,000 FY 1994 admissions that actually involved immigrants coming to work and their dependents, about 42,000 were the principal workers.
The employment-based numbers break down as follows:
Priority Workers (EB-1). Approximately 40,040 visas (plus unused EB-4 and EB-5 visas) are available annually for priority workers with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics and for outstanding professors and researchers and certain multinational executives and managers. Some 21,000 priority workers and their dependents were admitted in FY 1994. Of these, 8,000 were the actual workers, with a majority of these being multinational executives and managers.
Professionals with Advanced Degrees (EB-2). About 40,040 visas (plus unused EB-1 visas) are available annually for professionals with advanced degrees or persons of exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business. Some 14,400 EB-2 workers and dependents were admitted in FY 1994; the number of principal workers was about 6,700. FY 1994 numbers appear to be an accurate reflection of current demand (lower than in FY 1992-1993), as both the FYs 1992 and 1993 EB-2 figures included a significant number of pre-IMMACT third preference applicants and their dependents who had been waiting for available visas. Visas are immediately available for EB-2 workers from all countries. Prior to IMMACT, visas were available for professionals and highly-skilled immigrants (former third preference) who had waited about one and one-half years, except for the Philippines, where visas were available for applicants who had waited for sixteen years.
Skilled Workers, Professionals with Baccalaureate Degrees, and Unskilled Workers (EB-3). About 40,040 visas (plus unused EB-2 visas) are available annually to EB-3 applicants. A maximum of 10,000 of these is allotted to unskilled workers. "Unskilled" jobs are considered to be those requiring less than two years of training or experience. Some 77,000 skilled workers, professionals, unskilled workers, and their dependents were admitted in FY 1994. The 77,000 included about 21,000 Chinese Student Protection Act visas. The actual number of skilled workers and professionals was about 18,000; unskilled workers numbered some 4,100.
Prior to IMMACT, visas were available for skilled and unskilled workers (former sixth preference) who had waited about four years, though visas were unavailable at times for applicants from mainland China and India and were available for applicants from the Philippines who had waited about five years. Visas now are available for skilled workers from most countries, though backlogs exist for about 5,000 mainland Chinese and almost 8,000 Filipinos-for Chinese who have waited almost 2 years and for Filipinos who have waited one year.
The only worldwide wait for employment visas now is for unskilled workers, some 79,000 of whom make up the waiting list. Unskilled worker visas now are available for those who have waited five and one-half years, regardless of nationality. Given the large waiting list, if 10,000 unskilled workers were admitted annually, it would take several years to work through the current list. The waiting list total in this category dropped by about 15,000 in the past year, perhaps in part because the long wait for a visa discouraged new applicants.
Special Immigrants (EB-4). IMMACT placed the formerly numerically-exempt category of Special Immigrants in the numerically-limited employment-based categories. The EB-4 category is a catchall for a variety of different groups, including ministers of religion, religious workers other than ministers, certain former U.S. government workers, and certain juvenile court dependents. About 10,400 special immigrants and dependents were admitted in FY 1994. The actual number of principals was about 4,600.
Investors (EB-5). IMMACT created a new category for employment-creating investors and set the limit at 9,940 annually, of which 3,000 are reserved for new commercial enterprises in targeted employment areas. About 600 investors and dependents were admitted in FY 1993 and 444 in FY 1994.
A number of explanations have been offered about why the entry of investors is substantially below the anticipated level. Some experts believe that U.S. tax laws are largely responsible for the relatively small show of interest; unlike some other countries, the U.S. taxes all of an investor's worldwide income if an investor obtains permanent residence. Others have argued that the job-creation requirements of the original law were unrealistic. In 1992, Congress enacted legislation to create a pilot program designed to take into account the indirect creation of jobs. The pilot program began October 1, 1993. So far, no one has been admitted in the EB-4 category under the pilot program. INA provisions offer another reason for low EB-4 admissions: investors enter under a conditional status, and the final rules to remove the conditions were not issued until April 1994. Investors may have been unwilling to begin a process until they knew the conditions they must meet to obtain permanent status.
Diversity Immigration (DV-1). The Diversity Immigrant provisions contained in IMMACT aim to increase national diversity in the immigrant population by widening access to immigration to individuals from underrepresented countries who have neither family nor job ties to the United States. This permanent diversity program began in October 1994. It will provide 55,000 visas to nationals of a country that has sent fewer than 50,000 legal immigrants to the United States over the previous five years. Each applicant must have a high school education or its equivalent or two years of work experience in an occupation that requires at least two years of training or experience. In FY 1995, the numbers are to be apportioned as follows: 20,200 to Africa; 6,850 to Asia; 24,550 to Europe; 8 to North America; 2,600 to South America; and 800 to Oceania. No single country may receive more than 7 percent (3,850) of the numbers available worldwide.
As a transition toward the permanent program, Congress allocated 40,000 visas in each of three years (FYs 1992-1994) for persons from countries "adversely affected" by the 1965 Amendments to the INA, which removed national origins as the principal determinant of U.S. immigration policy. In FY 1994, 41,000 immigrants entered under the transitional diversity visas.
As the Table shows, some 136,000 immigrants not subject to a numerical cap were admitted to the U.S. in FY 1994.
Refugees. IMMACT made no changes in the refugee admissions program and the Refugee Act of 1980 continues to govern. Prior to the beginning of each fiscal year, the President, in consultation with Congress, reviews the worldwide refugee situation, determines the number of refugees in need of resettlement who are of special humanitarian concern to the U.S., and establishes the authorized number of admissions for that fiscal year. Such refugees are initially admitted under conditional status. In FY 1994, 115,000 of these refugees adjusted to permanent residents.
Asylees. The Refugee Act of 1980 established the statutory basis for granting asylum to refugees who present themselves in the U.S. or at a port of entry, rather than overseas as in the refugee admissions program. There are no legal limits on the number of individuals who may be granted asylum in the U.S. in a fiscal year. Asylees who have been in the U.S. for at least one year after being granted asylum are eligible to become permanent residents. Although asylee adjustments are exempt from the worldwide annual limits, the law places a ceiling on the number of asylees who may adjust to lawful permanent resident status each year. IMMACT increased the ceiling from 5,000 to 10,000, including dependents. Some 12,000 asylees and their dependents became permanent residents in FY 1993. This number included some asylees and their dependents eligible for and awaiting adjustment prior to IMMACT who were permitted to adjust under the new law without being subject to the annual limit. There is no current wait for asylees adjusting status, and some 6,000 asylees and their dependents adjusted in FY 1994.
Parolees. Special provisions have allowed for the entry of Indochinese and Soviets who were paroled into the U.S. between August 15, 1988 and September 30, 1992, after being denied refugee status. These parolees can adjust to permanent resident status one year after their admission to the U.S. The numbers are variable. About 5,000 parolees adjusted status in FY 1991, 14,000 in FY 1992, and 16,000 in FY 1993. About 8,000 parolees adjusted in FY 1994.
Amerasians. Special provisions also have applied in recent years to the entry of Amerasians born in Vietnam between January 1, 1962 and January 1, 1976 and fathered by a U.S. citizen. Eligible Amerasians are issued permanent resident visas for entry. Some 11,000 Amerasians were admitted in FY 1993. These numbers include accompanying family members and guardians. Some 3,000 were admitted in FY 1994.
Other Immigrants. Immigrants can enter under a number of other categories, including categories for Cuban/Haitian entrants, registered nurses, and individuals granted suspension of deportation. (An alien otherwise deportable is eligible to adjust status under the discretionary suspension of deportation if that person has been in the U.S. for at least seven years, is of good moral character, and his deportation would result in extreme hardship.)
IMMACT has not significantly changed the characteristics of the immigrants entering the United States, which is not surprising given the relatively short period IMMACT has been in effect. The categories of immigration revised or added by IMMACT accounted for less than 30 percent of the annual number of immigrants admitted in fiscal year 1992 (employment-based preferences-maximum of 140,000; legalization dependents-maximum of 55,000; and the transitional diversity program-maximum of 40,000). Most immigration continues to be based on family reunification; thus the new immigrant pool primarily reflects the characteristics of the recent immigrant pool and is not likely to change in the immediate future.
The Commission is midway through an analysis of the characteristics of immigrants entering in FY 1994. Our September report provided data on the characteristics of legal immigrants through FY 1993, as gathered by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. Data on legal admissions are summarized for those who arrived during the 1980s, the two-year period immediately before IMMACT took effect (FYs 1990-1991), and the two-year period after IMMACT took effect (FYs 1992-1993). Aliens granted permanent resident status under the provisions of IRCA are treated separately. Their characteristics are pertinent to understanding future immigration trends because their relatives account for a large share of the family backlog.
Places of Origin. Asia and North America, principally Mexico, continued to be the two largest source regions of legal immigrants, with 41.7 and 30.7 percent of the total immigrants admitted during FYs 1992-1993, respectively. The percentage admitted from these two regions declined slightly from 72.9 in FYs 1990-1991 to 72.4 in 1992-1993. The increases in the overall limits under IMMACT, however, have allowed for increased numbers of immigrants from all the regions of the world. North America and, especially Mexico, had the largest average annual increase between the two two-year periods (68,022 or 36 percent increase), while Oceania had the smallest increase (472 or 11 percent increase).
The countries with the largest increases in the number of immigrants admitted between 1990-1991 and 1992-1993 were primarily countries that were major sources during the 1980s: Mexico; Mainland China; Vietnam; and the Dominican Republic. Other countries had large increases, both in terms of numbers and percent: Poland; El Salvador; the United Kingdom; Ireland; and Japan.
The elimination of the per-country limit for 75 percent of the FB-2A spouses and children of permanent residents allowed for increased immigration from countries with large backlogs, such as Mexico and the Dominican Republic. Mexican immigration also increased due to the temporary category added under IMMACT allowing for the immigration of spouses and children of legalization dependents-nearly three-quarters of all legalization dependents were born in Mexico and El Salvador.
The country with the largest increase in employment-based immigration was Mainland China, which increased from an average of 2,585 a year before IMMACT to 24,800 after IMMACT. More than one-half of the increase was due to the Chinese Student Protection Act, which allowed certain Chinese persons in the United States to adjust status under the EB-3 category. Other countries with a large average annual increase in employment-based immigration after IMMACT were: India; the Philippines; Canada; the United Kingdom; and Taiwan. Immigrants from El Salvador, who previously had been the largest group entering under the old 6th preference, declined an average of 800 over the two, two-year periods, a decline largely due to the reduction in the number of visas available for unskilled workers.
Of the 120,000 transitional diversity visas issued in FYs 1992-1994, 40 percent were legislated to go to natives of Ireland. During the first two years of the program, Ireland accounted for 33.1 percent of the arrivals, second to Poland with 35.9 percent. The number of Irish immigrants entering the United States did not reach 40 percent because of a lack of demand. The transitional diversity program was largely responsible for the significant increases in immigration from these two countries. Other countries accounting for a large number of diversity immigrants during FYs 1992-1993 were the United Kingdom (8.6 percent) and Japan (8.3).
Age and Gender. The median age of immigrants admitted in FY 1992 and FY 1993 was twenty-eight years, no different than immigrants admitted in FYs 1990-1991, and only a slight increase (from twenty-seven) for immigrants admitted during FYs 1982-1989. Even though the median ages did not change significantly between the two-year periods beginning in 1990 and 1992, the data indicate a long-term trend towards a more even distribution of immigrants by age. Although the largest number of entering immigrants are typically in their twenties, recently the percentage of immigrants who enter in their twenties has declined and the percentage of immigrants who enter in their forties and fifties has increased. It is difficult to draw any conclusions from these data on the impact of IMMACT, as the change appears to predate IMMACT. IRCA immigrants were much older than other immigrants at their time of adjustment; however, many have been in the United States for more than ten years and, thus, were younger at the time of their entry.
Nearly 54 percent of the immigrants admitted in FYs 1992 and 1993 were female. By contrast, during the 1980s, men and women were equally represented. The trend toward more women admitted as legal immigrants began prior to IMMACT. It is likely to be reinforced, however, by the entry of the family members of aliens legalized under IRCA. Very high proportions of young adult legalized aliens were men, many of whom already have petitioned for their wives and children.
Intended Residence. Immigration follows much the same pattern as in the 1980s regarding intended residence. Approximately 70 percent of the immigrants intend to live in the six states of California (28.7 percent), New York (17.2), Texas (7.1), Florida (6.5), New Jersey (5.7), and Illinois (4.7). Many immigrants settle in large urban areas; more than 25 percent intend to live either in New York City or Los Angeles. Other metropolitan areas with significant immigrant arrivals are Chicago, Miami, Washington, DC, and San Francisco.
The patterns of residence of the IRCA immigrants is different than other legal immigrants. Although the top six states are the same for IRCA immigrants as for other immigrants, IRCA immigrants are more concentrated. More than 85 percent of IRCA immigrants live in the top six states and more than 50 percent live in California. The family members of the legalized aliens who immigrate in the future should further increase the proportion of legal immigrants residing in California and Texas.
Occupation. The increase in the employment-based preference limit from approximately 54,000 in 1991 to 140,000 in 1992 could have the most impact on the occupational characteristics of new immigrants. Beyond increasing overall admissions, IMMACT reduced the number of unskilled immigrants and their family members from 27,000 to 10,000, while raising the number of highly-skilled immigrants allowed to enter from 27,000 to approximately 110,000.
The reported occupations of immigrants of working age changed only slightly after IMMACT. (All but about 6 percent of adult immigrants report an occupation or report that they are homemakers, students, unemployed, or retired. What is reported may be either their last job in their home country or, if entering under the employment-based preferences or adjusting in the U.S., the job they are or will be performing in the United States.) The percentage of immigrants who reported they were professionals or executives increased from 15.0 percent in the two-year period before IMMACT to 17.0 percent after IMMACT. Every other occupation group declined, except for operators, fabricators, and laborers, which increased from 9.2 to 9.7 percent. The shift in occupational characteristics is consistent for both males and females.
The Commission is now engaged in a systematic examination of the effects of legal immigration in order to develop interim recommendations this year and longer-term recommendations in our final report to Congress. Among the areas under review are:
Family Reunification. U.S. immigration policy is based mainly on family reunification. The Commission's mandate includes an explicit requirement to assess the impact that the establishment of a national level of immigration has upon the availability and priority of family preference visas, including examination of: the role of family reunification in the integration of new immigrants into U.S. society; the effects of IMMACT on the numbers of individuals admitted for family reunification; the effects of IMMACT on the waiting period for family-sponsored preferences; the effects of different family reunification policies on future demand for visas; the extent to which extended waiting periods for the admission of spouses and children contribute to unlawful immigration; the priority to be given to the admission of individuals of different family ties (that is, spouses, minor children, adult children, siblings); and other issues. The Commission is paying particularly close attention to the effects of legalization on family admissions and backlogs.
Impact on labor needs, employment and other economic conditions in the United States. Both the long and short-term effects of immigration on the labor market need to be understood in formulating sound policy. The evolving international context of the U.S. economy must be a part of this analysis along with the U.S. economic restructuring that has led to more U.S. workers finding different kinds and amounts of employment in service-as opposed to manufacturing-industries. More specifically, the Commission is examining: the characteristics of immigrants and nonimmigrants (hereinafter "migrants") entering the U.S. under different categories as they relate to U.S. labor market considerations-education, skill level, occupation, employment experience, etc.; having entered, their labor force participation rate, employment, wages/income and job mobility experience by different categories of immigration; the impact of migrants in different categories on the labor force participation rate, employment, and earnings of domestic workers (by race, ethnicity, citizenship); the impact of migrants in different categories on the working conditions and benefits of domestic workers; the effects of migrants on specific industries; the extent to which migrants admitted under different employment-based provisions continue to work in the jobs for which they were admitted or in jobs in similar occupations or industries; the type and impact of entrepreneurial activities in which migrants engage; and the impact of various immigrant categories on the generation of jobs for U.S. workers.
The Commission has sought preliminary data on these issues for our interim report. For our final report, we have contracted with the National Academy of Sciences to form an expert panel that will include labor economists, sociologists, demographers, and others concerned with changing labor force and economic effects of immigration.
Social and Civic Incorporation. Immigrants historically have brought to the United States different cultural, religious, and political backgrounds. Over the last few decades, our new immigrant population has shifted from predominantly European to largely Asian and Latin American. Unlike earlier periods of immigration, admissions are not dominated by a small number of countries. At the turn of the century, the top five source countries accounted for 75 percent of new legal arrivals. During the 1990s, the top fifteen countries account for fewer than 70 percent. These top sending countries include such diverse nations (in terms of economic status, political systems, religious backgrounds, and racial makeup) as Mexico, China, Philippines, Vietnam, the former Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom. The Commission inquires about the effects of our immigrant population on social and community relations, as well as the effects of American life on immigrants. Further the Commission is looking at the civic integration of immigrants, including participation in local, state, and national political affairs, development of political constituencies, and other manifestations of civic involvement. The Commission plans to issue recommendations on naturalization as part of its interim report in June.
Refugee and Humanitarian Issues. There are well over 20 million refugees and at least another 25 million internally-displaced people who have fled from violence and persecution but have not crossed an international border. The U.S. plays an important role in refugee affairs as the principal donor to international refugee programs, a principal supporter of durable solutions to refugee crises, and a major receiver of refugees for resettlement. The Refugee Act of 1980 adopted the international definition of refugees, rejecting the earlier U.S. definition that specified that refugees were individuals fleeing Communist countries. Yet, refugees from (former) communist countries continue to account for the vast majority of those admitted to the U.S. as refugees. The Commission is examining questions about: what role refugee resettlement should play in the post-Cold War era; what factors should replace Cold War criteria in deciding who should be given priority for resettlement; and what size program makes sense in light of these changing standards and of the continued numbers of refugees in need of the assistance and protection that the U.S. has traditionally provided. The Commission is examining these issues in conjunction with its analyses of the U.S. capacity to respond to migration emergencies headed directly for the United States.
To date, the Commission has held expert consultations on family-based admissions, employment-based admissions, refugee resettlement and other humanitarian admissions, and the demographic effects of immigration policy. We have held field hearings and consultations on legal immigration policy in: Chicago, Illinois, with a particular focus on naturalization; Lowell, Massachusetts, looking especially at the effects of immigration on a small city; New York, New York, with its heterogeneous immigrant population; Central Texas, with particular focus on immigration in high-tech industries; and Phoenix, Arizona, with a particular focus on land use and other effects of increased population.
The Commission continues to undertake research aimed at clarifying the effects of legal immigration on U.S. society and economy. We have testified to you previously that the Commission is not satisfied with the reliability of immigration data. As noted above, the Commission is working with the National Academy of Sciences to establish an expert panel that will present its conclusions on the demographic, labor market, fiscal, and other economic effects of immigration. The panel will include a wide range of expertise not only on the literature directly related to the effects of immigration, but also on the various areas in which immigration's impact is felt, so that we can get beyond disputes about data that ought to be matters of fact.
The Commissioners have engaged in extensive discussions about the national interests to be served by immigration, the extent to which current policies serve these national interests, the extent to which immigration benefits or harms the already-resident U.S. population, and the advantages and disadvantages of various options to correct problems identified through this process. As in the Commission's 1994 report to Congress, the aim of this year's recommendations is to suggest ways that U.S. immigration policy may best meet high standards of credibility in its formulation and its implementation.
As I stated at the outset of this testimony, Professor Jordan looks forward to sharing the Commission's recommendations with you next month. In the meantime, I would be pleased to answer questions you may have about the data presented in our 1994 report or our activities in preparation for our forthcoming recommendations.