How many immigrants can the U.S absorb every year?

In part, this is a country of exiles, refugees and adventurers. Many find this part of our national identity appealing; many others, who do not, still see wisdom in attracting the foreign elites and letting their blood flow through our veins, making us stronger (google Brain Drain if you are not familiar with the term).

I propose a twist on the usual GD immigration threads:

**I’m inviting anyone who thinks they can do better than gut reactions and opinion pieces to actually answer a few questions and have a shot at proposing interesting ideas and maybe expose inconsistensies. **

Assuming you were named Immigration Czar and given a $100bn / year budget TO PROCESS LEGAL IMMIGRANTS (IE: not your job to build fences or deport illegals).

How many legal immigrants, total, could the U.S successfully absorb* every year?
*Successfully absorbed by your own criteria.

Would you disqualify people because of their citizenship or other characteristics*?
*if so, which and how?

How would you allocate your immigrant slots?
*Would you use any quotas and why?

What criteria* would you deem important?
*How would you test for unconventional ones?

Would you offer group* deals?
(whole families, work teams, etc)

Would you impose conditions / offer incentives to help the integration process after the arrival to the U.S?

How much time should an immigration applicant have to spend to fill out an application?

How much time should an immigrant applicant have to spend to obtain the necessary documents* to attach to an application?
*(anything from criminal records to bank account balances)

How much money should an immigrant applicant have to spend* on obtaining the documents and to present the application?
*Should even the poor be able to afford it?

Should immigrants bear the costs* of this policy?
*How much money should it end up costing per applicant and how much of that money should be repaid? In what way?

In the end, if your plan is successful, how would you estimate the economical impact on the country? What about social and political impacts?

Feel free to add or answer more questions.

As many as want to come and who can find jobs. I think the US can ‘absorb’ quite a few people without major issues. Myself I would allow in anyone who can prove they can find employment or who have employment lined up. I think the US’s great strength comes from our diversity and from the people who come here looking for a place to live, work and be free.

If they can get a job in the US then they can come in. Even if they don’t have a job lined up I would give a grace period for someone trying to get citizenship while they are allowed to try.

Open to all but perhaps prioritized on people who already have a job lined up. It’s important that people coming here have a means of employment and so aren’t a burden on the system.


Buy one get one free.

The only conditions are as I’ve said. I wouldn’t necessarily offer incentives (I don’t think we need to attempt to attract immigrants or are in some kind of competition with other countries for perspective immigrants), but I would offer a program to all approved immigrants for English language classes and perhaps on integration with our society (you did give me a $100 billion budget after all…I’d also need to take a few trips to various other countries to check things out, preferably one’s with beaches and scantily clad females peeling me grapes and such).

Probably this is purely based on the bureaucracy and how fast such things can be processed. My own criteria is based on employment, so if a potential applicant can line up steady employment then that is all I would need to see. Prospective applicants could be granted visa’s just like today that would allow them to look for work and become full citizens once employed.

No idea…I would assume they would need to have all the appropriate documentation in order to get the visa in the first place. Again, I would think this is a function of the bureaucracy.

Whatever it takes to get the relevant documentation from their home country (I assume they would need a passport and such). For here it’s mostly a matter of showing proof of employment.

Certainly. They would need to have the appropriate documentation from their home country…and that isn’t something we should pay for. On our part I don’t see much cost associated with what I’m proposing from the immigrants perspective…though they would probably need some seed money to get started (for food, housing, etc).

I imagine heads would explode on both sides of the political fence. I wouldn’t care, being the Czar and all, but I imagine my plan would cause quite a stir. However, I think it would be good to bring in people who demonstrate the desire to be American’s and who also demonstrate their ability to become useful (tax paying) citizens, and not a burden on the country as a whole.


Actually, the so-called STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math), especially in academia but in industry as well, are heavily dependent on foreign-born talent. In the higher echelons especially, we are indeed “in some kind of competition” to attract and retain the best-qualified people. The post-9/11 restrictions on visas caused something close to hysteria among science and engineering graduate schools nationwide (1/3 of PhD students in these fields are foreigners) and led to the loss of at least two students (both Chinese) from my department’s graduate program (we eventually got one back, over a year later; the other ended up at a different institution) (this was out of a total of about 60 students in the department).

Immigration is not just about unskilled labor.


I didn’t mean to imply that this was the case. I’m well aware of it in fact. Since I’d be taking those restrictions off however I don’t think the US would need to compete for skilled labor either. Take the restrictions off and my guess is we’d have a flood of potential high caliber citizens as well as citizens that run the gamut of labor across the board. Perhaps it’s my own conceit but I think the US is still one of the choice destinations for immigrants to try to get into.


History will record these times as a population migration.

I’m pretty conservative. I do want strong border control. But I also believe the INS should be little more than a security risk, health, and employability check, and we should allow between 2 and 3 million immigrants every year - probably our limit to absorb based just on infrastructure.

Families should especially receive consideration, since a family is likely to have members who want to get ahead and succeed for their children as well as themselves, and are likely to be less socially disruptive.

English speakers and well-educated individuals should receive extra consideration. Again, easier assimilation.

Thank you for reminding us all of the big picture. You are wise beyond your years.

Xtisme: I was going to criticize your answer for not taking into account:

But then, I realized that, despite those flaws, the beliefs behind your words are what make a proud american a part of the noble and resolved soul of this country. And I can’t argue with that.

Your ideas are worth being explored and I’d like to hear you give more detailed answers if/when you feel the inclination(And this goes for everybody else: more detailed info on budget allocation, paperwork requirements, etc. would be delicious and crunchy).

I agree with the lack of restrictions proposed by xtisme and smiling bandit.

My green card application was approved this morning in an interview with the USCIS, and the whole process has been very easy (not always the case I realize). Since the opening post asked about burdens on potential immigrants I’ll describe what my wife and I had to do under the current system by quoting our application cover sheet. This gives a good overview of the burden of proof and financial burden of filing:

1.	Check for $355.00 (filing fee for I-130)

2.	Check for $1010.00 (filing + biometric fee for I-485)

3.	I-130 Petition for Alien Relative, including:
	a.	Copy of birth certificate of petitioner
	b.	Copy of marriage certificate between petitioner and beneficiary
	c.	Warranty deed indicating joint ownership of property
	d.	One color photograph of petitioner
	e.	One color photograph of beneficiary
	f.	G-325A Biographic Information for petitioner, <wife's name>
	g.	G-325A Biographic Information for beneficiary, <my name>

4.	I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, 
	a.	Copy of foreign birth certificate
	b.	Copy of passport page with non-immigrant visa
	c.	Two identical color photographs
	d.	G-325A Biographic Information for applicant
	e.	I-864 Affidavit of Support, including:
		i.	Copy of 1040 income tax return and related W2
			and 1099 forms
	f.	Sealed envelope containing medical examination report

5.	I-131 Application for Travel Document, including:
	a.	Copy of passport identity page
	b.	Two identical color photographs

6.	I-765 Application for Employment Authorization, including:
	a.	Copy of passport identity page
	b.	Two identical color photographs

The cost, including fees, medical examination report and miscellaneous costs, totaled around $1600.00. We filed ourselves in early November 2007, without a lawyer. I’m sure lawyer fees would have doubled or tripled the cost. The cost of obtaining supporting documents (birth certificates, etc) was negligible in our case.

I think this application based on marriage would be a good indicator of the costs involved in a less restricted system. The USCIS seemed concerned mostly about (a) was the relationship fraudulent? (b) was there any risk of me relying on public assistance and © was I an actual or potential criminal or terrorist? These are the sort of concerns I would expect the government to address under any system ((b) is analogous to employability checks and (a) is analogous to a more generic verification of the facts presented).

It is reasonable that the fees are setup so that the total government cost of processing the applications (including FBI name checks, etc) is covered, neither being a profit center for the government nor a burden on the taxpayers. The bureaucracy and fee schedule could be adjusted over time to ensure that this is the case no matter how many potential immigrants are applying.

I’d do two big things if I were “immigration czar”:

(1) Abolish the Diversity Lottery (“Green Card Lottery”). I feel well-qualified to say this, because I won it about 7 years ago, and my wife and I currently hold green cards based on my winning it. Randomness should play no part in deciding who is allowed to immigrate. (And I’d have got in anyway, since I already held a short-term employment visa).

(2) Replace the whole existing system with a points-based system. Applicants would get points based on employability, family connections, lack of criminal record, and unlikeliness to require a government safety net (such as Medicare). Everyone who gets the right number of points would get in.

Giles is prolly close to what I’m thinking of. You basically need to need to show that you’re reasonably healthy*, able to take care of yourself, and let them know who you are legally.

*I’m thinking that in most countries we could just require a medical checkup from an approved service. In poverty-stricken ones, we could even offer basic checkups on the cheap for people. It would be a little public service and get people to look at us as benefactors.
!00 million plus immigrants sound like controlling to any of you.?

I thought you wanted as many immigrants as possible. More Democrat voters. Or something.

More people to lower wages until ours are the same as Mexico.