Legal Immigration:
Setting Priorities

June 1995


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July 7, 1995

The Honorable Newt Gingrich, Speaker of the House of Representatives

The Honorable Richard A. Gephardt, Minority Leader of the House of Representatives

The Honorable Robert Dole, Majority Leader of the Senate

The Honorable Thomas A. Daschle, Minority Leader of the Senate

On behalf of the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform, it is my pleasure to submit our interim report on legal immigration to the United States.

This Commission was mandated by the Immigration Act of 1990 [Public Law 101-649] to examine and make recommendations regarding the implementation and impact of U.S. immigration policy. In fulfilling this mandate, the Commission has held public hearings and consultations in Los Angeles, San Diego, Miami, El Paso, Chicago, Lowell, New York, Austin, San Juan, and Phoenix. We also have undertaken systematic analysis of the economic and social characteristics of recent immigrants, the economic and social adaptation of immigrants, the impact of immigration on federal, state and local benefit programs, and the labor market, demographic, environmental and other effects of immigration. Our conclusions reflect a broad, bipartisan consensus drawn from this analysis of the best data available.

Foremost, the Commission concludes that a properly regulated system of legal immigration is in the national interest of the United States. Such a system enhances the benefits of immigration while protecting against potential harms.

The Commission supports the basic framework of current immigration policyfamily unification, employment-based immigration, and refugee admissions. At the same time, the Commission is convinced that our current immigration system must undergo major reform to ensure that admissions continue to serve our national interests. Hence, the Commission recommends a significant redefinition of priorities and a reallocation of existing admission numbers to fulfill more effectively the objectives of our immigration system.

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The Commission further recommends a renewed emphasis on Americanization. The United States is the most successful multiethnic nation in history. It has united immigrants and their descendants from all over the world around a commitment to democratic ideals and constitutional principles. Those ideals and principles have been embraced by persons from an extraordinary variety of religious and ethnic backgrounds, partly because they permit and protect religious and cultural diversity within a framework of national political unity. Naturalization is the most visible manifestation of Americanization. We urge Congress to provide full support for efforts to encourage and facilitate the naturalization process.

Our work could not have been done without the effective cooperation of many individuals who work in U.S. government agencies and both Houses of Congress. We are particularly appreciative of the continuing support and encouragement of the Chairs and Ranking Members of the Senate and House subcommittees responsible for immigration, Senators Simpson and Kennedy and Representatives Smith and Bryant. We look forward to working with the Congress and Executive Branch as we continue our investigations.

The United States has benefited from immigration throughout our history, and I have every confidence we will continue to do so. I urge the Congress to continue to uphold this strong tradition and make the changes needed to strengthen our commitment to legal immigration.

Respectfully,

Barbara Jordan

Chair

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MEMBERS OF

THE COMMISSION

barbara jordan, chair

lyndon b. johnson centennial chair in national policy

school of public affairs, university of texas-austin

lawrence h. fuchs, vice chair

jaffe professor of american civilization and politics

brandeis university

michael s. teitelbaum, vice chair

program officer, alfred p. sloan foundation

richard estrada

associate editor, dallas morning news

harold ezell

president and founder, ezell group

robert charles hill

partner, jenkens & gilchrist, p.c.

warren r. leiden

executive director, american immigration lawyers association

nelson merced

chief executive officer, inquilinos boricuas en accion/

emergency tenant council, inc.

bruce a. morrison

chairman, federal housing fnance board

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commission staff

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

susan martin

POLICY RESEARCH STAFF

patricia a. cole, senior policy analyst

detailed from immigration and naturalization service 4/93-6/95

margaret cooperman, policy analyst

detailed from department of state 4/95-6/95

rosemary curtin, research assistant 6/95-8/95

brett endres, policy analyst

dora hernandez, policy analyst

detailed from immigration and naturalization service 6/94-3/95

lani horowitz, policy analyst

detailed from health and human services 10/94-6/95

david r. howell, senior policy analyst

susan jacobs, senior policy analyst

detailed from department ofstate 9/94-2/95

laurie johnston, senior policy analyst

detailed from department of state 8/94-1/95

anna law, program analyst

david a. levy, policy analyst

detailed from department of labor 11/94-present

b. lindsay lowell, senior research analyst

detailed from department of labor 6/95-present

kimberly m. o'donnell, program analyst

jeffrey l. romig, senior policy analyst

detailed from executive office of immigration review 12/94-8/95

andrew schoenholtz, senior policy analyst

lavita strickland, legislative analyst

terry tremper

detailed from immigration and naturalization service 10/94-12/94

deborah waller, program analyst

karen a. woodrow-lafield, senior research analyst 10/94-2/95

PUBLIC AFFAIRS & EDITORIAL STAFF

paul donnelly, communications director

minna newman nathanson, publications director

ADMINISTRATIVE STAFF

mark j. bogdan, administrative officer

ronald k. sommerville, consultant

l. robin walker, assistant administrator

roni amit, staff assistant

INTERNS

andrea caserta, joanne clain, lisa cotter, elaine gaynes,

a. marc johnston, edmond lahai, sarah logan, pascale michel

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contents

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY - i -

introduction: THE NATIONAL INTEREST - 1 -

the immigration act of 1990 -5-

evaluating immigration today -19-

FRAMEWORK FOR IMMIGRATION REFORM -31-

PRINCIPLES FOR A PROPERLY REGULATED IMMIGRATION POLICY -35-

RECOMMENDATIONS -39-

nuclear family immigration -45-

skill-based immigration -81 -

refugee resettlement -121-

nonimmigrant admissions -161-

americanization -175-

conclusion -201-

references -203-

selected bibliography -203-

u.s. commission on immigration reform resources -221-

appendix -227-

dissenting statement from commissioner

warren r. leiden -227-

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