Legal immigrants from India, China and Mexico drop sharply

President Trump congratulating newly naturalized citizens in a recorded message at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services field office in Miami.

The number of legal immigrants to the United States from India, China, and Mexico declined sharply between FY 2016 and FY 2018 and further reductions are likely from these and other major immigrant-sending countries, if current immigration policies continue.

According to the National Foundation for American Policy, immigration was lower in FY 2018 compared to FY 2016 from India (down 7.5%) while from China it declined from 81,772 in FY 2016 to 65,214 in FY 2018, a drop of more than 20%. The decline over the same period was 11.3%) in the case of the Philippines. Yemen had the largest percentage decline (87.1%) in legal immigration due to the travel ban.

Much of the decline for specific countries occurred because the United States admitted fewer people in the Immediate Relatives of U.S. Citizens category (spouses, children under 21 years old and parents), the NFAP said in a policy brief in January.

Between FY 2016 and FY 2018, the number of immediate relatives of U.S. Citizens admitted from India fell by 17.3%, from China by 24.1% and Mexico by 11.7% and 24.1% from the Philippines.

Recently released data from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) show legal immigration declined by almost 87,000, by more than 7%, between FY 2016 and FY 2018.

In an article in Forbes magazine Jan. 15, Stuart Anderson, executive director of NFAP said the policies of the Trump administration contributed to the lower immigration numbers. It said the smaller number of spouses, children and parents of U.S. citizens may reflect processing delays and policy changes that would prevent individuals from obtaining permanent residence.

According to the NFAP policy brief, one such policy change was the March 6, 2017, presidential directive on “heightened screening and vetting,” which, in its practical effect, attorneys say, directed U.S. consular officers and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) adjudicators to find a reason not to approve an immigration application.

The Forbes article by Anderson said at U.S. consulates, determinations of visa ineligibility based on 221(g) grounds increased for individuals applying for immigrant visas from 254,478 in FY 2017 to 341,128 in FY 2018, a rise of 34% or 86,650.

“The 221(g) is a type of catch-all denial used by consular officers and defined as when an ‘application does not comply with provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act or regulations issued pursuant thereto,’” it noted.

It said Jeffrey Gorsky, senior counsel at Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP and former Chief of the Legal Advisory Opinion section of the Visa Office in the U.S. Department of State, said in an interview that many cases designated under 221(g) are placed into “administrative processing.”

He noted quoting Gorsky that it could encompass many situations, including cases where a consular officer may believe more documentation is required or if security clearances are requested. As a result, many cases won’t be cleared or approved in the same fiscal year, or may never be approved.

Policies now blocked by the courts, such as the “public charge” rule and presidential proclamation barring new immigrants from entering the U.S. without health insurance, could lead to much larger reductions in legal immigration.

“That means fewer immigrants from China, India, Mexico and elsewhere will be allowed to join their American citizen spouse or another close relative in the United States. In short, America will become a nation of fewer immigrants,” Anderson noted in the Forbes article.

A Washington Post analysis last year found immigration declined among nationalities not targeted by Trump’s travel ban, including nearly all of the countries that typically receive the largest number of immigrant visas from the United States.

It said the number of immigrant visas granted to people from Mexico, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, China, India, Vietnam, Haiti, Bangladesh, Jamaica, Pakistan and Afghanistan has also declined.

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