The Immigrant Success Story: How Family-Based Immigrants Thrive in America

June 12, 2018

Washington, D.C.— Today, the American Immigration Council releases The Immigrant Success Story: How Family-Based Immigrants Thrive in America.

Immigration based on family ties has been, since 1965, the main criterion for admitting new immigrants to the United States. Despite this longstanding practice, in recent years, lawmakers have repeatedly sought to cut back certain categories of family immigration while advocating for a more “skills-based” admissions system.

The rationale underlying this policy preference tends to stress economic reasons. However, this line of thinking focuses almost exclusively on presumed immediate labor market needs, overlooking the fact that family-based immigrants adapt to the U.S. labor market, add economic flexibility, and bring innovation to the economy in ways fundamentally different from immigrants who come to fill specific job openings.

Through analysis of data from the decennial census and administrative data from the Immigration and Naturalization Service, this special report examines the earnings gains over time of all immigrants, as well as the earnings gains experienced by family-based immigrants compared to employment-based immigrants. Among its main findings, the report shows that since 1965 the earnings of immigrants in general have increased dramatically during their first decade in the country. Additionally, working-age immigrant men who come to the United States via family-based channels tend to experience a much greater rate of earnings growth over time than those who come through employment-based channels.

“For over half a century, U.S. immigration law has empowered U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to bring into the United States some of their family members and, consequently, to play a key role in determining who gets admitted into the country as permanent residents,” said Guillermo Cantor, Ph.D., Research Director at the American Immigration Council. “At the same time, the United States has tacitly relied on families to facilitate the integration of newcomers and allow them to prosper economically. Our findings suggest that families have generally done a great job in that regard.”


For more information, contact:

Maria Frausto at the American Immigration Council, [email protected] or 202-507-7526.

Media Contact

Elyssa Pachico
[email protected]

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