Still the Land of Dreams: 150 Million Want to Immigrate to U.S.
It has become a cliché for politicians who want to provide some sort of pathway to U.S. citizenship to the estimated 11.2 million illegal aliens living in the United States to say that these illegal aliens will need to “go to the back of the line” first.
However, there are already about 150 million adults living in countries around the world who would migrate to the United States if they could, according to a Gallup survey released on Friday.
That does not count any children these 150 million would-be immigrants might want to bring with them to the United States.
To arrive at this figure, Gallup interviewed 452,199 people at least 15 years or older in 151 countries around the world from 2009 and 2011. Gallup asked: “Ideally, if you had the opportunity, would you like to move permanently to another country, or would you prefer to continue living in this country? To which country would you like to move?”
The 150 million people whom Gallup estimated would like to come to the United States includes 22 million Chinese, 15 million Nigerians, 10 million Indians, 8 million Bangladeshis, 7 million Brazilians, 5 million Filipinos, 5 million Japanese, 5 million Mexicans, and 3 million each from Vietnam, Kenya and the United Kingdom.
In Liberia, 37 percent of all adults want to leave their homeland and move permanently to the United States of America. In Sierra Leone, it’s 30 percent. In Dominican Republic, it’s 26 percent. In Haiti, it’s 24 percent. And in Cambodia, it’s 22 percent.
By far, according to Gallup's survey, America is still the No. 1 land of dreams for would be immigrants.
No other countries come close.
But the United Kingdom and Canada rank No. 2 and No. 3 after the U.S.—with 45 million people wanting to migrate to the U.K. and 42 million wanting to migrate to Canada. Like the U.S., both the U.K. and Canada are English-speaking nations that have representative governments and relatively free economies.
In 2010, meanwhile, according to a report published in March by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), the United States granted Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) status to only about 1,042,625 people--of whom 66.3 percent were relatives of people already in the United States.
Additionally, a majority—54.3 percent—of the foreign nationals who were granted LPR status were already inside the United States and merely had their status “adjusted.” In fact, of the approximately 1,042,625 million people granted LPR status in the United States in 2010, about 566,576 were already inside the United States. Only about 476,049 were allowed to come to the United States as legal immigrants from somewhere outside our borders.
And those who were allowed to immigrate here legally from outside the U.S. borders fit mostly into very narrow categories of legally permitted immigration.
“Four major principles underlie current U.S. policy on permanent immigration: the reunification of families, the admission of immigrants with needed skills, the protection of refugees, and the diversity of admissions by country of origin,” the CRS said in a report published in March. “These principles are embodied in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).”
Even those who fall into the preferred categories of immigrants—such as relatives of people already in the United States—have to wait for many years to get a visa to come to this country as a legal immigrant.
According to CRS, “relatives of U.S. citizens and LPRs are waiting in backlogs for a visa to become available, with the brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens now waiting over 11 years, with even longer waits for siblings from Mexico and the Philippines.”
“Married adult sons and daughters of U.S. citizens who filed petitions over 10 years ago (December 1, 2001) are now being processed for visas,” said CRS. “Prospective family-sponsored immigrants from the Philippines have the most substantial waiting times before a visa is scheduled to become available to them; consular officers are now considering the petitions of the brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens from the Philippines who filed almost 24 years ago.”
The Pew Hispanic Center published a study in February 2011 that estimated there were 11.2 million illegal aliens in the United States in 2010.