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PolitiFact: Claim about U.S. immigration numbers goes too far

U.S. Rep. Greg Walden’s claim comparing U.S. immigration numbers to the rest of the world’s reached beyond what his source materials can support.

Associated Press (2010)

U.S. Rep. Greg Walden’s claim comparing U.S. immigration numbers to the rest of the world’s reached beyond what his source materials can support.

The statement

Says "we allow more people into America legally than all other countries on the planet combined."

U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., in a radio interview

The ruling

The congressman's primary source was a fact sheet from the U.S. State Department, which notes "the United States accepts more legal immigrants as permanent residents than the rest of the world combined." It didn't offer any basis for the claim, but Walden's office provided one.

In a separate piece written for the New York Times, Jan C. Ting, a law professor at Temple University, meditates on the downside of high immigration and uses a very similar statistic. Specifically, in his piece, he notes that "if we count only those receiving comparable permanent residence and a clear path to full citizenship, the U.S. admits more legal immigrants than all the nations of the world combined."

Comparable countries to the United States, he said, are Canada, Australia and New Zealand. We checked with immigration figures provided by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, and Ting was right. Together, Canada, Australia and New Zealand recorded about 530,000 permanent immigrants in 2010, compared with 1 million recorded in the United States.

Then we asked the OECD whether it broke down figures between permanent and temporary immigrants. It did: The United Kingdom recorded more than 414,000 permanent immigrants in 2010. Also in 2010, about 241,000 people were granted "settlement," which is akin to getting a green card, in that a person has permission to reside indefinitely, and 190,000 were granted citizenship.

Other countries recorded permanent immigrants — Italy (330,000) and Germany (220,000) — but they didn't break down their data in the same way the U.K. did. Immigration statistics are complicated, and it's hardly an ideal, apples-to-apples situation.

One chart that the OECD puts together, however, specifically addresses the idea of "permanent immigrants." The chart doesn't catalog the entire world's immigration figures, just those of specific OECD countries. But if you do the math, you find out that in 2010, the U.S. let in just over 1 million permanent immigrants. Altogether, the other 23 countries listed let in more than 3 million.

Walden said that "we allow more people into America legally than all other countries on the planet combined."

We rate the claim Mostly False.

Ryan Kost, PolitiFact Oregon

Edited for print. Read the full version at

PolitiFact: Claim about U.S. immigration numbers goes too far 05/27/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 28, 2013 10:10am]
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