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PolitiFact Florida: 65 percent of immigrants entered based on family

The statement

"Nearly 65 percent — almost two-thirds — of all new permanent residents obtained that status by virtue of their family status."

Jeb Bush, in his book Immigration Wars

The ruling

Bush obtained information from a January 2011 policy brief from the Brookings Institution. The author, Brookings vice president Darrell West, called for immigration reform that in the short term would allow employers to hire workers with scientific and technological skills.

West's number drew from a group known as legal permanent residents, commonly referred to as green card holders. In 2011, about 1 million people became legal permanent residents, according to the federal government's yearbook of immigration statistics. Those who entered based on family ties accounted for about 65 percent.

That included about 235,000 who were family-sponsored preferences and about 453,000 who were immediate relatives of U.S. citizens.

Immediate relatives include spouses, children under the age of 21 or parents of U.S. citizens. If approved, the U.S. government immediately grants those visas for relatives, and there isn't a quota.

Family-sponsored immigrants include spouses and children of legal permanent residents as well as other relatives of citizens such as siblings.

The U.S. government grants up to 226,000 family-sponsored visas per year, and 140,000 employment-based visas per year. In addition, there are limits to the percentage of visas that can be allotted to each country.

(Notice that the quota of 226,000 family-sponsored visa cap was slightly lower than the 235,000 number of those admitted in 2011. That's because the quota refers to the number of visas — valid for six months —issued in a year, while the immigration statistics yearbook number refers to the actual admissions.)

The current debate about overhauling the U.S. immigration system pits those who want to protect family reunification against those who say our economy would benefit from a heavier focus on letting in immigrants based on needed job skills.

In his book, Bush argues the focus on family reunification leads to "crowding out most others, including immigrants who would contribute greatly to economic growth." If the United States wants to increase work-based immigrants without increasing immigration overall, it will have to narrow the definition of "family," Bush wrote.

We rate this claim True.

Edited for print. Read the full version at PolitiFact.com/Florida.

PolitiFact Florida: 65 percent of immigrants entered based on family 04/01/13 [Last modified: Monday, April 1, 2013 6:41pm]

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