Is the U.S. Legal Immigration System Outdated?


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The illegal immigration crisis at the southern border overshadows discussion about the existing legal immigration system in the United States. But on this episode of the Center for Immigration Studies’ podcast, Phillip Linderman, a Center board member and retired State Department senior Foreign Service officer, discusses two outdated legal immigration programs, ‘extended’ family reunification and the visa lottery, with guest host Jessica Vaughan, the Center’s director of policy studies.

The U.S. accepts more than 1.1 million legal immigrants every year, over two-thirds of whom enter via family-based categories — meaning they enter because of who they are related to, not because of any skills they possess or humanitarian needs they might have. Linderman explains how the legal immigration system currently in place exists primarily to grow the number of family members of immigrants in the U.S. As Vaughan points out, each legal immigrant brings an average of 3.4 additional immigrants into the country through chain migration.

This episode also covers the controversial Visa Lottery program. Linderman and Vaughan question its value, highlighting how the program’s poor vetting has attracted criminal activity. Four policy suggestions emerge from the discussion on legal immigration:

  1. Prioritize spouses and minor children, as opposed to extended family units that include parents, adult sons and daughters, and adult siblings;
  2. Shift toward skill-based immigration, aligning with proposals such as the RAISE Act;
  3. Eliminate the Visa Lottery;
  4. Simplify the immigration process.

In her closing commentary, Vaughan flags a concerning rise of sanctuary policies in Utah. As explained in separate posts by Ron Mortensen, a Center fellow, and Jon Feere, the Center’s director of investigations, two county sheriffs in the state recently canceled their contracts with ICE due to the burdensome requirements of the Office of the Immigration Detention Ombudsman.


Jessica Vaughan is the Director of Policy Studies the Center for Immigration Studies.


Phillip Linderman is a Center Board Member and retired State Department Senior Foreign Service Officer.


Chain Migration and the Diversity Visa Program: Legal Immigration at Its Worst

Chain Migration: Burdensome and Obsolete

ICE Loses Cooperation with Jails in Utah, Nebraska, and Nevada over Burdensome Audits

Utah: The Reddest (and Stealthiest) Sanctuary State

ICE Internal Info Memo


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Intro Montage

Voices in the opening montage:

  • Sen. Barack Obama at a 2005 press conference.
  • Sen. John McCain in a 2010 election ad.
  • President Lyndon Johnson, upon signing the 1965 Immigration Act.
  • Booker T. Washington, reading in 1908 from his 1895 Atlanta Exposition speech.
  • Laraine Newman as a “Conehead” on SNL in 1977.
  • Hillary Clinton in a 2003 radio interview.
  • Cesar Chavez in a 1974 interview.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaking to reporters in 2019.
  • Prof. George Borjas in a 2016 C-SPAN appearance.
  • Sen. Jeff Sessions in 2008 comments on the Senate floor.
  • Charlton Heston in “Planet of the Apes”.


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