Study from the Bipartisan Policy Center attempts to measure the positive economic impact of legislation to clear the green card backlog that has grown to an estimated 7.6 million individuals

Using federal data, this study estimates that a total of 7.6 million individuals sit in employment- and family-based green card backlogs. Going back decades, such backlogs have grown in recent years, due to factors ranging from restrictive Trump era policies to agency understaffing to demand outstripping supply (in the case of family-based petitions). These backlogs restrict those both inside and outside the U.S. from joining a labor force in dire need of more workers, including in essential fields such as health care and national security. Looking at the productivity benefits associated with new entrants and adjustment of status, the researchers estimate that clearing these backlogs would increase gross domestic product by $3.9 trillion over 10 years. 71% of the gain would come from clearing the cap-based backlog (approved applications waiting for green card availability) and 29% from processing backlogs (pending applications). The vast majority of cases would relate to new entrants to the country. The economic benefits of clearing backlogs, the study finds, would be distributed across states, with wealthier states with larger immigrant populations receiving more benefits on average. Decentralized state-based visa programs could help redistribute these benefits across the country. Increasing green card limits, as proposed by some recent legislation, would further reduce both current and future backlogs and likely have even greater economic benefit. Without prompt action by policymakers, the authors conclude, U.S. visa backlogs will continue to grow as they have for decades, with considerable human and economic costs for both foreign and native-born populations. (Jeffrey Gross, Ph.D.)

Green Light to Growth: The Economic Benefits of Clearing Green Card Backlogs,
Bipartisan Policy Center, November 2023, 30 pp.
Authors: Jack Malde et al