WASHINGTON — President Trump’s immigration policies — from travel bans and visa restrictions to refugee caps and asylum changes — have begun to deliver on a longstanding goal: Legal immigration has fallen more than 11 percent and a steeper drop is looming.
While Mr. Trump highlights the construction of a border wall to stress his war on illegal immigration, it is through policy changes, not physical barriers, that his administration has been able to diminish the flow of migrants into the United States. Two more measures recently took effect — an expansion of his travel ban and strict wealth tests on green card applicants.
“He’s really ticking off all the boxes. It’s kind of amazing,” said Sarah Pierce, a policy analyst with the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan research group. “In an administration that’s been perceived to be haphazard, on immigration they’ve been extremely consistent and barreling forward.”
The number of people who obtained lawful permanent residence, besides refugees who entered the United States in previous years, declined to 940,877 in the 2018 fiscal year from 1,063,289 in the 2016 fiscal year, according to an analysis of government data by the National Foundation for American Policy. Four years ago, legal immigration was at its highest level since 2006, when 1,266,129 people obtained lawful permanent residence in the United States.
And immigration experts say new policies will accelerate the trend. A report released last week by the foundation projected a 30 percent plunge in legal immigration by 2021 and a 35 percent dip in average annual growth of the U.S. labor force.
Trump administration officials have said that immigration into the country should be based on merit and skills, not the family-based system that for decades has allowed immigrants to bring their spouses and children to live with them.
“President Trump continues to deliver on his promise to the American people to enforce our nation’s immigration laws,” Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, the acting deputy secretary of homeland security, wrote in The Hill, a Capitol Hill newspaper last week.