Everyone loves the party game “Two Truths and a Lie.” With immigration as the top issue for most Americans, can you guess which of these following three statements about immigration is false?

A. Most immigrants in the U.S. are here illegally.
B. Congress has failed over 20 times to address the situation with Dreamers.
C. A majority of Americans want the U.S. to increase immigration levels or keep them the same.

A. False. A large majority of the 45 million foreign-born people are living in the U.S. legally.

  • Nearly half (20.7 million people) are naturalized U.S. citizens.
  • Over a quarter (12.3 million people) are legal noncitizens or Permanent Residents.
  • An additional 2.2 million are temporary visitors with visas.
  • About one quarter (an estimated 10.5 million people) are illegal immigrants. Although it’s not the majority of immigrants, it’s still a lot of people. 

A big question facing the U.S. is what to do about illegal immigration. Recent Pew polling finds that most Americans do not support mass deportations. Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) say illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay legally if certain conditions are met. We should be careful not to offer blanket amnesty as it could encourage future waves of illegal immigrants. We can do more to at least reduce future illegal immigration and better control who enters the country.

B. True. It’s been two decades since Congress introduced the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act to provide a path for illegal immigrants, who arrived as minors, to gain permanent legal status if they meet age, residency, educational, and other requirements. Congress failed to pass the DREAM Act and nearly two dozen other similar bills over the years, which is why in 2012, President Barack Obama used executive action to create the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program and expanded it two years later. Like the DREAM Act, there’s no pathway to citizenship for these young people, but they can be authorized to work and defer their removal from the U.S. for two years at a time.

President Donald Trump rescinded the Obama executive order in 2017 and announced a phaseout plan for DACA, but that was challenged in court. In 2020, the Supreme Court ruled against the rescission of the Obama executive order. In 2021, President Joe Biden reinstated DACA by executive order. While DACA is still in place, there is no permanent solution to the issue of children brought to the U.S. illegally.

C. True. Support for reducing immigration has been cut in half over the past seventeen years, falling from 53 percent in 2001 to 24 percent in 2018. Meanwhile, the share of Americans who favor increased legal immigration has risen 22 percentage points to 32 percent. Add that to the over a third (38 percent) of Americans who say keep legal immigration levels just where they are, and we have a 70 percent majority.

Now is the time for our national leaders to address immigration. Fixing our asylum laws, dealing with children brought to the U.S. illegally, and securing our borders are the most pressing issues. However, we should also decide on legal immigration levels and what we prioritize (i.e. skills, family ties, or something else).

IWF has put together a policy focus to address some of these issues and more. Click here to read about our proposed solutions.