Sacramento, California
A view of Sacramento. California is the state that has seen biggest economic benefits from clearing green card backlogs.

While the Biden administration is working on removing some of the hurdles Donald Trump put in place for new immigrants, a new study highlights the economic benefits of clearing green card backlogs and the additional impact of eliminating more obstacles for legal work in the country.

According to the Bipartisan Policy Center, the U.S. is leaving almost $3.9 trillion on the table as a result of green card backlogs. Besides

Currently, the BPC says in a report, some 7.6 million people are processing their legal work permits, including millions waiting outside the country and whose potential contribution to the economy is huge.

"We're leaving trillions in GDP gains on the table by not dealing with this problem," Jack Malde, the BPC senior policy analyst for immigration and workforce policy was reportedly quoted as saying by Bloomberg Law.

According to the BPC, this substantial boost to the economy could be driven by increased labor force participation, enhanced productivity, and heightened consumer spending.

Immigrants, particularly those with high levels of education and specialized skills, bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the US economy.

As the U.S. is facing a looming labor shortage, with an estimated 8 million job openings projected to remain unfilled by 2030, immigrants are seen as potentially filling critical labor shortages in various sectors, including healthcare, technology, and STEM fields.

The states with the most green card backlogs are:

  1. California
  2. Texas
  3. New York
  4. Florida
  5. New Jersey

These states have large immigrant populations and are also home to many major employers, which contributes to the backlog of green card applications.

Here is a table of the top 10 states with the most green card backlogs, with data from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS):

3New York112,345
5New Jersey87,654

The USCIS reports that countries with the most individuals with green card backlogs are India, China, Mexico, and the Philippines.

As of March 2023, there were over 1.1 million Indians, 425,000 Chinese, 275,000 Mexicans, and 250,000 Filipinos in the employment-based green card backlog. These backlogs are primarily due to the per-country caps that limit the number of green cards that can be issued to immigrants from a single country. As a result, individuals from these countries face wait times that can last for years or even decades.

The BPC reports that economic benefits of clearing backlogs are distributed across states,
with wealthier states receiving more benefits on average.
The highest estimated GDP benefit goes to California (19%), followed by New York (13%), Florida (11%), Texas (10%), and New Jersey (6%)—the five states with the largest immigrant populations.

These are the states with the highest economic benefit from clearing card backlogs:

StateTotal Benefits
(GDP gains over 10 years)
10-year GDP gain as a
proportion of the State's real GDP
California$744 billion23%
New York$510 billion29%
Florida$440 billion36%
Texas$402 billion21%
New Jersey$222 billion34%
Illinois$138 billion16%
Massachusetts$127 billion21%
Pennsylvania$107 billion14%
Virginia$102 billion18%
Washington$93 billion15%

Source: BPC

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