Texas Sen. John Cornyn says the U.S. is “the most generous country in the world when it comes to legal immigration.” It’s true that the U.S. gives permanent legal status and citizenship to more immigrants than other industrialized nations, but it also has the third largest population in the world.
Accounting for population, the U.S. trails several other countries in both categories, according to data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Cornyn, chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Border Security and Immigration, has been making the “most generous country” claim since at least 2014. He said it most recently during a meeting on immigration with President Donald Trump and other Senate Republicans.
Cornyn, Jan. 4: America is the most generous country in the world when it comes to legal immigration, but that generosity has been abused by people who are exploiting the vulnerabilities we have along the border with the lack of enforcement.
The U.S. granted lawful permanent resident status to nearly 1.2 million immigrants in fiscal year 2016, according to the Department of Homeland Security. Nearly half of those individuals (48 percent) already were present in the U.S., DHS said.
The most recent international data from the OECD are for 2015, though. That year, the U.S. gave permanent resident status to 1.05 million immigrants — more than any of the 34 other OECD member nations. Germany was second with 686,000 admissions. (See Table 1.1 on page 17.)
However, the U.S. — with 327 million estimated residents — is much larger than other OECD countries. Based on permanent admissions as a percentage of the overall population, the U.S. (0.33 percent) ranked 18th out of the 24 nations with comparable data. Luxembourg’s 19,400 admissions represented 3.4 percent of its total population, putting it in first.
The U.S. also wasn’t the top country in foreign-born residents as a percentage of the population in 2015. Luxembourg again was first with 46 percent of its residents having been born outside of its borders. The U.S. (13.5 percent) ranked 15th in that category behind countries such as Switzerland (29 percent) and Australia (28 percent).
We contacted a spokesman for Cornyn about the senator’s claim, but didn’t get a response.
Last February, Cornyn called the U.S. the “most generous in world” in a tweet that referenced the number of immigrants naturalized as U.S. citizens in 2013 and 2014.
In sheer numbers, the U.S. was the leader in naturalizations in 2015 with 730,259. The next closest country was Canada with 252,178.
But naturalized citizens represented 3.3 percent of the total U.S. foreign population that year, tying the U.S. with Iceland and the Netherlands for sixth in naturalizations, according to OECD data. Sweden (6.5 percent) ranked first.
The U.S. has granted lawful permanent resident status to an average of more than 1 million immigrants per year since 1999. It grants citizenship to hundreds of thousands of immigrants annually as well. But the U.S. looks less generous after factoring in its large population.