Meanwhile, Asians have surpassed Latinos as the fastest-growing racial group in the United States. From 2000 to 2010, the Asian population grew 45 percent. And Asians are more likely to have college degrees. Nearly 30 percent of Asians 25 and older had bachelor’s degrees in 2010, compared with less than a fifth of the remaining U.S. population.
The Senate proposal also seeks to attract younger immigrants. Under the bill’s proposed merit-based points system, a prospective visa applicant would receive 10 points if he or she had an offer from a “high demand” field.
Applicants would receive an additional 8 points if they’re between the ages of 18 and 24, and four points if they’re between 33 and 37, but no additional age points if they’re older than that.
“We can’t ignore the age factor,” Singer said. “Even if a lot of people don’t come on the age point system, workers tend to be younger and they tend to be people who either have young families or are going to start young families when they come here. That’s another shift.”
Critics charge that so-called merit programs split up families, because U.S. citizens wouldn’t be able to sponsor their siblings or adult married children. But Rubio said the country must move away from a family-based system if it wanted to remain a leader in the global economy.
“And I say that as someone whose parents came here in a family system,” he said. “But they came here in 1956, and the economy of the United States in 1956 looks very differently than it does today.”
The reality is that no one really knows what will happen decades from now. Some don’t think the changes will be very dramatic.
Muzaffar Chishti, the director of the Migration Policy Institute’s office at New York University School of Law, notes that many of those on the nation’s immigration backlog are Latino and that they have their own children. That growth might offset other changes.
“We really don’t know. There are too many unknowns,” he said.
Pan, who recently married another Duke student from China, expects that he’ll return to China. He’s OK with leaving the United States because he wants to live close to his parents. But he also hopes he’ll be able to stay here at least for a few years while his wife finishes school. He has a goal of both of them landing jobs in California, possibly the Silicon Valley, where traveling to China for visits would be easier. He could see the couple raising a family here.
“It depends on the future and if we can get a green card,” Pan said. “Living here and working here is more comfortable. We’d prefer to stay.”