July 14, 2021 at 1:00 p.m.

The United States has fostered a stellar reputation as a hub for opportunity and innovation throughout the world. Numerous studies show how immigrants have greatly contributed to the success of this country by launching major businesses and making new scientific discoveries. 

Over the past three decades, however, this system has increasingly broken down.

Congress has provided for a limited number of green cards to be available each year, and these numbers were last fixed in statute in 1990. In addition to out-of-date green card limits, the federal government has failed to award hundreds of thousands of green cards due to administrative challenges and more recently because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the past, Congress has directed the executive branch to “recapture” some of these unused green cards from time to time over the years, but hundreds of thousands of green cards remain available for recapture. 

We will discuss alternative proposals for recapturing unused green cards, how the “type” of recapture scenario can impact the U.S. economy, and the political realities surrounding making it happen this year. 


Tahmina Watson, Niskanen Center Adjunct Fellow


Jeremy L. Neufeld, Niskanen Center

Lindsay Milliken, Federation of American Scientists


Photo by Joseph Chan on Unsplash