By: Bohan Gao & Ashlyn Bi June 11, 2023
The American Dream had its genesis in immigration. And, like many before us, my family is lucky to be one of the millions of immigrants from China currently living that dream. Unfortunately, due to current US immigration policy, thousands of families are denied entry every year.
As of 2023, visa wait times are incredibly long due to a statutory limit on the amount of green cards the government can issue each year. Even from 2017, the CitizenPath states that there were 3.7 million people waiting for a visa number to become available, so they would be eligible to apply for a green card. This is because U.S. immigration law mandates that no more than 7% of all immigrant visas can be given to people from one country in a given year. This law ends up disproportionately hindering certain nationalities. The Los Angeles Times reports that because the US has this limitation, backlogs have become extremely lengthy for people from countries with more people looking to immigrate. This holds especially true for Asian countries such as India, China, and the Philippines, which constitute three of the most common countries of origin for immigrants to the US. When so many more immigrants from countries such as these are applying for visas, it takes the government longer to sort through them and decide which ones get approved which causes this growing backlog. Oftentimes, however, this issue is weaponized as a reason the US should receive less immigrants and not as a reason to improve the system. It is argued, according to economics professor Tejvan Pettinger, that immigration causes overcrowding and congestion, puts pressure on public services, and an influx of unskilled workers can lead to downward pressure on wages.
Unfortunately, with either opinion, these inefficient immigration policies remain incredibly harmful to immigrants from Asian countries: from Chae Chan Ping, who was deported from the US in 1889 and thus unable to sustain his family in China, to the 18.43 million Asian immigrants who have had to wait decades to make it to the United States. For many of these immigrants, a large factor in their decision to leave home has been the need to escape the overpopulated markets in places like China and the catastrophic impacts of climate change in countries such as Vietnam, Myanmar, the Philippines, and Thailand. In fact, these countries rank among the top ten countries in the world most affected by climate change in the past twenty years, according to the Global Climate Risk Index. Meanwhile, the US Embassy finds that China is the world’s leading annual emitter of greenhouse gasses, which gravely threatens their citizens.. In 2017 alone, an estimated 1.24 million people died from exposure to air pollution in the PRC, and the number has risen to 30 million since 2000, which is a reason for immigration.
My family is very fortunate to be one of the millions of immigrants coming from China to be living in the US today, but the struggles we faced in getting here are the same—if not worse—for many other people. Although there have been bills proposed to increase the backlog-inducing 7% cap on visas or to get rid of it altogether as seen by the EAGLE Act, unfortunately none have passed. As a result, for many Asian families, immigration is now becoming an impossible dream.
Leimer, Russ. “Why Immigration Visa Wait Times Are so Long.” CitizenPath, 22 Feb. 2023,
“Millions May Die Awaiting Green Card Approval From U.S. System.” Governing, 31 Aug. 2022,
Pettinger, Tejvan. “Pros and Cons of Immigration.” Economics Help, 11 July 2022,
Tbilisi, U.S. Embassy. “China’s Air Pollution Harms Its Citizens and the World - U.S. Embassy in Georgia.” U.S. Embassy in Georgia, 3 Oct. 2022,
“The Impact of Climate Change in Southeast Asia – IMF Finance and Development Magazine | September 2018.” IMF, 1 Sept. 2018,
US Census Bureau. “American Community Survey 5-Year Data (2009-2021).” Census.gov, 30 Nov. 2022,