The bill offers a 13-year path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants already here illegally, the most contentious element of the legislation since many House conservatives oppose granting citizenship to people who broke U.S. laws to be here. But that aspect of the legislation has little impact on the overall population size since the people involved are already in the country even if they end up transitioning to legal status. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that some 8 million of them would do just that.
Beyond the changes in numbers, the immigration bill shifts the emphasis of U.S. immigration policy away from family ties and put more weight on employment prospects, education and relative youth. It also raises ceilings on how many immigrants could come from any one country. And there would be impacts as yet unforeseen as the policies unspool into an uncertain future and economic conditions in other countries impact how many of their citizens dream of calling the U.S. home.
"There's not going to be a dramatic change that we will see overnight, but longer-term changes," said Audrey Singer, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. "We've got this idea of the policy and then when we put it into practice inevitably there are unintended consequences or unintended trends that develop."