The United States has granted 680,000 green cards to immigrants from Muslim-majority countries over the past five years and is expected to grant another 660,000 over the next half-decade, according to Department of Homeland Security statistics.
Between 2009 and 2013, DHS issued some 680,000 green cards to migrants, including refugees, from Iraq, Pakistan, Egypt, and Bangladesh, among other countries. Another 660,000 green cards are likely to be granted over the next five years though this number could much be higher.
The increase in immigration from Muslim-majority countries has been in the spotlight since the Obama administration announced its intent to admit 10,000 new refugees from Syria, despite admitted gaps in the ability to vet these individuals for ties to terrorist groups.
The mass shooting in California also has stoked concerns, with new information indicating that the wife of the alleged San Bernardino shooter, Tashfeen Malik, was born in Pakistan and had been living with family in Saudi Arabia before coming to the United States.
Malik and her husband, Syed Rizwan Farook, are alleged to have killed at least 14 people. Farook was reportedly a devout Muslim, though the motivation for the attack still remains unclear.
While President Obama has expressed his commitment to admitting refugees from countries in which terrorist groups are active, he is able under law to unilaterally suspend this immigration, though it is unlikely he will use this authority.
The Immigration and Nationality Act already provides the president the unilateral ability to suspend the "entry of imposition" of immigrants.
"Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate," the law states.
Also under the law, the U.S. Attorney General may "suspend the entry of some or all aliens transported to the United States" by any airline if it is detected that the individual did not provide proper documentation upon boarding.
Refugees who are granted green cards "have instant access to federal welfare and entitlements, along with local benefits and education services," according to a release from Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.). "These costs are not offset."
The federal benefits system could find itself burdened as 660,000 migrants from Muslim-majority nations are expected to be granted green cards.
Between 2009 and 2013, the U.S. granted green cards to 83,000 individuals from Pakistan and another 83,000 from Iraq, making them the two leading nations for immigration to the U.S., according to the release from Sessions.
Another 73,000 emigrated from Iran while another 45,000 came from Egypt. Somalia, Uzbekistan, Turkey, and Morocco also top the list.
Data from the U.S. Census Bureau indicate that the foreign-born population in the United States stand at a record 41.3 million.
"One-quarter of the U.S. population is now either foreign-born or has foreign-born parents," according to the release. "The Census Bureau projects the percentage of the population born outside the country will soon pass the highest percentage ever recorded and continue rising to new all-time records never before witnessed—unless Congress passes a law to reduce green card allotments."
Barring such changes, the number of immigrants to the U.S. will increase, as well as the annual rate of immigrant admissions and the number of foreign-born in the country.