Throughout its history, MPI has placed major focus on analysis of the US immigration system and the complex demographic, economic, political, foreign policy, and other trends that affect immigration to the United States.
Through its US Immigration Policy program and key efforts such as the MPI-convened Independent Task Force on Immigration and America’s Future (co-chaired by former Sen. Spencer Abraham [R-MI] and former Rep. Lee Hamilton [D-IN] and with members such as Sens. Edward Kennedy [D-MA] and John McCain [R-AZ]) MPI has offered influential thought leadership and policy recommendations regarding ways to improve the US immigration system. Key research reports that touch upon the current immigration debate in Washington are collected here.
Immigration Enforcement in the United States: The Rise of a Formidable Machinery By Doris Meissner, Donald M. Kerwin, Muzaffar Chishti, and Claire Bergeron The US government spends more on federal immigration enforcement than on all other principal federal criminal law enforcement agencies combined, and has allocated nearly $187 billion for immigration enforcement since 1986. Deportations have reached record highs, border apprehensions 40-year lows, and more noncitizens than ever before are in immigration detention. The report traces the evolution of the immigration enforcement system, particularly in the post-9/11 era, in terms of budgets, personnel, enforcement actions, and technology — analyzing how individual programs and policies have resulted in a complex, interconnected, cross-agency system. Download Report | Press Release | Report-in-Brief | Listen to Audio
DHS and Immigration: Taking Stock and Correcting Course By Doris Meissner and Donald Kerwin Nearly six years after the federal immigration bureaucracy was dismantled and rebuilt to meet the heightened security imperatives of the post-9/11 era, the arrival of new executive branch leadership offers the singular opportunity to take stock and provide a clear-eyed assessment of the performance of the three immigration agencies within the Department of Homeland Security. In a new report, MPI offers policy recommendations for US Customs and Border Protection, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and US Citizenship and Immigration Services, as well as overall DHS immigration policy direction and coordination, that could be accomplished by the new administration without need for legislation. Download Report | Press Release
Delegation and Divergence: A Study of 287(g) State and Local Immigration Enforcement By Randy Capps, Marc R. Rosenblum, Cristina Rodríguez, and Muzaffar Chishti
The section 287(g) program, which delegates federal immigration enforcement powers to state and local officers, is not targeted primarily at serious offenders. Despite public statements by Obama administration officials that the program is primarily aimed at identifying and removing “dangerous criminals,” MPI researchers found that about half of 287(g) activity involves noncitizens arrested for misdemeanors or traffic offenses. Formal program changes unveiled by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement in 2009 have not substantially changed program priorities, operations, outcomes, or community impacts, the report concludes, offering findings that also have implications for the Secure Communities program.
Collateral Damage: An Examination of ICE's Fugitive Operations Program By Margot Mendelson, Shayna Strom, and Michael Wishnie The federal fugitive operations program established to locate, apprehend, and remove fugitive aliens who pose a threat to the community has instead focused chiefly on arresting unauthorized immigrants without criminal convictions. In a new report, MPI finds that 73 percent of the nearly 97,000 people arrested by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement fugitive operations teams between the program's inception in 2003 and early 2008 were unauthorized immigrants without criminal records. And arrests of fugitive aliens with criminal convictions have represented a steadily declining share of total arrests by the fugitive operations teams. Download Report | Press Release
The Next Generation of E-Verify: Getting Employment Verification Right By Doris Meissner and Marc R. Rosenblum Effective employment verification must be the linchpin of comprehensive immigration reform legislation if new policies are to succeed in preventing future illegal immigration. While E-Verify, the government's voluntary electronic verification program, has been greatly improved, it most crucially still cannot detect identity fraud and requires further enhancement. This report examines the strengths and weaknesses of the current system and outlines recommendations to get to a stronger next-generation E-Verify, including by testing alternatives such as secure documents, PIN pre-verification, and biometric scanning. Download Report | Press Release | Video of briefing
E-Verify: Strengths, Weaknesses, and Proposals for Reform By Marc R. Rosenblum With Congress likely to consider new mandates involving E-Verify, the currently voluntary employment eligibility verification system, this Insight examines the strengths and weaknesses of E-Verify, which has grown dramatically in recent years. It also discusses proposals for reform, including adding biometric screening to the system.
Contested Ground: Immigration in the United States By Michael Jones-Correa Though historically a country of immigrants, the United States has seen its demographic landscape altered in new and important ways as a result of the changing nature of immigration flows. In recent decades, immigration has come increasingly from Latin America and significant numbers of immigrants are unauthorized. The spread of immigration beyond traditional immigrant destinations to communities with little prior experience of migration has sparked anxiety among the American public. This report, part of a Transatlantic Council on Migration series on national identity in the age of migration, traces public sentiment and immigration policy developments of recent decades. Download Report
US Immigration Policy since 9/11: Understanding the Stalemate over Comprehensive Immigration Reform By Marc R. Rosenblum The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks derailed what had seemed to be a turning point in US immigration policy: A move away from the assertive enforcement policies that had held sway since the mid-1990s. But just days after the US and Mexican presidents had agreed to a framework that included a temporary worker program, legalization, and new border security measures, 9/11 dramatically reshaped the policy debate. This report reviews the history of immigration legislation since then, including new enforcement mandates enacted immediately after the attacks and the unsuccessful efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Download Report
US Immigration Policy and Mexican/Central American Migration Flows: Then and Now By Marc R. Rosenblum and Kate Brick Migration from Mexico and Central America’s “Northern Triangle” region (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras) to the United States has increased significantly in the past four decades, from less than 1 million immigrants in the 1970s to 14 million today. Propelled by difficult economic and social conditions at home, massive opportunity differentials, and strengthening social networks, these regional migration flows have been shaped by evolving policies and practices. This report examines the push-and-pull factors of migration in the region from three major migration periods: the mostly laissez faire policies prior to the 1930s, the large-scale Bracero temporary worker program before and after World War II, and the mostly illegal system that emerged after the Bracero Program’s end in 1964. Download Report
Lessons From The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 By Betsy Cooper and Kevin O'Neil Task Force Policy Brief No. 3, April 2005 The 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) was the first legislative attempt to comprehensively address the issue of unauthorized immigration. Although the concepts behind the legislation were sound, there were a number of problems with its design and implementation in each of its major goals.
The Economic Value of Citizenship for Immigrants in the United States By Madeleine Sumption and Sarah Flamm Beyond imparting political and social rights, naturalization appears to confer economic gains for immigrants in the United States, with a wage premium of at least 5 percent — even after accounting for the fact that naturalized immigrants have higher levels of education, better language skills, and more work experience in the United States than noncitizens. More than 8 million legal immigrants in the United States are eligible to apply for citizenship but have not done so. Naturalization rates in the United States are lower than most other Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, the report notes. Download Report | Press Release
Immigrants in the United States: How Well Are They Integrating into Society? By Tomás R. Jiménez Even though immigration is intertwined with the history of the United States, fears about immigrants' ability to integrate remain an area of concern. Yet an examination of immigrants’ integration across five major indicators — language proficiency, socioeconomic attainment, political participation, residential locale, and social interaction with host communities — shows they are integrating reasonably well. Remarkably, the process has unfolded almost entirely without policy intervention. The author examines the laissez faire policy approach to integration, raising concerns about how the state of public education and size of the US unauthorized population may remain powerful barriers to immigrants' full social, economic, and political integration. Download Report | European Integration Challenges Report
Up for Grabs: The Gains and Prospects of First- and Second-Generation Young Adults By Jeanne Batalova and Michael Fix Youth and young adults from immigrant families represent one in four people in the United States between the ages of 16-26 and account for half of the growth of the young adult population between 1995 and 2010. This report profiles the nation’s 11.3 million first- and second-generation young adults, finding substantial generational progress in terms of high school graduation, college enrollment, and ability to earn family-sustaining wages. Second-generation Hispanic women are faring particularly well, with college enrollment rates equal to those of third-generation non-Hispanic white women. However, they are not graduating from college at the same rate or on the same timeline because of family, work, or economic reasons. The report sketches how postsecondary education, workforce development, and language training programs could better meet the needs of this population, which will assume a greater role as the US workforce ages. Read Report | Watch Video | Listen to Podcast
The Economic Integration of Immigrants in the United States: Long- and Short-Term Perspectives By Aaron Terrazas The United States has provided excellent economic opportunities for generations of immigrants, who are set to play an increasingly significant role in the US economy in coming decades as more baby boomers retire. Because many immigrants are concentrated in low-wage or low-skill jobs, the 2007-09 economic crisis accentuated their vulnerabilities in the labor market, with a risk that the crisis could prove to be a turning point in their future upward socioeconomic mobility. While historically, in the absence of government integration policies, the workplace has played a key role in immigration integration, it remains unclear if this approach will continue to ensure strong economic integration moving forward. Download Report
DREAM vs. Reality: An Analysis of Potential DREAM Act Beneficiaries
Slightly more than 2.1 million unauthorized immigrant youth and young adults could be eligible to apply for legal status under the DREAM Act legislation pending in Congress, though perhaps fewer than 40 percent would obtain legal status because of barriers limiting their ability to take advantage of the legislation's educational and military service routes to legalization. This MPI analysis offers the most recent and detailed estimates of potential DREAM Act beneficiaries by age, education levels, gender, state of residence and likelihood of gaining legalization. Updated Estimates | Download Report | Press Release
Structuring and Implementing an Immigrant Legalization Program: Registration as the First Step
By Donald M. Kerwin and Laureen Laglagaron
While comprehensive immigration reform may have moved to the back burner, Congress and the administration eventually are likely to revisit legalization as a serious policy option. This report, the first in a series on how to shape and administer an effective legalization program, argues that a registration process that rapidly identifies, screens, and processes potential applicants should be an essential first step to any legalization. The Policy Brief proposes intensive applicant screening and documentation requirements, describes the application process, and addresses the role of community-based organizations and other stakeholders in helping administer a successful program.
More than IRCA: US Legalization Programs and the Current Policy Debate By Donald M. Kerwin Legalization is a policy option that has been used with some regularity by governments in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere. Notwithstanding the commonly held perception that the United States has had only one legalization — in 1986 — legalization has been an enduring and necessary feature of US immigration law and policy since the 1920s. This Policy Brief, the second in a series on how to shape and administer an effective legalization program, provides an historical overview of US legalization programs, statistics, a primer on the different types of programs, and discussion of the current debate. Download Report
Immigrant Legalization in the United States and European Union: Policy Goals and Program Design By Marc R. Rosenblum Immigrant legalization, while highly controversial on both sides of the Atlantic, is a critical and widely used tool for managing illegal immigration. Lawmakers seeking to design effective legalization regimes must balance competing goals: inclusiveness versus avoidance of rewarding illegal behavior, and assuring a high rate of participation without admitting ineligible migrants or encouraging future illegal migration. This Policy Brief, the third in a series on legalization, examines the legalization debate and discusses policy parameters that characterize legalization programs, such as qualifications, requirements, benefits, and program design and implementation. Download Report
Earned Legalization: Effects of Proposed Requirements on Unauthorized Men, Women, and Children By Marc R. Rosenblum, Randy Capps, and Serena Yi-Ying Lin Requirements for earned legalization (such as English proficiency, employment, continuous presence, and monetary fines) could have different effects on the ability of unauthorized men, women, and children to gain legal status. This Policy Brief examines requirements proposed in the five major legalization bills proposed by Congress since 2006. Analysis shows that language requirements, depending on how they are structured, could exclude the largest number of unauthorized immigrants, with between 3.3 million and 5.8 million unauthorized adults unable to pass the English language tests contemplated by two recent bills. Employment rules would exclude the next-largest share of unauthorized immigrants and would fall especially hard on women, who are less likely than unauthorized men to be in the workforce; followed by continuous presence requirements, which would exclude many children, who are likely to have lived in the country for less time than unauthorized adults. Download Report
Lessons From The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 By Betsy Cooper and Kevin O'Neil
The 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) was the first legislative attempt to comprehensively address the issue of unauthorized immigration. Although the concepts behind the legislation were sound, there were a number of problems with its design and implementation in each of its major goals: employer accountability, broader enforcement that prevented illegal entries, and legalization of a large population of unauthorized migrants. While the context of US immigration has changed since 1986, the incentives for immigration remain the same. Thus many lessons from IRCA remain relevant for policymakers today. Download Brief
Immigration and America's Future: A New Chapter Final report of the Independent Task Force co-chaired by Spencer Abraham and Lee H. Hamilton The bipartisan group of public policy experts, immigration stakeholders, and elected officials undertook careful analysis of the economic, social, and demographic factors driving today’s large-scale immigration. The Task Force has concluded that immigration is essential to US national interests and will become even more so in the years ahead. However, the system is outdated, overly complex, and inflexible; it no longer serves the nation’s needs. The Task Force recommends that the United States fundamentally rethink its policies and overhaul how it manages immigration to better harness the benefits and minimize the disadvantages of immigration.
Policies to Curb Unauthorized Employment By Madeleine Sumption
Illegal immigration is driven in large measure by illegal employment. Lower wages aren’t the only reasons why employers turn to unauthorized workers: Illegal hiring can also allow them to evade costly regulations and taxes and to have greater flexibility in working hours and employment length. This memo outlines the three major lines of attack policymakers can use to craft a coherent strategy to reduce illegal employment: Employer sanctions, realistic legal channels to admit needed workers, and domestic labor market reforms. Download Report
Reflections on Restoring Integrity to the United States Immigration System: A Personal Vision By Demetrios G. Papademetriou Independent Task Force on Immigration and America's Future Insight No. 5 September 2005 The author summarizes the lessons learned from implementing the Immigration and Control Act of 1986, including that: the robust and growing demand for work and family reunification visas must be incorporated into new policies; legalization should not be done halfway; reducing incentives for fraud should be a top policy goal; and migration must be managed in cooperation with neighboring countries.
Eight Policies to Boost the Economic Contribution of Employment-Based Immigration By Demetrios G. Papademetriou and Madeleine Sumption
Immigration can be a powerful tool for supporting a country’s economic growth and prosperity, but its success in accomplishing that objective depends on well-designed and carefully implemented immigration policies that deliberately and strategically facilitate immigration’s economic contribution. This policy memo, drawing on experiences from Asia, Europe, North America, and the Pacific region, presents eight strategies to create effective and efficient economic-stream immigration systems. Download Memo
Harnessing the Advantages of Immigration for a 21st-Century Economy By Demetrios G. Papademetriou, Doris Meissner, Marc R. Rosenblum, and Madeleine Sumption The US immigration system neither meets labor market needs efficiently nor minds the interests of US workers with particular success, and has yet to devise a way that uses immigration to promote US economic growth and competitiveness well. This paper proposes an institutional solution to address this systemic failure: Creating a permanent and independent body, situated within the executive branch, that is charged with recommending adjustments to immigration laws to the president and Congress: the Standing Commission on Labor Markets, Economic Competitiveness, and Immigration. The bipartisan panel would provide timely, evidence-based, and impartial analysis and recommendations to the president and Congress regarding employment-based immigration. Download Report | Press Release
Aligning Temporary Immigration Visas with US Labor Market Needs: The Case for Provisional Visas By Demetrios G. Papademetriou, Doris Meissner, Marc R. Rosenblum, and Madeleine Sumption Reform of a rigid employment-based visa system that is out of sync with the needs of employers, the US economy, US society, and immigrants alike must be part of effective comprehensive immigration reform legislation. In this report, MPI recommends creation of a new stream of visas known as provisional visas, which would bridge temporary and permanent admissions to the United States for work purposes in a predictable and transparent way. The authors make the case that the concept hits the sweet spot in balancing the two main goals of labor market immigration policy: It supports economic growth and competitiveness while protecting the wages and interests of US workers; and it facilitates the social and economic integration of immigrants. Download Report | Press Release
The Role of Immigration in Fostering Competitiveness in the United States By Demetrios G. Papademetriou and Madeleine Sumption Immigration is an indispensable piece of any strategy to boost economic growth and prosperity. The United States has a natural advantage in attracting the world’s most talented workers. But employment-based immigration makes up too small a proportion of overall US permanent immigration, and US policy is inflexible in the face of changing circumstances, including the growth of other skill-focused immigration programs across the developed world. This report examines effective strategies to ensure that immigration policy facilitates US economic growth, innovation, and competitiveness. Download Report
2011 ACS/Census Data on the Foreign Born by State
The MPI Data Hub presents state-by-state and national data on the immigrant population in the United States. Browse statistics on the foreign born in four fact sheets that spotlight the following population characteristics: demographic and social, language and education, workforce, and income and poverty.
Frequently Requested Statistics on Immigrants and Immigration in the United States The US immigrant population — estimated at 40.4 million in 2011 — is the nation's historical numeric high, and it is also the largest in the world. About 20 percent of all international migrants reside in the United States, even as the country accounts for less than 5 percent of the world's population. Find out more top statistics on immigrants and immigration in the United States in this article which presents the latest, most interesting data in one easy-to-use resource.
MPI has a number of experts versed in US immigration and immigrant integration policy. To arrange an interview, see the media contact below.
The final report of the Independent Task Force on Immigration and America’s Future, co-chaired by former Sen. Spencer Abraham (R-MI) and former Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-IN), offers a fact-based policy framework
to overhaul the outdated U.S. immigration system and align it to better reflect current realities. The blue-ribbon commission’s final report, Immigration and America’s Future: A New Chapter, details recommendations for policies that are needed both to harness the advantages of immigration in a new era and to minimize its inherent tensions.
The Migration Policy Institute is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit think tank in Washington, DC dedicated to analysis of the movement of people worldwide. MPI provides analysis, development, and evaluation of
migration and refugee policies at the local, national, and international levels.