E.g., 04/25/2019
E.g., 04/25/2019

Doris Meissner

Experts & Staff

Doris Meissner

Senior Fellow and Director, U.S. Immigration Policy Program

Contact via email

Doris Meissner, former Commissioner of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), is a Senior Fellow at MPI, where she directs the Institute’s U.S. immigration policy work.

Her responsibilities focus in particular on the role of immigration in America’s future and on administering the nation’s immigration laws, systems, and government agencies. Her work and expertise also include immigration and politics, immigration enforcement, border control, cooperation with other countries, and immigration and national security. She has authored and coauthored numerous reports, articles, and op-eds and is frequently quoted in the media. She served as Director of MPI's Independent Task Force on Immigration and America's Future, a bipartisan group of distinguished leaders. The group's report and recommendations address how to harness the advantages of immigration for a 21st century economy and society.

Media Requests
Michelle Mittelstadt
+1 202-266-1910
MMittelstadt@MigrationPolicy.Org

General Inquiries
+1 202-266-1941

From 1993-2000, she served in the Clinton administration as Commissioner of the INS, then a bureau in the U.S. Department of Justice. Her accomplishments included reforming the nation's asylum system; creating new strategies for managing U.S. borders; improving naturalization and other services for immigrants; shaping new responses to migration and humanitarian emergencies; strengthening cooperation and joint initiatives with Mexico, Canada, and other countries; and managing growth that doubled the agency’s personnel and tripled its budget.

She first joined the Justice Department in 1973 as a White House Fellow and Special Assistant to the Attorney General. She served in various senior policy posts until 1981, when she became Acting Commissioner of the INS and then Executive Associate Commissioner, the third-ranking post in the agency. In 1986, she joined the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace as a Senior Associate. Ms. Meissner created the Endowment's Immigration Policy Project, which evolved into the Migration Policy Institute in 2001.

Ms. Meissner is Vice Chair of the board of trustees of the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Inter-American Dialogue, the Pacific Council on International Diplomacy, the National Academy of Public Administration, the Administrative Conference of the United States, and the Constitution Society.

Bio Page Tabs

Reports
September 2018
By Doris Meissner, Faye Hipsman, and T. Alexander Aleinikoff
Advances in U.S.-Mexico Border Enforcement: A Review of the Consequence Delivery System
Reports
May 2017
By Randy Capps, Faye Hipsman, and Doris Meissner
Policy Briefs
April 2017
By Faye Hipsman and Doris Meissner
Policy Briefs
March 2017
By Sarah Pierce and Doris Meissner
Policy Briefs
February 2017
By Sarah Pierce and Doris Meissner
Reports
August 2015
By Faye Hipsman and Doris Meissner
Reports
April 2014
By Marc R. Rosenblum and Doris Meissner

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Immigration has contributed to many of the economic, social, and political processes that are foundational to the United States as a nation since the first newcomers arrived over 400 years ago. After brushes with immigration reform that began in 2001 and continued in 2006 and 2007, the United States seems to be on the threshold of overhauling the legal immigration system in the most substantive way since 1965. This article provides a comprehensive overview of major legislation and events affecting U.S. immigration throughout history, legal and illegal immigration flows, postrecession immigration trends, and more.
MPI's Muzaffar Chishti and Claire Bergeron report on the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) and the impact that law has had on past and present immigration policies.
Immigration to the United States continued steadily from the 1970s until the recent recession, which also diminished a sense of urgency to enact immigration reform legislation. MPI's Kristen McCabe and Doris Meissner provide a comprehensive look at major legislation and events affecting U.S. immigration, the size and attributes of the immigrant population, and policy changes under the Obama administration.
MPI Senior Fellow and former INS Commissioner Doris Meissner examines the challenges and opportunities, past and present, posed by temporary migrant labor programs.
Commentaries
January 2019
By Doris Meissner and Sarah Pierce
Commentaries
November 2018
By Doris Meissner
Commentaries
June 2018
By Jessica Bolter and Doris Meissner
Commentaries
August 2017
By Doris Meissner
Commentaries
April 2014
By Marc R. Rosenblum and Doris Meissner
Video, Audio
April 16, 2019

Over recent months, the number of Central American migrants apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border has surged, presenting a critical challenge in the relationship between the two neighboring countries. Experts from a Study Group on U.S.-Mexico Migration convened by El Colegio de México and MPI discuss current trends, policies, and politics surrounding migration from the Northern Triangle of Central America and the U.S.-Mexico relationship, ways to improve U.S. and Mexican asylum systems, possible new approaches to labor migration, ways to address smuggling networks, and modernize border management.

Video, Audio
October 1, 2018

At the 15th annual Immigration Law and Policy Conference, held in October 2018, leading experts and government officials discussed the role that immigration is playing in the mid-term elections; how the courts are handling key immigration questions; and recent changes in the U.S. asylum system, border and interior enforcement, and regulations surrounding legal immigration.   

Video, Audio
September 27, 2018

Speakers, including report authors, discuss the findings from an MPI report that analyzes the factors that have brought the U.S. asylum system to a crisis point.

Video, Audio
June 5, 2018

Marking the release of MPI President Andrew Selee's latest book, speakers explore emerging trends in migration, economic interdependence, technology innovation, and cultural exchange that are transforming the relationship between the United States and Mexi

Video, Audio
April 10, 2018

How does U.S. policy on family migration compare to that of other significant immigrant-receiving countries? MPI experts discuss the trends and policies for Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

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Testimony
April 2015
Testimony of Doris Meissner, Director of MPI's U.S. Immigration Policy Program, before the Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest regarding the Central American Minors Refugee/Parole Program that began in December 2014.
Testimony
March 2013

Testimony of Doris Meissner, Senior Fellow and Director, U.S. Immigration Policy Program, before the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, U.S. Senate.

Testimony
March 2011

Testimony of Doris Meissner, Director of MPI's U.S. Immigration Policy Program, before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Testimony
April 2010

Testimony of Doris Meissner, Director of MPI's U.S. Immigration Policy Program, before the Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security, and Citizenship, at its hearing: "Comprehensive Immigration Reform in 2009, Can We Do It and How?" 

Testimony
March 2005

Testimony of MPI's Director of U.S. Immigration Policy Doris Meissner before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Citizenship and US Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology, and Homeland Security.

Testimony
January 2004

Testimony of MPI Director of U.S. Immigration Policy Doris Meissner, before the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (9/11 Commission).

Recent Activity

Commentaries
April 2019

Closing the U.S.-Mexico border and cutting off aid to Central America would only feed the crisis unfolding at key points along the U.S.-Mexico border. This commentary outlines a range of immediate and long-term policy responses that would more effectively address the complex mix of factors fueling rising Central American migration to the United States.

Commentaries
January 2019

What President Trump calls a border crisis is in fact a crisis in the asylum system—one worsened at every turn by his administration’s harsh policies and rhetoric. Rather than spend $5.7 billion on a wall, it would be far more effective to use the money to retool an overwhelmed asylum system, adapt outmatched border enforcement infrastructure to respond to the changing composition of arrivals, and work cooperatively with Mexico to tackle the factors propelling Central Americans to flee.

Commentaries
November 2018

Asylum reform, not the "shock-and-awe" deployment of thousands of troops to the U.S.-Mexico border to deal with the migrant caravan, represents the real path to addressing the current realities of mixed economic and humanitarian migration flows, as the person who presided over the last reform of the U.S. asylum system in the mid-1990s explains in this commentary.

Reports
September 2018

The United States has a long tradition of providing asylum to those in need. But in recent years, case backlogs have grown and many asylum seekers now wait years for a decision. This report examines the factors that have brought the U.S. asylum system to this crisis point and proposes common-sense steps that can be taken to restore timeliness and fairness, while deterring abuses.

Commentaries
June 2018

Monthly apprehension statistics at the Southwest border have become a preoccupation for the Trump administration, which compares the 2018 numbers to 2017 and declares a crisis. Yet it was 2017, when the "Trump effect" temporarily paused illegal crossings, that was the outlier. Recent trends have reverted to the pattern seen in 2016, a result notable at a time of very low U.S. unemployment, as this commentary explores.

Commentaries
August 2017

In this personal tribute, MPI Senior Fellow Doris Meissner honors Juan Osuna, who died in August 2017 after his recent retirement as Director of the Executive Office for Immigration Review, the nation's immigration court system. "As we at MPI ... contemplate work without his store of knowledge and fundamental human decency readily at hand, we mourn that his was a life cut too short, just as we honor him for a life well lived."

Reports
May 2017

In its first systematic attempt to track the effectiveness of different removal and enforcement strategies that migrants face after being apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border, the Border Patrol in fiscal 2011 launched the Consequence Delivery System (CDS). This report examines the strengths and limitations of CDS, and finds that as stricter measures have been implemented, attempted re-entries have fallen.

Policy Briefs
April 2017

On January 25, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order laying out a series of border enforcement mandates, including constructing a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and expanding the use of expedited removal. This brief summarizes and analyzes key provisions of the executive order and accompanying Department of Homeland Security implementation guidance, comparing them to earlier policy and practice.

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