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Doris Meissner
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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
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+1 202-266-1910
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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

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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.
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Commentaries
February 2021
By  Doris Meissner and Sarah Pierce
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Commentaries
June 2020
By  Sarah Pierce and Doris Meissner
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Commentaries
January 2019
By  Doris Meissner and Sarah Pierce
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Commentaries
November 2018
By  Doris Meissner
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Commentaries
June 2018
By  Jessica Bolter and Doris Meissner
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Commentaries
August 2017
By  Doris Meissner
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Commentaries
April 2014
By  Marc R. Rosenblum and Doris Meissner
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Video
September 10, 2009
A panel discussion exploring whether ICE is capable of meeting legal standards and manage its detention system with ICE's Dora Schriro, Detention Watch Network's Andrea Black, and MPI expert Donald Kerwin.
MI_EVerify_09
Video
July 20, 2009
This discussion focuses on E-Verify, the federal government's electronic employment verification system, and the release of an MPI report that assesses the program's strengths and weaknesses.
Video
June 24, 2009

This conference offers law and policy analysis and discussion on cutting-edge immigration issues.

Pages

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

Video, Audio
March 22, 2010

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Alejandro Mayorkas details his agenda for his agency and discusses top priorities for USCIS.

Video
January 25, 2010
For MPI's Leadership Visions Speakers Series, John Morton, DHS Assistant Secretary, candidly spoke about his pespective on ICE, its mission, and its future.
Articles

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.

Video
September 10, 2009
A panel discussion exploring whether ICE is capable of meeting legal standards and manage its detention system with ICE's Dora Schriro, Detention Watch Network's Andrea Black, and MPI expert Donald Kerwin.
Video
July 20, 2009
This discussion focuses on E-Verify, the federal government's electronic employment verification system, and the release of an MPI report that assesses the program's strengths and weaknesses.
Reports
July 2009

In order to rectify the shortcomings of a rigid and outdated U.S. visa system set in place by the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), this report recommends creating a new visa stream called provisional visas which would sync visa policies with the way in which labor markets work in practice, and bridge temporary and permanent employment-based admissions to the United States in a predictable and transparent way.

Reports
July 2009

This report provides an in-depth examination of the limitations of the existing E-Verify system. Alongside recommendations for strengthening E-Verify and mitigating its unintended consequences, the report offers proposals for three next-generation verification pilot concepts that would tap new technologies and practices to overcome the core weaknesses of the system.

Video
June 24, 2009

This conference offers law and policy analysis and discussion on cutting-edge immigration issues.

Pages