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Sarah Pierce
MPI Authors

Sarah Pierce

Sarah Pierce was a Policy Analyst for the U.S. Immigration Policy Program at the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), focusing on U.S. legal immigration processes and actors, the employment-based immigration system, and unaccompanied child migrants.

Prior to joining MPI, Ms. Pierce practiced immigration law with a Chicago-based law firm, practicing before the immigration court, Board of Immigration Appeals, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and U.S. consulate offices abroad. She also worked for and volunteered with a number of nonprofit organizations and government entities, including Human Rights Watch, the National Immigrant Justice Center, and the U.S. Department of Labor.

Ms. Pierce holds a master of arts in international affairs from the George Washington University, with a focus on migration and development. Her master’s research included travel to El Salvador and the United Arab Emirates, and work on remittances, outmigration policies, and the relationship between labor rights and remittances. She also holds a J.D. from the University of Iowa College of Law and a B.A. from Grinnell College.

Bio Page Tabs

unaccompanied children border cbp donna

The number of unaccompanied child migrants at the U.S. southern border has risen, presenting President Joe Biden with challenges similar to those faced by his predecessors in 2014 and 2019. This article examines the previous episodes and evaluates how Biden is mirroring or deviating from previous presidents' responses.

biden first 100 days immigration

The Biden administration has set the pace for what could be the most active first 100 days on immigration policy by any White House in recent memory—even that of predecessor Donald Trump. The efforts, which represent a dramatic break from the Trump administration's view of immigration as threat, are likely to meet stiff opposition on Capitol Hill and elsewhere. This article evaluates Biden's early actions and what they suggest about the White House's ambitions on immigration.

Trump Deportations Record Rhetoric

Before entering office, President Donald Trump promised to deport millions of unauthorized immigrants. Yet despite his general successes in creating a more restrictive and punitive immigration system, this goal has eluded his administration. So-called “sanctuary” policies implemented by state and local governments to limit their cooperation with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement have been a key reason why arrests and removals have not reached earlier peaks.

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A looming furlough of 70 percent of staff at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services could halt processing for tens of thousands of green cards, citizenship applications, and other immigrant benefits each month it is in effect. Alongside the long list of Trump administration policies slowing immigration to the United States before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, this could contribute to a precipitous—and likely historic—decline in new arrivals to the United States.

Source PB TrumpProclamation May2020 JoyceBoghosian WikiCommons

The U.S. in April became the first country to explicitly justify immigration curbs not on grounds of COVID-19, but to protect the jobs of U.S. workers at a time of skyrocketing unemployment. A Trump administration proclamation limiting green cards for new arrivals was greeted coolly by the president's base, with many expecting the White House would issue new limits for nonimmigrant workers—which could have a more significant impact.

TravellersCoronavirus_FlickrChadDavis

The global COVID-19 pandemic has brought into sharp focus the intersection of U.S. immigration and public health policy, and the unique challenges that immigrants face. This article analyzes the Trump administration’s introduction of some of the most stringent immigration restrictions in modern times, the often disparate fallout of the outbreak on immigrant communities, the status of federal immigration agency operations, and more.

PB Jan2020 F2

Forty-two governors, Republican and Democrat alike, have affirmed their consent for continued refugee resettlement, bypassing an invitation from the Trump administration to stop accepting refugees. These actions, which reportedly surprised the White House, suggest there may be limits to the Trump immigration agenda when it comes to refugees, as this Policy Beat explores.

ElPasomigrantkids

Approximately 11,500 unaccompanied children were apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border in May, putting this year on track to exceed 2014's surge. As the U.S. government struggles to care for these child migrants, with public outrage mounting over reports of unsafe, filthy conditions in initial Border Patrol custody, the failure of the executive branch and Congress to plan for increased shelter and care demands are increasingly apparent, as this article explores.

TrumpCBPofficer

Though it has achieved success in some areas, the Trump administration’s many efforts to stiffen immigration enforcement in the U.S. interior and at the Southwest border are being consistently stymied by court injunctions, existing laws and settlements, state and local resistance, congressional pushback, and migration pressures that are beyond the government’s ability to swiftly address, as this article explores.

EloyDetentionCenter

Though a faceoff between the U.S. executive and legislative branches is now in the courts, with President Trump's decision to declare a national emergency so he can allocate more money for construction of a border wall, a less-noted dispute has been taking place over the Department of Homeland Security's decision to add thousands more immigration detention beds than Congress provides annually, as this article explains.

InadmissibleProcessingSanYsidro

The Trump administration’s latest effort to narrow the ability to apply for asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border hit a legal roadblock within days of implementation, as has been the pattern for much of its immigration agenda. This article examines the actions on asylum, which alongside deployment of active-duty military to the border, are among measures taken to seek to reduce the flow of Central Americans to the United States.

JeffSessions2018

In less than two years as Attorney General, Jeff Sessions oversaw wide-reaching changes to the U.S. immigration system. Even as the zero-tolerance policy, fights with "sanctuary" cities, and DACA termination might be more visible, Sessions' enduring legacy may be his muscular use of a little-noted authority, which he wielded to significantly reshape immigration and asylum policy by referring immigration cases to himself.

PolicyBeat Flores 2018

As the Trump administration moves to be able to indefinitely detain parents and children intercepted at the U.S.-Mexico border, whether illegal border crossers or asylum seekers, recent apprehension trends and history suggest hardline policies might not be a slam-dunk deterrent with a Central American population often driven by the desire to escape gang or other violence, as this Policy Beat explores.

SCOTUSTravelBan TedEytan Flickr

Though the Supreme Court handed the Trump administration a major victory by upholding its much-contested travel ban, less noted has been the fact that the ruling left an opening for future challenges to the policy of barring groups of foreign nationals from the country. This Policy Beat explores the evolution of the travel ban, the justices' arguments for and against, and changes in visa grants from travel-ban countries.

NationalGuardBorder JonSoucy USArmy

Seizing on reports of a migrant “caravan” making its way northward through Mexico, President Donald Trump called for up to 4,000 National Guard troops to deploy to the Southern border. Although previous presidents took similar action in response to upticks in violence and apprehensions, the picture at the border today differs on several metrics. This article examines how the deployment compares to those under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

MarineCitizen SgtRandallAClinton Flickr

While much attention has focused on President Trump's efforts to crack down on illegal immigration, the administration has moved, via a much wider scope of actions, to reduce legal immigration to the United States. This article explores changes including slowed processing of family- and employment-based visas, dramatic cuts in refugee admissions, and heightened vetting and evidence requirements for would-be immigrants.

7Eleven KimDavies Flickr

An unannounced sweep of 98 convenience stores by U.S. immigration authorities—resulting in the arrest of 21 unauthorized workers—may signal a new approach to worksite enforcement under the Trump administration, moving away from a strategy of paper-based audits that resulted in higher employer fines and fewer worker arrests. This article explores worksite enforcement over recent decades.

Salvadoran family

The Trump administration’s announcement that it will end Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for nationals of Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan has brought unprecedented attention to the program and its future. Established in 1990, TPS offers work authorization and deportation relief to foreign nationals already in the United States unable to return to countries embroiled in conflict or the effects of a natural disaster. This Policy Beat explores past and current TPS designations and debates surrounding the program.

TrumpPhoenix2 GageSkidmore Flickr

The Trump administration has released a list of hardline immigration demands—including border wall funding, restrictions on federal grants to “sanctuary” cities, and cuts to legal immigration—in exchange for legislation protecting DREAMers. This article examines the prospects for these proposals and more broadly for a legislative fix to resolve the status of unauthorized immigrants brought to the United States as children.

TexasRally JoeWolf Flickr

A new hardline immigration law in Texas marks the resurgence of state-level restrictionist activism that had stalled in 2012 amid adverse federal court rulings. The Texas law, SB 4, is designed to end sanctuary policies in jurisdictions across the state, and closely mirrors aspects of Arizona's controversial 2010 law, SB 1070. This article explores the parallels and new state momentum to crack down on illegal immigration.

Sessions WHBriefing Mar2017 cropped

While Donald Trump often pledged as candidate to strip federal funding from jurisdictions—known as sanctuary cities—that do not fully cooperate with federal immigration enforcement, no direct action blocking funding has yet occurred. Still, strong statements from the President and Attorney General have spurred a flurry of responses by state and local governments, some adjusting their policies to cooperate fully, others setting limits.

WatchingCity ICE

Beyond representing first steps on key campaign promises, President Trump's executive orders on immigration mandate sweeping data collection and reporting in ways that seek to underscore societal and economic costs with no countervailing attention to positive effects from immigration. This article explores the news-making machinery embedded in the orders and how the reporting requirements might help further the administration's agenda.

NinthCircuit KenLund Flickr

The decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to halt President Trump's controversial executive order on immigration and refugee resettlement has strong legal parallels to an earlier injunction, which blocked a very different Obama administration initiative on immigration two years ago in a challenge mounted by Republican governors. The two cases have brought new focus to the limits of executive authority in the immigration arena.

Obama KellyKline Flickr

President Obama faced criticism over his administration's handling of immigration enforcement from both the left and the right, labeled "deporter in chief" even as he was also accused of lax enforcement. A closer examination of his administration's record paints a more nuanced picture. This article explores how immigration enforcement practices shifted to achieve two key goals over the course of the Obama era.

Trump GageSkidmore Flickr

With the incoming Trump administration pledging a crackdown on illegal immigration, construction of border walls, reductions in refugee and immigrant admissions, and greater screening of newcomers, U.S. immigration policy is likely to significant change. With Republicans holding the White House and both chambers of Congress at least through 2018, conditions may be favorable for a major transformation of the U.S. immigration system, as this Top 10 article explores.

TrumpPhoenix GageSkidmore Flickr

Donald Trump has made a series of postelection statements suggesting he may backtrack on several campaign pledges on immigration, including building a wall across the entire U.S.-Mexico border and deporting all 11 million unauthorized immigrants. Still, his choice of top advisors points to a hard-line agenda. This Policy Beat article examines what some of the better known elements of Trump's immigration policy might look like.

HaitiansRoad MarionDoss Flickr

In the wake of a hurricane that has once again devastated Haiti, the United States quickly reversed its toughened policy toward the thousands of Haitian nationals arriving at the California-Mexico border without prior authorization. This Policy Beat examines the shifts in U.S. admission and deportation policy toward Haitian migrants since the 2010 earthquake, and other national and state developments on immigration.

SyrianFamily MohamedAzakir WorldBank

With weeks to spare, the Obama administration met its goal of resettling 10,000 Syrian refugees by the end of September 2016, and announced plans to increase the overall refugee ceiling to 110,000 in fiscal 2017. However, opposition continues to mount in Congress, statehouses, and on the campaign trail, with Republicans citing security concerns in calling for lower numbers or additional screening, as this article explores.

TrumpRNC IdaMaeAstute ABC

The stark contrast between the Republican and Democratic parties on immigration was codified in their 2016 party platforms, and showcased in the rosters of convention speakers—featuring victims of unauthorized immigrant crimes on the one hand, and unauthorized immigrants living in fear on the other. This article explores the evidence, even compared to earlier platforms, of two divergent universes regarding immigration.

_Obama3

President Obama actively utilized the powers of the executive to reshape U.S. immigration policy in 2015. From signature deportation relief programs and changes to visa waiver eligibility to new grants of Temporary Protected Status and revised enforcement priorities, the administration made sweeping changes that touch all aspects of U.S. immigration policy. The actions prompted pushback, however, with 26 states suing to halt implementation of new deferred action programs.

Recent Activity

Articles

With weeks to spare, the Obama administration met its goal of resettling 10,000 Syrian refugees by the end of September 2016, and announced plans to increase the overall refugee ceiling to 110,000 in fiscal 2017. However, opposition continues to mount in Congress, statehouses, and on the campaign trail, with Republicans citing security concerns in calling for lower numbers or additional screening, as this article explores.

Articles

The stark contrast between the Republican and Democratic parties on immigration was codified in their 2016 party platforms, and showcased in the rosters of convention speakers—featuring victims of unauthorized immigrant crimes on the one hand, and unauthorized immigrants living in fear on the other. This article explores the evidence, even compared to earlier platforms, of two divergent universes regarding immigration.

Articles

President Obama actively utilized the powers of the executive to reshape U.S. immigration policy in 2015. From signature deportation relief programs and changes to visa waiver eligibility to new grants of Temporary Protected Status and revised enforcement priorities, the administration made sweeping changes that touch all aspects of U.S. immigration policy. The actions prompted pushback, however, with 26 states suing to halt implementation of new deferred action programs.

Video, Audio, Webinars
October 15, 2015

Marking the release of an MPI brief, this webinar examines data on where unaccompanied child migrants are being placed in the United States, how they are faring in immigration courts, what services are available to them, and how U.S. communities are adapting to their arrival.

Policy Briefs
October 2015

More than 77,000 unaccompanied minors from Central America were released to communities throughout the United States between October 1, 2013 and August 31, 2015. This issue brief examines where these children have been placed in the United States, how they are faring in the immigration court system, and how schools are adapting to their arrival.

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