E.g., 10/15/2018
E.g., 10/15/2018

Sarah Pierce

Experts & Staff

Sarah Pierce

Policy Analyst

Sarah Pierce is a Policy Analyst for the U.S. Immigration Policy Program at the Migration Policy Institute (MPI). Her research expertise includes 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. Her common areas of practice included family- and employment-based immigration, such as nonimmigrant visas; waivers of inadmissibility; and employment-based permanent residency petitions. Ms. Pierce has 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

Reports
July 2018
By Sarah Pierce, Jessica Bolter, and Andrew Selee
Policy Briefs
March 2018
By Sarah Pierce and Julia Gelatt
Reports
January 2018
By Sarah Pierce, Jessica Bolter, and Andrew Selee
Policy Briefs
December 2017
By Sarah Pierce and Andrew Selee
Fact Sheets
October 2017
By Jeanne Batalova, Ariel G. Ruiz Soto, Sarah Pierce, and Randy Capps
The First 100 Days: Summary of Major Immigration Actions  Taken by the Trump Administration
Fact Sheets
April 2017
By Sela Cowger, Jessica Bolter, and Sarah Pierce
Policy Briefs
March 2017
By Sarah Pierce and Doris Meissner
Policy Briefs
February 2017
By Sarah Pierce and Randy Capps

Pages

Video, Audio
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.

Image of families belong together event banner in Houston

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.

Travel ban protest at the Supreme Court

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.

Troops at the border

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.

Marine naturalization

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.

7-Eleven in Los Angeles

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.

Trump at a rally in Phoenix.

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.

Protesters demonstrate against immigration proposals outside the Texas State Capitol.

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.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions in the White House briefing room.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

Online Journal

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.

Reports
July 2018

President Trump has made reshaping the U.S. immigration system a top priority. Yet the fragmented nature of policy-making in the United States—with power split between branches and levels of government—has made it difficult to pursue some of his most ambitious proposals. This report explores the evolution of migration policy under Trump, and what these changes may mean in the long run.

Online Journal

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.

Commentary
June 2018

Even as some pundits assess President Trump's temporary end to family separation as a defeat, the deeper reality is being lost: The administration’s plan to detain all asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border, including families, is now on its way to completion. The “catch-and-release” that Donald Trump rails against is, at least in part, effectively over for now, though the price tag is a long way from being tallied, as this commentary explains.

Commentary
June 2018

The House is set to vote on two bills that would largely dismantle the U.S. asylum system at the southern border by significantly narrowing grounds to apply for asylum, eliminating protections for the vast majority of unaccompanied minors, and unilaterally declaring Mexico a safe third country. The result would be a sharp reduction in the number of people permitted to seek humanitarian protection, as this commentary explains.

Online Journal

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.

Policy Briefs
March 2018

Though much attention focuses on the 85,000 temporary high-skilled visas issued each April through a computer-generated lottery, in reality far more H-1B visas are awarded outside the cap. This brief takes stock of changing trends in the program, finding that the largest H-1B dependent employers pay less and hire fewer foreign workers with advanced degrees than other top users that rely less on the temporary visa.

Online Journal

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.

Pages