E.g., 03/04/2024
E.g., 03/04/2024
U.S. Immigration Policy Program

U.S. Immigration Policy Program

A man in a high-visibility jacket and gloves at work
Aaron Sussell/U.S. Department of Labor

U.S. employment-based visa policies, last updated in 1990, are not aligned with the country’s current and future labor market needs. This policy brief outlines MPI’s proposal for a new visa pathway that could help the United States better leverage immigration to meet its labor market needs, boost protections for both U.S.- and foreign-born workers, and flexibly adapt to future economic and demographic changes.

Inadmissible migrants, some seeking asylum, are processed by CBP officers
Mani Albrecht/CBP

The U.S. humanitarian protection system, known for its long history of assisting those in need, has come under incredible pressure in recent years. The asylum adjudications system, which is under-resourced, is struggling to keep up with record asylum seeker arrivals at the U.S.-Mexico border. This report examines the state of the asylum system, including changes under the Biden administration and potential lessons for other countries.

 A young nurse hugs an elderly patient in a wheelchair
iStock.com/PeopleImages

Immigrants’ eligibility for public benefits in the United States is governed by a complex patchwork of rules that make many groups of noncitizens eligible for some benefits but not others, while other noncitizens are excluded completely. This report provides an overview of immigrants’ eligibility for programs related to general assistance, health and nutrition, employment and income, education, housing, driver’s licenses, and more.

U.S.-Mexico border fence with Tijuana on the left
Josh Denmark/CBP

Unauthorized migration at the U.S.-Mexico border has been a high-profile and politically divisive issue for decades. But as the nature of migration at the border has changed profoundly, U.S. policy responses have struggled to keep up. This report explores the changing nature of migration flows and migration policy at the border from the early 1990s until today, highlighting key lessons for contemporary policy-making.

CBP officers screen border crossers at the San Ysidro Port of Entry
Jerry Glaser/CBP

All eyes are on the U.S.-Mexico border, where shifting migration trends and record migrant arrivals have stretched the U.S. border management system beyond its capabilities. As the Biden administration continues to implement its new regime of incentives for orderly arrivals and disincentives for unauthorized crossings, this report analyzes the rapidly changing policy and migration realities and outlines recommendations for a more effective, durable system of border control.

Aerial photo of the U.S. Capitol
Architect of the Capitol

The $13.6 billion border emergency supplemental spending bill the Biden administration is seeking lays out the elements for resourcing immigration functions to full capacity across the entire border enforcement system. Without resourcing the system across all its parts, including adjudications and management, no administration, present or future, will be able to effectively manage spontaneous border arrivals, this commentary argues.

Recent Activity

The U.S. Supreme Court.
Articles
A flag hangs at the vice president's residence at the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, DC.
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CBP agents process asylum seeker at El Paso, Texas port of entry
Commentaries
March 2023
By  Doris Meissner
Cover image for SNAP Access and Participation brief
Policy Briefs
March 2023
By  Valerie Lacarte, Lillie Hinkle and Briana L. Broberg
President Joe Biden in the White House.
Articles
Asylum seekers from Venezuela in Texas.
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President Joe Biden at the U.S.-Mexico border.
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A mariachi band performing in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Mexicans are by far the largest immigrant group in the United States, accounting for nearly one-fourth of all immigrants. However their numbers have been declining and in 2021 there were 1 million fewer than a decade ago. At the same time, despite years in which more new migrants came from China and India, Mexicans once again count as the largest group of new arrivals. This article outlines the changing shape and composition of this immigrant population.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott speaks before a briefing on border security.

Operations by Texas, Florida, and Arizona to bus or fly asylum seekers and other migrants to Washington, DC, Martha's Vineyard, and other cities have succeeded in drawing attention to the unprecedented pace of U.S.-Mexico border arrivals. Described by some as political pawns, many migrants say the trips have upsides. Consequences aside, the transport of migrants by Republican governors raises the question whether a new era has begun: state-on-state fights over immigration.

A tourist takes a selfie in New York City.

COVID-19 and restrictive policies from the Trump administration led to the most dramatic slowdown of temporary immigration to the United States in years, as fewer tourists, temporary workers, and international students arrived. This article reviews the trends in issuance of nonimmigrant visas and arrivals of temporary visitors, including the numbers issued annually over the past five years and the top countries of origin.

 Close-up image of passport with third gender X marker

In 2022, the United States joined a growing list of countries that allow for a third gender option (the “X” marker) in passports. This article examines the introduction of the X marker, the impacts of third gender markers for transgender and nonbinary travelers and migrants as well as border management systems, and the evolving policy landscape ahead.

Image of band playing music at a concert in Athens, GA.

Persistent economic turmoil and civil and political insecurity have been drivers of emigration from Brazil, including to the United States. Although the number of Brazilian immigrants in the United States has been on the rise since the 1980s, the magnitude of these flows has made the past decade unique. Read a useful profile of Brazilians immigrants, including U.S. destinations, modes of entry, and educational and work characteristics.

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Video, Audio
August 26, 2020

This conversation, featuring a former U.S. Census Bureau director and other top experts, examines how the many challenges facing the 2020 Census could affect the count and representation of immigrant communities, the difficulties inherent in data matching to determine legal status, and the legal and constitutional issues surrounding the administration’s actions.

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Video, Audio
July 16, 2020

Marking the launch of a report on changed USCIS procedures that appear to be adding hurdles to the citizenship process, this discussion featuring a former USCIS Director also examines the effects that the pandemic-related shutdown and a possible furlough of two-thirds of USCIS staff could have on the ability of would-be Americans to take the oath of citizenship.

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Video, Audio
June 8, 2020

Amid rising Central American migration to the United States, the U.S. and Mexican governments in June 2019 signed a joint declaration pledging to work together to manage and reduce irregular migration. At the agreement’s one-year anniversary, MPI researchers engaged in discussion with former U.S. and Mexican Ambassadors and a veteran journalist about the changes sparked. 

Andrew Selee, Veronica Escobar, Dan Crenshaw, Duncan Wood
Video
April 22, 2020

In this bipartisan discussion, two border-state members of Congress—Rep. Veronica Escobar and Rep. Dan Crenshaw—discuss the response to the coronavirus outbreak, how it is affecting the interconnected border region, and what the future might hold.
 

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Audio
April 8, 2020

MPI and MPI Europe experts discuss the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on asylum systems in Europe and North America, as well as in developing regions, where 85 percent of refugees live. During this freeform conversation, our analysts also assess the implications for the principle of asylum and the future for a post-World War II humanitarian protection system that is under threat.

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Recent Activity

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Virtually all major U.S. immigration policy reforms have faced lawsuits in recent years, giving federal judges wide latitude to shape national policy. The situation, which began during the Obama administration and has escalated, is a byproduct of congressional inaction and the emergence of immigration as a political wedge issue. This article tracks the trend, which has added new volatility to the immigration system, and places it in context.

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Want to check a fact about U.S. immigration? Interested in putting recent trends into perspective? This article compiles authoritative, up-to-date information about the U.S. immigrant population and how it has changed over time. Data cover immigrants' demographic, educational, and linguistic characteristics; their top states of residence; enforcement activities; refugees and asylum seekers; naturalization trends; visa backlogs; and more.

Commentaries
March 2023

The border asylum proposed rule the Biden administration unveiled in February represents a bid to save the U.S. asylum system, not shut it down, as some contend. Whether it can succeed, however, depends on how it is implemented and on other steps that are beyond the bounds of the proposed rule, as this commentary explains.

Policy Briefs
March 2023

The U.S. government created the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps, to combat food insecurity. Under federal law, many lawfully present noncitizens in poor households are ineligible. This issue brief examines the size and characteristics of the population of immigrants with incomes low enough to qualify for SNAP and their eligibility for and participation in the program, at U.S. and state levels.  

Articles

Pandemic-related U.S. policies have led to more than 2.6 million migrant expulsions at the U.S.-Mexico border, expanded public benefits to cover millions more U.S. residents, and offered free COVID-19 vaccines and treatment. Many of these policies are now likely to end as the Biden administration in May 2023 formally declares the pandemic to be over, although what comes next remains unclear.

Policy Briefs
February 2023

Inefficiencies in the U.S. immigration system and case backlogs are preventing individuals eligible for immigration to the United States from filling some of the millions of job vacancies. This policy brief outlines executive actions that could facilitate the migration of needed workers, retain immigrants already in the U.S. workforce, and ease challenges experienced by U.S. employers and their foreign-born workers.

Articles

Venezuelans comprise one of the fastest-growing immigrant groups in the United States, nearly tripling in size from 2010 to 2021. Much of this migration has been fueled by crisis in Venezuela, where political unrest and economic strife have caused millions to flee since 2015, most remaining in Latin America. Venezuelan immigrants are far more likely than the overall foreign- and U.S.-born populations to have a college degree. Take an in-depth look at this immigrant population.

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At his term's midpoint, President Joe Biden has relied on executive action to advance his immigration agenda more than his predecessors, including Donald Trump. Yet many of the changes to interior enforcement, humanitarian protection, and other areas have been overshadowed by the record pace of arrivals at the U.S.-Mexico border, which has presented the administration with major policy and operational challenges.

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