E.g., 09/23/2023
E.g., 09/23/2023
Trade-Offs in Immigration Enforcement

Unauthorized migrants—those without a legal right of residence—live in all modern industrialized countries. Beyond their responsibility to respond to the challenges of fast-paced, diverse migration patterns, it is vital that public and private sector institutions address the harms associated with illegal or unauthorized migration. Policymakers face significant constraints in addressing this population, including insufficient financial and human resources, and legal frameworks that protect individuals regardless of their residence status.

This report, part of a Transatlantic Council on Migration series focused on migration "bad actors," argues that a successful migration enforcement regime is best defined as one that does limited (or zero) harm to a country’s institutions of governance and to citizens’ livelihoods, while fortifying public trust that the government is running an efficient and effective system. 

The report concludes that policymakers have two main policy options: to offer legal residence to unauthorized immigrants, or to identify them and seek to return or deport them to their country of origin. Yet return remains an incomplete policy option. Despite political and public distaste for the policy, regularization remains a frequently employed tool. The authors suggest that one of the key elements of success in this field may well be the recognition that success is not solely an enforcement approach, but one which takes the broad range of policy tools (including regularization) into account.

Table of Contents 

I. Introduction

II. The Reality of Return Policy

A. How to Prioritize Resources

B. Challenges in Implementing Return Policies

C. Considering Regularization as a Policy Tool

III. Conclusion: Measuring Success