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  • Author: Bill Frelick
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal on Migration and Human Security
  • Institution: Center for Migration Studies of New York
  • Abstract: Temporary Protected Status (TPS) became part of the US protection regime in 1990 to expand protection beyond what had been available under the US Refugee Act of 1980, which had limited asylum to those who met the refugee definition from the United Nations’ 1951 Refugee Convention. The TPS statute authorized the attorney general to designate foreign countries for TPS based on armed conflict, environmental disasters, and other extraordinary and temporary conditions that prevent designated nationals from returning in safety. While providing blanket protection that very likely has saved lives, TPS has nonetheless proven to be a blunt instrument that has frustrated advocates on both sides of the larger immigration debate. This article evaluates the purpose and effectiveness of the TPS statute and identifies inadequacies in the TPS regime and related protection gaps in the US asylum system. It argues that TPS has not proven to be an effective mechanism for the United States to protect foreigners from generalized conditions of danger in their home countries. It calls for changing the US protection regime to make it more responsive to the risks many asylum seekers actually face by creating a broader “complementary protection” standard and a more effective procedure for assessing individual protection claims, while reserving “temporary protection” for rare situations of mass influx that overwhelm the government’s capacity to process individual asylum claims. The article looks at alternative models for complementary protection from other jurisdictions, and shows how the US asylum and TPS system (in contrast to most other jurisdictions) fails to provide a mechanism for protecting arriving asylum seekers who do not qualify as refugees but who nevertheless would be at real risk of serious harm based on cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment or because of situations of violence or other exceptional circumstances, including natural or human-made disasters or other serious events that disturb public order, that would threaten their lives or personal security. The article proposes that the United States adopt an individualized complementary protection standard for arriving asylum seekers who are not able to meet the 1951 Refugee Convention standard but who would face a serious threat to life or physical integrity if returned because of a real risk of (1) cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; (2) violence; or (3) exceptional situations, for which there is no adequate domestic remedy.
  • Topic: Immigration, Border Control, Citizenship, Domestic Policy
  • Political Geography: United States, Central America, North America
  • Author: Donald Kerwin, Robert Warren
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal on Migration and Human Security
  • Institution: Center for Migration Studies of New York
  • Abstract: The US Department of State (DOS) reports that as of November 2018, nearly 3.7 million persons had been found by US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to have a close family relationship to a US citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR) that qualified them for a visa, but were on “the waiting list in the various numerically-limited immigrant categories” (DOS 2018). These backlogs in family-based “preference” (numerically capped) categories represent one of the most egregious examples of the dysfunction of the US immigration system. They consign family members of US citizens and LPRs that potentially qualify for a visa and that avail themselves of US legal procedures to years of insecurity, frustration, and (often) separation from their families. Often criticized in the public sphere for jumping the visa queue, it would be more accurate to say that this population, in large part, comprises the queue. While they wait for their visa priority date to become current, those without immigration status are subject to removal. In addition, most cannot adjust to LPR status in the United States, but must leave the country for consular processing and, when they do, face three- or 10-year bars on readmission, depending on the duration of their unlawful presence in the United States. This population will also be negatively affected by the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) proposed rule to expand the public charge ground of inadmissibility (Kerwin, Warren, and Nicholson 2018). In addition, persons languishing in backlogs enjoy few prospects in the short term for executive or legislative relief, given political gridlock over immigration reform and the Trump administration’s support for reduced family-based immigration. In this paper, the Center for Migration Studies (CMS) offers estimates and a profile based on 2017 American Community Survey (ACS) data of a strongly correlated population to the 3.7 million persons in family-based visa backlogs: i.e., the 1.55 million US residents potentially eligible for a visa in a family-based preference category based on a qualifying relationship to a household member. CMS data represents only part of the population in family-based backlogs. In particular, it captures only a small percentage of the 4th preference, brothers and sisters of US citizens.[1] However, everybody in CMS’s data could be petitioned for, if they have not been already. Among this population’s ties and contributions to the United States, the paper finds that: Fifty-nine percent has lived in the United States for 10 years or more, including 23 percent for at least 20 years. Nearly one million US-born children under age 21 live in these households, as well as 111,600 US-born adults (aged 21 and over) who have undocumented parents. 449,500 arrived in the United States at age 15 or younger. 139,100 qualify for the DREAM Act based their age at entry, continuous residence, and graduation from high school or receipt of a GED. Seventy-two percent aged 16 and older are in the labor force, and more than two-thirds (68 percent) are employed; these rates exceed those of the overall US population. Two-thirds of those aged 18 or older have at least a high school diploma or its equivalent, including 25 percent with a bachelor’s degree or higher, and 295,100 aged three and older are enrolled in school. The median income of their households is $63,000, slightly above the US median. More than two-thirds (68 percent) have health insurance, including 51 percent with private health insurance. Nearly one-third (32 percent) live in mortgaged homes, and 12 percent in homes owned free and clear. The paper provides several recommendations to reduce family-based backlogs. In particular, it proposes that Congress pass and the President sign into law legislation to legalize intending family-based immigrants who have been mired in backlogs for two years or more. In addition, this legislation should define the spouses and minor unmarried children of LPRs as immediate relatives (not subject to numerical limits), not count the derivative family members of the principal beneficiary against per country and annual quotas, and raise per country caps. The administration should also re-use the visas of legal immigrants who emigrate each year, particularly those who formally abandon LPR status. This practice would reduce backlogs without increasing visa numbers. Congress should also pass legislation to advance the entry date for eligibility for “registry,” an existing feature of US immigration law designed to legalize long-term residents. In particular, the legislation should move forward the registry cutoff date on an automatic basis to provide a pathway to status for noncitizens who have lived continuously in the United States for at least 15 years, have good moral character, and are not inadmissible on security and other grounds. In fact, Congress advanced the registry date on a regular basis during most of the 20th century, but has not updated this date, which now stands at January 1, 1972, for 33 years.
  • Topic: Migration, Immigration, Border Control, Domestic politics
  • Political Geography: United States, Central America, North America
  • Author: Rebecca Galemba, Katie Dingeman, Kaelyn DeVries, Yvette Servin
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal on Migration and Human Security
  • Institution: Center for Migration Studies of New York
  • Abstract: Anti-immigrant rhetoric and constricting avenues for asylum in the United States, amid continuing high rates of poverty, environmental crisis, and violence in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, have led many migrants from these countries to remain in Mexico. Yet despite opportunities for humanitarian relief in Mexico, since the early 2000s the Mexican government, under growing pressure from the United States, has pursued enforcement-first initiatives to stem northward migration from Central America. In July 2014, Mexico introduced the Southern Border Program (SBP) with support from the United States. The SBP dramatically expanded Mexico’s immigration enforcement efforts, especially in its southern border states, leading to rising deportations. Far from reducing migration or migrant smuggling, these policies have trapped migrants for longer in Mexico, made them increasingly susceptible to crimes by a wide range of state and nonstate actors, and exacerbated risk along the entire migrant trail. In recognition of rising crimes against migrants and heeding calls from civil society to protect migrant rights, Mexico’s 2011 revision to its Migration Law expanded legal avenues for granting humanitarian protection to migrants who are victims of crimes in Mexico, including the provision of a one-year humanitarian visa so that migrants can collaborate with the prosecutor’s office in the investigation of crimes committed against them. The new humanitarian visa laws were a significant achievement and represent a victory by civil society keen on protecting migrants as they travel through Mexico. The wider atmosphere of impunity, however, alongside the Mexican government’s prioritization of detaining and deporting migrants, facilitates abuses, obscures transparent accounting of crimes, and limits access to justice. In practice, the laws are not achieving their intended outcomes. They also fail to recognize how Mexico’s securitized migration policies subject migrants to risk throughout their journeys, including at border checkpoints between Guatemala and Honduras, along critical transit corridors in Guatemala, and on the Guatemalan side of Mexico’s southern border. In this article, we examine a novel set of data from migrant shelters — 16 qualitative interviews with migrants and nine with staff and advocates in the Mexico–Guatemala border region, as well as 118 complaints of abuses committed along migrants’ journeys — informally filed by migrants at a shelter on the Guatemalan side of the border, and an additional eight complaints filed at a shelter on the Mexican side of the border. We document and analyze the nature, location, and perpetrators of these alleged abuses, using a framework of “compassionate repression” (Fassin 2012) to examine the obstacles that migrants encounter in denouncing abuses and seeking protection. We contend that while humanitarian visas can provide necessary protection for abuses committed in Mexico, they are limited by their temporary nature, by being nested within a migration system that prioritizes migrant removal, and because they recognize only crimes that occur in Mexico. The paradox between humanitarian concerns and repressive migration governance in a context of high impunity shapes institutional and practical obstacles to reporting crimes, receiving visas, and accessing justice. In this context, a variety of actors recognize that they can exploit and profit from migrants’ lack of mobility, legal vulnerability, and uncertain access to protection, leading to a commodification of access to humanitarian protection along the route.
  • Topic: Migration, Immigration, Border Control, Violence, Humanitarian Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States, Central America, North America, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador
  • Author: Partisia Macias-Rojas
  • Publication Date: 01-2018
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal on Migration and Human Security
  • Institution: Center for Migration Studies of New York
  • Abstract: The 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) was a momentous law that recast undocumented immigration as a crime and fused immigration enforcement with crime control (García Hernández 2016; Lind 2016). Among its most controversial provisions, the law expanded the crimes, broadly defined, for which immigrants could be deported and legal permanent residency status revoked. The law instituted fast-track deportations and mandatory detention for immigrants with convictions. It restricted access to relief from deportation. It constrained the review of immigration court decisions and imposed barriers for filing class action lawsuits against the former US Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). It provided for the development of biometric technologies to track “criminal aliens” and authorized the former INS to deputize state and local police and sheriff’s departments to enforce immigration law (Guttentag 1997a; Migration News 1997a, 1997b, 1997c; Taylor 1997). In short, it put into law many of the punitive provisions associated with the criminalization of migration today. Legal scholars have documented the critical role that IIRIRA played in fundamentally transforming immigration enforcement, laying the groundwork for an emerging field of “crimmigration” (Morris 1997; Morawetz 1998, 2000; Kanstroom 2000; Miller 2003; Welch 2003; Stumpf 2006). These studies challenged the law’s deportation and mandatory detention provisions, as well as its constraints on judicial review. And they exposed the law’s widespread consequences, namely the deportations that ensued and the disproportionate impact of IIRIRA’s enforcement measures on immigrants with longstanding ties to the United States (ABA 2004). Less is known about what drove IIRIRA’s criminal provisions or how immigration came to be viewed through a lens of criminality in the first place. Scholars have mostly looked within the immigration policy arena for answers, focusing on immigration reform and the “new nativism” that peaked in the early nineties (Perea 1997; Jacobson 2008).Some studies have focused on interest group competition, particularly immigration restrictionists’ prohibitions on welfare benefits, while others have examined constructions of immigrants as a social threat (Chavez 2001; Nevins 2002, 2010; Newton 2008; Tichenor 2009; Bosworth and Kaufman 2011; Zatz and Rodriguez 2015). Surprisingly few studies have stepped outside the immigration policy arena to examine the role of crime politics and the policies of mass incarceration. Of these, scholars suggest that IIRIRA’s most punitive provisions stem from a “new penology” in the criminal justice system, characterized by discourses and practices designed to predict dangerousness and to manage risk (Feeley and Simon 1992; Miller 2003; Stumpf 2006; Welch 2012). Yet historical connections between the punitive turn in the criminal justice and immigration systems have yet to be disentangled and laid bare. Certainly, nativist fears about unauthorized migration, national security, and demographic change were important factors shaping IIRIRA’s criminal provisions, but this article argues that the crime politics advanced by the Republican Party (or the “Grand Old Party,” GOP) and the Democratic Party also played an undeniable and understudied role. The first part of the analysis examines policies of mass incarceration and the crime politics of the GOP under the Reagan administration. The second half focuses on the crime politics of the Democratic Party that recast undocumented migration as a crime and culminated in passage of IIRIRA under the Clinton administration. IIRIRA’s criminal provisions continue to shape debates on the relationship between immigration and crime, the crimes that should provide grounds for expulsion from the United States, and the use of detention in deportation proceedings for those with criminal convictions. This essay considers the ways in which the War on Crime — specifically the failed mass incarceration policies — reshaped the immigration debate. It sheds light on the under-studied role that crime politics of the GOP and the Democratic Party played in shaping IIRIRA — specifically its criminal provisions, which linked unauthorized migration with criminality, and fundamentally restructured immigration enforcement and infused it with the resources necessary to track, detain, and deport broad categories of immigrants, not just those with convictions.
  • Topic: Immigration, Border Control, Domestic politics, Deportation
  • Political Geography: United States, Central America, North America
  • Author: Karen Pren, Nadia Flores-Yeffal
  • Publication Date: 01-2018
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal on Migration and Human Security
  • Institution: Center for Migration Studies of New York
  • Abstract: Although Salvadoran emigration to the United States is one of the most important migratory flows emanating from Latin America, there is insufficient information about the predictors of first unauthorized migration from El Salvador to the United States. In this study, we use data from the Latin American Migration Project–El Salvador (LAMP-ELS4) to perform an event history analysis to discern the factors that influenced the likelihood that a Salvadoran household head would take a first unauthorized trip to the United States between 1965 and 2007. We take into account a series of demographic, social capital, human capital, and physical capital characteristics of the Salvadoran household head; demographic and social context variables in the place of origin; as well as economic and border security factors at the place of destination. Our findings suggest that an increase in the Salvadoran civil violence index and a personal economic crisis increased the likelihood of first-time unauthorized migration. Salvadorans who were less likely to take a first unauthorized trip were business owners, those employed in skilled occupations, and persons with more years of experience in the labor force. Contextual variables in the United States, such as a high unemployment rate and an increase in the Border Patrol budget, deterred the decision to take a first unauthorized trip. Finally, social capital had no effect on the decision to migrate; this means that for unauthorized Salvadoran migrants, having contacts in the United States is not the main driver to start a migration journey to the United States. We suggest as policy recommendations that the United States should award Salvadorans more work-related visas or asylum protection. For those Salvadorans whose Temporary Protected Status (TPS) has ended, the United States should allow them to apply for permanent residency. The decision not to continue to extend TPS to Salvadorans will only increase the number of unauthorized immigrants in the United States. The United States needs to revise its current immigration policies, which make it a very difficult and/or extremely lengthy process for Salvadorans and other immigrants to regularize their current immigration status in the United States. Furthermore, because of our research findings, we recommend that the Salvadoran government — to discourage out-migration — invest in high-skilled job training and also offer training and credit opportunities to its population to encourage business ventures.
  • Topic: Migration, Immigration, Violence, Humanitarian Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States, Central America, North America, El Salvador
  • Author: Jeanne M. Atkinson, Tom Wong
  • Publication Date: 01-2018
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal on Migration and Human Security
  • Institution: Center for Migration Studies of New York
  • Abstract: This article presents the results of a study that finds that as many as two million unauthorized immigrants in the United States could have a path to permanent legal status. However, these immigrants may not know that they are eligible for legal status, much less be able to afford the costs or take the necessary steps to obtain it. The two million figure is drawn from an analysis of screening data from 4,070 unauthorized immigrants from 12 states. The study highlights the profound impact that a national project to screen for legal status would have on the entire US population, including eligible immigrants, their family members, and the country at large. The need for legal screening has become particularly acute in light of the Trump administration’s focus on apprehension and deportation of unauthorized immigrants without regard to their length of residence in the United States, family relationships to US citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPRs), or other positive factors. The proposed termination of benefits for many Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)1 recipients would add more than one million individuals — approximately 325,000 (Warren and Kerwin 2017), and 700,000 (Krogstad 2017) people, respectively — to the pool of unauthorized immigrants.
  • Topic: Immigration, Border Control, Citizenship
  • Political Geography: United States, Central America, North America
  • Author: Jane Lily López
  • Publication Date: 01-2017
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal on Migration and Human Security
  • Institution: Center for Migration Studies of New York
  • Abstract: With passage of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA), the goal of discouraging illegal immigration and the legal immigration of the poor triumphed over the longstanding goal of family unity in US immigration policy. This shift resulted in policy changes that prevent some mixed-citizenship families from accessing family reunification benefits for the immigrant relatives of US citizens. Two specific elements of IIRIRA — (1) the three- and 10-year bars to reentry, and (2) the minimum income thresholds for citizen sponsors of immigrants — have created a hierarchy of mixed-citizenship families, enabling some to access all the citizenship benefits of family preservation and reunification, while excluding other, similar families from those same benefits. This article details these two key policy changes imposed by IIRIRA and describes their impact on mixed-citizenship couples seeking family reunification benefits in the United States. Mixed-citizenship couples seeking family reunification benefits do not bear the negative impacts of these two policies evenly. Rather, these policies disproportionately limit specific subgroups of immigrants and citizens from accessing family reunification. Low-income, non-White (particularly Latino), and less-educated American families bear the overwhelming brunt of IIRIRA’s narrowing of family reunification benefits. As a result, these policy changes have altered the composition of American society and modified broader notions of American national identity and who truly “belongs.” Most of the disparate impact between mixed-citizenship couples created by the IIRIRA would be corrected by enacting minor policy changes to (1) allow the undocumented spouses of US citizens to adjust their legal status from within the United States, and (2) include the noncitizen spouse’s income earning potential toward satisfying minimum income requirements.
  • Topic: Immigration, Border Control, Citizenship, Domestic politics
  • Political Geography: United States, Central America, North America
  • Author: Todd Scribner
  • Publication Date: 01-2017
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal on Migration and Human Security
  • Institution: Center for Migration Studies of New York
  • Abstract: After descending an escalator of his hotel at Central Park West on a June day in 2015, Donald Trump ascended a podium and proceeded to accuse Mexico of “sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us (sic). They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists” (Time 2015). It was a moment that marked the launch of his bid for president of the United States. From that point forward, Trump made immigration restriction one of the centerpieces of his campaign. Paired with an economically populist message, the nativist rhetoric shaped a narrative that helped launch him to the White House. His effectiveness partly lay in his ability to understand and exploit preexisting insecurities, partly in his outsider status, and partly in his willingness to tap into apparently widespread public sentiment that is uneasy with, if not overtly hostile to, migrants. This paper will try to make sense of the restrictionist logic that informs the Trump administration’s worldview, alongside some of the underlying cultural, philosophical, and political conditions that inspired support for Trump by millions of Americans. This paper contends that the Clash of Civilizations (CoC) paradigm is a useful lens to help understand the positions that President Trump has taken with respect to international affairs broadly, and specifically in his approach to migration policy. This paradigm, originally coined by the historian Bernard Lewis but popularized by the political theorist Samuel Huntington (Hirsh 2016), provides a conceptual framework for understanding international relations following the end of the Cold War. It is a framework that emphasizes the importance of culture, rather than political ideology, as the primary fault line along which future conflicts will occur. Whether Trump ever consciously embraced such a framework in the early days of his candidacy is doubtful. He has been candid about the fact that he has never spent much time reading and generally responds to problems on instinct and “common sense” rather than a conceptually defined worldview developed by academics and intellectuals (Fisher 2016). Nevertheless, during the presidential campaign, and continuing after his victory, Trump surrounded himself with high-level advisers, political appointees, and staff who, if they have nothing else in common, embrace something roughly akin to the Clash of Civilizations perspective (Ashford 2016).[1] The paper will focus primarily on Trump’s approach to refugee resettlement. One might think that refugees would elicit an almost knee-jerk sympathy given the tragic circumstances that drove their migration, but perceptions of refugees are often tied up with geopolitical considerations and domestic political realities. Following 9/11, the threat of Islamic-inspired terrorism emerged as a national security priority. With the onset of the Syrian Civil War and the significant refugee crisis that ensued in its wake, paired with some high-profile terrorist attacks in the United States and Europe, the “Islamic threat” became even more pronounced. The perception that Islamic-inspired terrorism is a real and imminent threat has contributed to a growing antagonism toward the resettlement of refugees, and particularly Muslims. When viewed through the lens of the CoC paradigm, victims of persecution can easily be transformed into potential threats. Insofar as Islam is understood as an external and even existential threat to the American way life, the admission of these migrants and refugees could be deemed a serious threat to national security. This paper will begin by examining some of Trump’s campaign promises and his efforts to implement them during the early days of his administration. Although the underlying rationale feeding into the contemporary reaction against refugee resettlement is unique in many respects, it is rooted in a much longer history that extends back to the World War II period. It was during this period that a more formal effort to admit refugees began, and it was over the next half century that the program developed. Understanding the historical backdrop, particularly insofar as its development was influenced by the Cold War context, will help to clarify some of the transitions that influenced the reception of refugees in the decades after the fall of the Soviet Union. Such an exploration also helps to explain how and why a CoC paradigm has become ascendant. The decline of the ideologically driven conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union has, according Huntington’s thesis, been superseded by culturally based conflicts that occur when competing civilizations come into contact. The conceptual framework that the CoC framework embodies meshes well with the cultural and economic dislocation felt by millions of Trump supporters who are concerned about the continued dissolution of a shared cultural and political heritage. It is important to keep in mind that the CoC paradigm, as a conceptual framework for understanding Donald Trump and his approach to refugee resettlement and migration more broadly, is at its core pre-political; it helps to define the cultural matrix that people use to make sense of the world. The policy prescriptions that follow from it are more effect than cause.
  • Topic: Immigration, Border Control, Refugees
  • Political Geography: United States, Central America, North America
  • Author: Donald Kerwin, Robert Warren
  • Publication Date: 01-2017
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal on Migration and Human Security
  • Institution: Center for Migration Studies of New York
  • Abstract: The conventional wisdom holds that the only point of consensus in the fractious US immigration debate is that the system is broken. Yet, the US public has consistently expressed a desire for a legal and orderly immigration system that serves compelling national interests. This paper describes how to create such a system. It focuses on the cornerstone of immigration reform,[1] the legal immigration system,[2] and addresses the widespread belief that broad reform will incentivize illegal migration and ultimately lead to another large undocumented population. The paper begins with an analysis of presidential signing statements on seminal immigration legislation over nearly a century. These statements reveal broad consensus on the interests and values that the United States seeks to advance through its immigration and refugee policies. They constitute additional common ground in the immigration debate. To serve these interests, immigration and refugee considerations must be “mainstreamed” into other policy processes. In addition, its policies will be more successful if they are seen to benefit or, at least, not to discriminate against migrant-sending states. Not surprisingly, the US immigration system does not reflect the vast, mostly unanticipated changes in the nation and the world since Congress last meaningfully reformed this system (27 years ago) and last overhauled the law (52 years ago). The paper does not detail the well-documented ways that US immigration laws fall short of serving the nation’s economic, family, humanitarian, and rule of law objectives. Nor does it propose specific changes in categories and levels of admission. Rather, it describes how a legal immigration system might be broadly structured to deliver on its promises. In particular, it makes the case that Congress should create a flexible system that serves compelling national interests, allows for real time adjustments in admission based on evidence and independent analysis, and vests the executive with appropriate discretion in administering the law. The paper also argues that the United States should anticipate and accommodate the needs of persons compelled to migrate by its military, trade, development, and other commitments. In addition, the US immigration system needs to be able to distinguish between undocumented immigrants, and refugees and asylum seekers, and to treat these two populations differently. The paper assumes that there will be continued bipartisan support for immigration enforcement. However, even with a strong enforcement apparatus in place and an adaptable, coherent, evidence-based legal immigration system that closely aligns with US interests, some (reduced) level of illegal migration will persist. The paper offers a sweeping, historical analysis of how this population emerged, why it has grown and contracted, and how estimates of its size have been politically exploited. Legalization is often viewed as the third rail of immigration reform. Yet, Congress has regularly legalized discrete undocumented populations, and the combination of a well-structured legalization program, strengthened legal immigration system, and strong enforcement policies can prevent the reemergence of a large-scale undocumented population. In contrast, the immense US enforcement apparatus will work at cross-purposes to US interests and values, absent broader reform. The paper ends with a series of recommendations to reform the legal immigration system, downsize the current undocumented population, and ensure its permanent reduction. It proposes that the United States “reissue” (or reuse) the visas of persons who emigrate, as a way to promote legal immigration reform without significantly increasing annual visa numbers.
  • Topic: Immigration, Border Control, Domestic politics
  • Political Geography: United States, Central America, North America
  • Author: Edward Alden
  • Publication Date: 01-2017
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal on Migration and Human Security
  • Institution: Center for Migration Studies of New York
  • Abstract: For too long, the policy debate over border enforcement has been split between those who believe the border can be sealed against illegal entry by force alone, and those who believe that any effort to do so is futile and without expanded legal work opportunities. And for too long, both sides have been able to muster evidence to make their cases — the enforcers pointing to targeted successes at sealing the border, and the critics pointing to continued illegal entry despite the billions spent on enforcement. Until recently it has been hard to referee the disputes with any confidence because the data was simply inadequate — both sides could muster their preferred measures to make their case. But improvements in both data and analysis are increasingly making it possible to offer answers to the critical question of the effectiveness of border enforcement in stopping and deterring illegal entry. The new evidence suggests that unauthorized migration across the southern border has plummeted, with successful illegal entries falling from roughly 1.8 million in 2000 to just 200,000 by 2015. Border enforcement has been a significant reason for the decline — in particular, the growing use of “consequences” such as jail time for illegal border crossers has had a powerful effect in deterring repeated border crossing efforts. The success of deterrence through enforcement has meant that attempted crossings have fallen dramatically even as the likelihood of a border crosser being apprehended by the Border Patrol has only risen slightly, to just over a 50-50 chance. These research advances should help to inform a more rational public debate over the incremental benefits of additional border enforcement expenditures. With Congress gearing up to consider budget proposals from the Trump administration that seek an additional $2.6 billion for border security, including construction of new physical barriers, the debate is long overdue. In particular, Congress should be taking a careful look at the incremental gains that might come from additional spending on border enforcement. The evidence suggests that deterrence through enforcement, despite its successes to date in reducing illegal entry across the border, is producing diminishing returns. There are three primary reasons. First, arrivals at the border are increasingly made up of asylum seekers from Central America rather than traditional economic migrants from Mexico; this is a population that is both harder to deter because of the dangers they face at home, and in many cases not appropriate to deter because the United States has legal obligations to consider serious requests for asylum. Second, the majority of additions to the US unauthorized population is now arriving on legal visas and then overstaying; enforcement at the southern border does nothing to respond to this challenge. And finally, among Mexican migrants, a growing percentage of the repeat border crossers are parents with children left behind in the United States, a population that is far harder to deter than young economic migrants. The administration could better inform this debate by releasing to scholars and the public the research it has sponsored in order to give Americans a fuller picture on border enforcement.
  • Topic: Immigration, Border Control, Refugees
  • Political Geography: United States, Central America, North America