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  • 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: Zoya Gubernskaya, Joanna Dreby
  • Publication Date: 01-2017
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal on Migration and Human Security
  • Institution: Center for Migration Studies of New York
  • Abstract: As the Trump administration contemplates immigration reform, it is important to better understand what works and what does not in the current system. This paper reviews and critically evaluates the principle of family unity, a hallmark of US immigration policy over the past 50 years and the most important mechanism for immigration to the United States. Since 1965, the United States has been admitting a relatively high proportion of family-based migrants and allowing for the immigration of a broader range of family members. However, restrictive annual quotas have resulted in a long line of prospective immigrants waiting outside of the United States or within the United States, but without status. Further policy changes have led to an increasing number of undocumented migrants and mixed-status families in the United States. Several policies and practices contribute to prolonged periods of family separation by restricting travel and effectively locking in a large number of people either inside or outside of the United States. On top of that, increasingly aggressive enforcement practices undermine family unity of a large number of undocumented and mixed-status families. Deportations — and even a fear of deportation — cause severe psychological distress and often leave US-born children of undocumented parents without economic and social support. A recent comprehensive report concluded that immigration has overall positive impact on the US economy, suggesting that a predominantly family-based migration system carries net economic benefits. Immigrants rely on family networks for employment, housing, transportation, informal financial services, schooling, childcare, and old age care. In the US context where there is nearly no federal support for immigrants’ integration and limited welfare policies, family unity is critical for promoting immigrant integration, social and economic well-being, and intergenerational mobility. Given the benefits of family unity in the US immigrant context and the significant negative consequences of family separation, the United States would do well to make a number of changes to current policy and practice that reaffirm its commitment to family unity. Reducing wait times for family reunification with spouses and children of lawful permanent residents, allowing prospective family-based migrants to visit their relatives in the United States while their applications are being processed, and providing relief from deportation and a path to legalization to parents and spouses of US citizens should be prioritized. The cost to implement these measures would likely be minor compared to current and projected spending on immigration enforcement and it would be more than offset by the improved health and well-being of American families.
  • Topic: Migration, Border Control, Refugees, Family, Humanitarian Crisis
  • 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
  • Author: Robert Warren, Donald Kerwin
  • Publication Date: 01-2017
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal on Migration and Human Security
  • Institution: Center for Migration Studies of New York
  • Abstract: This report presents detailed statistical information on the US Temporary Protected Status (TPS) populations from El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti. TPS can be granted to noncitizens from designated nations who are unable to return to their countries because of armed conflict, environmental disaster, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions. In January 2017, an estimated 325,000 migrants from 13 TPS-designated countries resided in the United States. This statistical portrait of TPS beneficiaries from El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti reveals hardworking populations with strong family and other ties to the United States. In addition, high percentages have lived in the United States for 20 years or more, arrived as children, and have US citizen children. The paper finds that: The labor force participation rate of the TPS population from the three nations ranges from 81 to 88 percent, which is well above the rate for the total US population (63 percent) and the foreign-born population (66 percent). The five leading industries in which TPS beneficiaries from these countries work are: construction (51,700), restaurants and other food services (32,400), landscaping services (15,800), child day care services (10,000), and grocery stores (9,200). TPS recipients from these countries live in 206,000 households: 61,100 of these households (roughly 30 percent) have mortgages. About 68,000, or 22 percent, of the TPS population from these nations arrived as children under the age of 16. TPS beneficiaries from these nations have an estimated 273,000 US citizen children (born in the United States). Ten percent of El Salvadoran, nine percent of the Haitian, and six percent of the Honduran TPS beneficiaries are married to a legal resident. More than one-half of El Salvadoran and Honduran, and 16 percent of the Haitian TPS beneficiaries have resided in the United States for 20 years or more. The six US states with the largest TPS populations from these countries are California (55,000), Texas (45,000), Florida (45,000), New York (26,000), Virginia (24,000), and Maryland (23,000). Eighty-seven percent of the TPS population from these countries speaks at least some English, and slightly over one-half speak English well, very well, or only English. About 27,000, or 11 percent, of those in the labor force are self-employed, having created jobs for themselves and likely for others as well. TPS status should be extended until beneficiaries can safely return home and can successfully reintegrate into their home communities. Most long-term TPS recipients should be afforded a path to lawful permanent resident (LPR) status and ultimately to US citizenship.
  • Topic: Border Control, Refugees, Immigrants
  • Political Geography: United States, South America, Central America, North America
  • Author: Will Jones, Alexander Teytelboym
  • Publication Date: 01-2017
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal on Migration and Human Security
  • Institution: Center for Migration Studies of New York
  • Abstract: Design of matching systems between refugees and states or local areas is emerging as one of the most promising solutions to problems in refugee resettlement. We describe the basics of two-sided matching theory used in a number of allocation problems, such as school choice, where both sides need to agree to the match. We then explain how these insights can be applied to international refugee matching in the context of the European Union and examine how refugee matching might work within the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States.
  • Topic: International Cooperation, Refugees, Resettlement
  • Political Geography: United States, United Kingdom, Europe, Canada, North America
  • Author: Leisy Abrego, Mat Coleman, Daniel Martínez
  • Publication Date: 01-2017
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal on Migration and Human Security
  • Institution: Center for Migration Studies of New York
  • Abstract: During a post-election TV interview that aired mid-November 2016, then President-Elect Donald Trump claimed that there are millions of so-called “criminal aliens” living in the United States: “What we are going to do is get the people that are criminal and have criminal records, gang members, drug dealers, we have a lot of these people, probably two million, it could be even three million, we are getting them out of our country or we are going to incarcerate.” This claim is a blatant misrepresentation of the facts. A recent report by the Migration Policy Institute suggests that just over 800,000 (or 7 percent) of the 11 million undocumented individuals in the United States have criminal records. Of this population, 300,000 individuals are felony offenders and 390,000 are serious misdemeanor offenders — tallies which exclude more than 93 percent of the resident undocumented population (Rosenblum 2015, 22-24).[1] Moreover, the Congressional Research Service found that 140,000 undocumented migrants — or slightly more than 1 percent of the undocumented population — are currently serving time in prison in the United States (Kandel 2016). The facts, therefore, are closer to what Doris Meissner, former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) Commissioner, argues: that the number of “criminal aliens” arrested as a percentage of all fugitive immigration cases is “modest” (Meissner et al. 2013, 102-03). The facts notwithstanding, President Trump’s fictional tally is important to consider because it conveys an intent to produce at least this many people who — through discourse and policy — can be criminalized and incarcerated or deported as “criminal aliens.” In this article, we critically review the literature on immigrant criminalization and trace the specific laws that first linked and then solidified the association between undocumented immigrants and criminality. To move beyond a legal, abstract context, we also draw on our quantitative and qualitative research to underscore ways immigrants experience criminalization in their family, school, and work lives. The first half of our analysis is focused on immigrant criminalization from the late 1980s through the Obama administration, with an emphasis on immigration enforcement practices first engineered in the 1990s. Most significant, we argue, are the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) and the 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA). The second section of our analysis explores the social impacts of immigrant criminalization, as people’s experiences bring the consequences of immigrant criminalization most clearly into focus. We approach our analysis of the production of criminality of immigrants through the lens of legal violence (Menjivar and Abrego 2012), a concept designed to understand the immediate and long-term harmful effects that the immigration regime makes possible. Instead of narrowly focusing only on the physical injury of intentional acts to cause harm, this concept broadens the lens to include less visible sources of violence that reside in institutions and structures and without identifiable perpetrators or incidents to be tabulated. This violence comes from structures, laws, institutions, and practices that, similar to acts of physical violence, leave indelible marks on individuals and produce social suffering. In examining the effects of today’s ramped up immigration enforcement, we turn to this concept to capture the violence that this regime produces in the lives of immigrants. Immigrant criminalization has underpinned US immigration policy over the last several decades. The year 1996, in particular, was a signal year in the process of criminalizing immigrants. Having 20 years to trace the connections, it becomes evident that the policies of 1996 used the term “criminal alien” as a strategic sleight of hand. These laws established the concept of “criminal alienhood” that has slowly but purposefully redefined what it means to be unauthorized in the United States such that criminality and unauthorized status are too often considered synonymous (Ewing, Martínez, and Rumbaut 2015). Policies that followed in the 2000s, moreover, cast an increasingly wider net which continually re-determined who could be classified as a “criminal alien,” such that the term is now a mostly incoherent grab bag. Simultaneously and in contrast, the practices that produce “criminal aliens” are coherent insofar as they condition immigrant life in the United States in now predictable ways. This solidity allows us to turn in our conclusion to some thoughts about the likely future of US immigration policy and practice under President Trump.
  • Topic: Migration, Refugees, Criminal Justice
  • Political Geography: United States, Central America, North America