Irregular / Unauthorized / Undocumented Migration

Irregular / Unauthorized / Undocumented Migration

This paper compares US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) estimates for visa overstays in fiscal year 2016 with estimates from the Center for Migration Studies (CMS). It finds that DHS has overstated the number of people from roughly 30 counties who have overstayed their temporary visas, half of them participants in the US Visa Waiver Program (VWP). In particular, the DHS estimates for 2016 include significant numbers of temporary visa holders who left the undocumented population, but whose departure could not be verified. Thus, the actual number of visa overstays in 2016 was about half of the number estimated by DHS.  The paper also shows that the population growth of visa overstays was near zero in 2016 after adjusting DHS estimates to account for unrecorded departures. The country-specific figures in this paper should help DHS improve verification of departures of temporary visitors and also to reassess decisions about admission to the VWP.

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The Mixed Motives of Unaccompanied Child Migrants from Central America’s Northern Triangle

This paper examines the mixed-motive migration of unaccompanied minors from Central America’s Northern Triangle states (Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador). Using data from a 2016 survey carried out in 10 shelters for unaccompanied child migrants run by a Mexican government child welfare agency, the paper identifies the immigrating minor’s motives, which are oftentimes mixed. Some of the key findings include:

  • Around one-third of the child migrants surveyed had mixed motives, including both forced and voluntary reasons for migrating.
  • Violence appears most often as a reason for migrating among minors with mixed motives, as opposed to the search for better opportunities, which appears more often as an exclusive motive.
  • Significant differences between the three nationalities are observed: relatively few Guatemalan minors indicated violence as a motive, and few displayed mixed motives, as opposed to Hondurans, and especially Salvadorans.
  • The minors fleeing violence, searching for better opportunities, and indicating both motives at the same time were largely mature male adolescents. The minors mentioning family reunification as their sole motive were predominantly girls and young children.
  • Violence was the motive that mixed the most with other motivations.

The results indicate that binary formulations regarding forced and voluntary migration are often inadequate. The implications of these findings include the need to consider forced reasons for migrating in the context of mixed-motive migration, the need for in-depth, individual asylum screening, and the need for more flexible policy approaches that are inclusive of mixed-motive migration.

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Life at the Border: Celebrating 30 Years of Mission at the Casa del Migrante in Tijuana

2017 marks the 30th anniversary of the Centro Scalabrini – Casa del Migrante, a migrant shelter in Tijuana, Mexico. To commemorate this milestone, the Casa released a book, Vidas en Vilo (Lives in Limbo). In this reflection, Fr. Pat Murphy, c.s., the Casa’s director, describes the publication which recounts the history of the Casa, offers an analysis of social demographics of those being deported through Tijuana, and a collection of testimonies from guests at the Casa (i.e., the deportees, Central Americans in transit, and candidates for political asylum).

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Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitians in Peril
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) faces a November 23, 2017, deadline to determine whether to extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Haiti, first granted following a devastating earthquake in that country in January 2010. Haiti was extended for six...

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International Migration, U.S. Immigration Law and Civil Society: From the Colonial Era to the 113th Congress
The series draws on contributions from leading scholars and practitioners in the field. Joseph Chamie, the former director of the United Nations Population Division and former editor of the International Migration Review, provides a magisterial overview of migration flows to and within the Americas over the last 525 years, with particular focus on the United States and the territory that became the United States. He also highlights several themes that weave through this long history. Charles Wheeler, a senior attorney and director of training and legal support for the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), provides a concise and timely history of US immigration law and policy, starting in the colonial era and leading to the current impasse on immigration reform. Sara Campos, a freelance writer and the former director of the Asylum Program for the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights in San Francisco, writes a groundbreaking chapter on the growing role of civil society in the US immigrant communities and in the US immigration debate. All three chapters, as well as an introduction by Mr. Kerwin, speak very directly to the US immigration debate.

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Making Immigrants into Criminals: Legal Processes of Criminalization in the Post-IIRIRA Era
Criminalizing immigrants has underpinned US immigration policy over the last several decades. This paper examines the processes of immigrant criminalization in three contexts: 1) the legal history that has produced the current situation, 2) enforcement programs and practices at the border and interior, and 3) the consequences for immigrants and their families living in the United States. In examining such processes, this paper extends the discussion of the criminalization of immigrants beyond the existing literature, on two basic counts. First, it focuses on legislative changes that paved the way for the passage of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) and the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) in 1996, which was a crucial year for the criminalization of immigration. Second, this paper documents how the criminalization of immigrants turns people and indeed whole communities, into law enforcement objects through specific programs and practices, and how immigrants experience this in their family, school, and work lives.

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Migration Experts Series | Michael Doyle
Michael W. Doyle is the Director of the Columbia Global Policy Initiative and University Professor of Columbia University, affiliated with the School of International and Public Affairs, the Department of Political Science, and the Law School. At Columbia, he co-directs...

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