Original Articles

Original Articles

JMHS Special Collection | The US Refugee Protection System on the 35th Anniversary of the Refugee Act of 1980
The Center for Migration Studies (CMS) released, The US Refugee Protection System on the 35th Anniversary of the RefugeeAct of 1980: A Comprehensive Assessment of the System’s Strengths, Limitations,and Need for Reform, a special edition of CMS’s Journal on Migration and Human Security (JMHS). Authored by leading experts, the collection of 11 papers offers an exhaustive assessment and critique of the US refugee protection system, covering refugees, asylum seekers and refugee-like populations in need of protection. The series attempts to bring concentrated academic and policy attention to this pillar of US immigration and humanitarian programs and the broader international refugee protection system. The papers cover access to protection, refugee resettlement, political asylum, temporary protection, the stateless, migrants in crisis situations, unaccompanied minors, and other populations at risk.

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The US Refugee Resettlement Program — A Return to First Principles: How Refugees Help to Define, Strengthen, and Revitalize the United States

This paper examines the integration, achievements and contributions of 1.1 million refugees resettled in the United States from 1987 to 2016. It does so in three ways. First, it compares the household, demographic, and economic characteristics of refugees that arrived between 1987 and 2016, to comparable data for non-refugees, the foreign-born, and the total US population. Second, it compares the characteristics of refugees by period of entry, as well as to the foreign-born and total US population. Third, it examines the characteristics of refugees that arrived from the former Soviet Union between 1987 and 1999, measured in 2000 and again in 2016. By all three measures, it finds that refugees successfully integrate over time and contribute immensely to their new communities. Perhaps most dramatically, the paper shows that refugees that arrived between 1987 and 1996 exceed the total US population, which consists mostly of native-born citizens, in personal income, homeownership, college education, labor force participation, self-employment, health insurance coverage, and access to a computer and the internet. The paper also explores the successful public/private partnerships — with a particular focus on Catholic agencies — that facilitate refugee well-being and integration, and that leverage substantial private support for refugees. Overall, the paper argues that the United States should expand and strengthen its refugee resettlement program. The program has advanced US standing in the world, saved countless lives, and put millions on a path to work, self-sufficiency, and integration.

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From IIRIRA to Trump: Connecting the Dots to the Current US Immigration Policy Crisis
This paper examines the effects of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA). It traces the evolution of US immigration law and policy from IIRIRA’s implementation, to recent measures that seek to diminish legal immigration, restrict access to the US asylum system, reduce due process protections for non-citizens in removal proceedings, criminalize immigration violations, and expand the role of states and localities in immigration enforcement. The paper draws from a collection of papers published in the Journal on Migration and Human Security on IIRIRA’s multi-faceted consequences, as well as extensive legal analysis of IIRIRA and the current administration’s immigration agenda.

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An Examination of Wage and Income Inequality within the American Farmworker Community
This article explores the reasons for earning inequalities among farmworkers in the United States and finds that legal status, rather than foreign birth, predicts lower earnings. Using national data from the Department of Labor’s National Agricultural Worker Survey, the paper analyzes differences in earnings based on factors such as gender, youth, being foreign-born, being unauthorized, being a migrant worker, or being a border region worker. It finds that gender and youth are the most reliable predictors of lower farmworker earnings, and that seasonal farmworkers are among the lowest earning workers. It also confirms that workers lacking authorized status earn less than those who have legal status but surprisingly finds that foreign-born US citizens actually earn more than their US-born counterparts. It recommends the following state and local policies to decrease inequality in earnings for farmworkers: 1) raise the minimum wage, 2) expand compensation coverage, 3) expand overtime laws to cover farmworkers, 4) improve living conditions for onsite farmworkers, and 5) create collective bargaining rights for farmworkers. Federal policies should also increase legalization opportunities for farmworkers as this will positively affect pay and working conditions.

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Family Matters: Claiming Rights across the US-Mexico Migratory System

Despite the fact that family unity is a core goal of the US immigration system, various US immigration policies prolong and force family separation. This paper examines the process by which Mexican binational families assert their legal rights to family unity through the mediating role of Mexican consulates. The paper analyzes an administrative database within the Mexican consular network that documents migrant legal claims resulting from family separation (particularly child support and custody claims), along with findings from 21 interviews with consular staff and community organizations in El Paso, Raleigh, and San Francisco. It finds that the resolution of binational family claims is, in part, dependent on the institutional infrastructure that has developed at local, state, and federal levels, as well as on the capacity of receiving and sending states and the binational structures they establish. The paper recommends collaboration in identifying areas of strengths and weaknesses within consular networks; development of formal protocols for consular staff and officials to work with government agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and lawyers in resolving legal claims; limiting the role of local officials in the enforcement of US immigration law; and sharing the best practices of the Mexican consular network with consulates from other countries.

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The Case for a National Legalization Program without Legislation or Executive Action

This paper 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 or be able to afford the costs. The two million figure is drawn from an analysis of data on 4,070 screened unauthorized immigrants from 12 states. The study highlights the profound impact that a national project to screen for legal status would have on the US unauthorized population, mixed-status families, and US communities, including growth in home ownership and increased tax revenues. The paper recommends the following: (1) a massive, nationwide legal screening and legalization effort; (2) a substantial increase in high-quality, low-cost legal service providers; (3) increased legal training focused on immigration law and eligibility screening; and (4) extensive community outreach and education, especially among under-resourced populations.

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Immigration Detention, Inc.
This paper demonstrates the influence of economic inequality on system-wide US immigration detention policy and on individual detention decisions. The paper describes how for-profit prisons have impacted the immigration system through promoting wide-scale detention, which has led to increased profitability in the private prison sector and influence over policymakers. Next, it details the mechanisms by which economic inequality dictates the likelihood and length of detention in individual cases, through policies of keeping detention beds full and the use of monetary bond requirements for release from detention. The paper raises troubling issues of democratic governance and the commodification of traditional governmental functions. It concludes with recommendations for reform, including lessening the use of private prison companies for immigration detention, promoting the presumption of liberty in the immigration detention system to push back against large-scale detention, and reducing the use of monetary bond requirements as a condition of release.

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From Right to Permission: Asylum, Mediterranean Migrations, and Europe’s War on Smuggling
This paper analyzes Mediterranean migrant smuggling and European anti-smuggling efforts. It argues that European deterrence, containment, and anti-smuggling policies have proven ineffective and costly. It makes the case that the “war on smuggling” has provided a rationale for immigration containment, contributes to migrant vulnerability, and erodes the right to seek asylum. It proposes that European and other liberal-democratic states create policies that build on migrant agency and local civic engagements; enhance and expand family reunification, refugee resettlement, study visas and temporary protection; reverse anti-asylum policies; and set labor immigration quotas that protect worker’s rights and reflect the demands of their labor markets.

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