Original Articles

Original Articles

Immigration Governance for the Twenty-First Century
The system of US immigration governance is administered by several agencies and departments across the federal government, with no clear chain of command or single department that captures the reach of the Immigration and Nationality Act. This paper studies the administration of immigration law and policy while looking towards immigration governance for the future. It opens with a historical overview that provides the backdrop for the current fragmented system of immigration governance. It then breaks down the missions and functions of the Immigration and Nationality Act by the lead agencies tasked with these responsibilities. The paper concludes with an analysis of options for improving the current system, such as: reorganizing and expanding governance by creating an Interagency Council on Immigration interagency; consolidating governance by creating an independent immigration agency; or tweaking the current system through critical reforms.

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Twenty Years After IIRIRA: The Rise of Immigrant Detention and Its Effects on Latinx Communities Across the Nation

This paper argues that the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility’s (IIRIRA) detention mandate, special interest groups, and major federal policies have come together to fuel the expansion of immigrant detention to unprecedented levels. It discusses the implications of the growth in immigrant detention for human rights, legislative representation, and democracy in the United States. This study analyzes two main questions: What is the role of special interests in the criminalization of immigrants? Does the rapid increase in detention pose challenges or risks to democracy? The paper uses a unique dataset to reveal that major restrictive federal immigration policies such as IIRIRA and the increasing federal immigration enforcement budget have had a significant impact on immigrant detention rates. Based on these findings, the paper recommends: 1) increased transparency and accountability in data management from the Department of Homeland Security and on lobbying expenditures from for-profit detention corporations, 2) the repeal of mandatory detention laws, and 3) the repeal of the Congressional detention bed mandate.

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DREAM Act-Eligible Poised to Build on the Investments Made in Them

This paper outlines the results of a study on young immigrants, known as the Dreamers, who would be eligible for conditional permanent status under the DREAM Act of 2017. The study paints a portrait of a highly productive, integrated group of young Americans, who are deeply committed to the United States and poised to make — with status and time — even more substantial contributions to the communities that have invested in them. These investments include $150 billion that states and localities have to date spent on the education of Dreamers. The paper highlights potential DREAM Act recipients’ large numbers, prevalence throughout the country, high levels of employment and self-employment, long residence, US families, English language proficiency, and education levels. It argues that with time and, particularly, with a path to citizenship, the Dreamers would be able to contribute significantly more to their communities. Finally, the study finds that a large number of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients, who will soon lose this status, would qualify for relief under the DREAM Act.

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Refugees, Development, Debt, Austerity: A Selected History
Global policymakers agree that a major challenge facing refugees is their treatment as a short-term humanitarian problem rather than also as a long-term development challenge. This paper agrees that refugees constitute a development challenge, but it argues that certain development policies have contributed to the status quo of refugee poverty and marginalization in the first place. The paper places particular emphasis on policies of austerity and of laissez-faire. In their stead, it argues in favor of policy approaches that are egalitarian and redistributive, and that emphasize refugees’ economic and social rights.

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Immigration and the War on Crime: Law and Order Politics and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996
The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA) continues to shape debates on the relationship between immigration and crime. This paper considers the ways in which the War on Crime — specifically mass incarceration policies — reshaped the immigration debate. Through a historical analysis of the policies leading up to IIRIRA, this paper sheds light on the under-studied role that crime politics of the Republican and the Democratic parties alike played in shaping IIRIRA by linking unauthorized migration with criminality and laying the groundwork to track, detain, and deport broad categories of immigrants, not just those with criminal convictions.

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Strengthening the Global Refugee Protection System: Recommendations for the Global Compact on Refugees
With a record 65 million displaced persons in the world, the United Nations has launched a two-year process to develop a stronger protection regime for refugees, the Global Compact on Refugees. This paper draws from the Center for Migration Studies’ special collection of papers on strengthening the global refugee protection system to outline broad themes and specific recommendations that the Global Compact on Refugees should adopt. The recommendations fall into five areas: (1) responsibility sharing for the protection of refugees; (2) filling in protection gaps, such as the use of temporary protection measures for populations fleeing natural disaster; (3) balancing and replacing deterrence strategies with protection solutions, such as the adoption of model processes that ensure safe and voluntary return; (4) refugee resettlement, including the goal of resettling 10 percent of the global refugee population each year; and (5) building refugee self-sufficiency.

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DHS Overestimates Visa Overstays for 2016; Overstay Population Growth Near Zero During the Year

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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Thrive or Survive? Explaining Variation in Economic Outcomes for Refugees
Despite a growing literature on the economic lives of refugees, much of that work has lacked theory or data. The work that has been quantitative has generally focused on the economic impact of refugees on host countries rather than explaining variation in economic outcomes for refugees. This paper seeks to explain variation in economic outcomes for refugees by asking three questions about the economic lives of refugees: 1) what makes the economic lives of refugees distinctive from other populations; 2) what explains variation in refugees’ income levels; and 3) what role does entrepreneurship play in shaping refugees’ economic outcomes? To answer these questions, the paper draws upon extensive qualitative and quantitative research conducted in Uganda. The quantitative data set is based on a survey of 2,213 refugees in three types of contexts: urban (Kampala), protracted camps (Nakivale and Kyangwali settlements), and emergency camps (Rwamwanja). The paper concludes that supporting refugees’ capacities rather than solely addressing their vulnerabilities offers an opportunity to rethink assistance in ways that are more sustainable for refugees, host states, and donors.

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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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