Intervention from the Floor by Donald Kerwin at the IMRF Multi-stakeholder Hearing
May 16, 2022
The work of the Center for Migration Studies of New York (CMS) responds to many of the objectives and commitments of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. I would like to speak about a particular project that addresses Objective 1, the need for “accurate and disaggregated data as a basis for evidence-based policies.”
CMS’s Democratizing Data Initiative offers publicly accessible data on the size and characteristics of the US undocumented, naturalization-eligible, and other foreign-born populations on national, state, and sub-state levels. CMS derives its estimates from the rich data collected in the US Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey. This data covers nationality, date of entry, homeownership, health insurance coverage, family members, income, occupation, and extensive demographic characteristics.
CMS makes this data available through interactive data tools, tables, charts, and (so far) more than 30 reports that seek to increase public understanding and promote evidence-based policies. Its studies have documented the long tenure, extensive US family ties, and myriad contributions of the US undocumented population.
They have also provided a factual basis to assess and advance policy ideas. Thus, a 2017 study published in CMS’s Journal on Migration and Human Security (JMHS) titled “The 2,000 Mile Wall in Search of a Purpose,” shows that two-thirds of new arrivals into the US undocumented population over a multi-year period have arrived legally, and then overstayed their temporary periods of admission. This trend has continued in the intervening years.
Another JMHS paper has concluded that a mass deportation policy would reduce the median income in US mixed-status households by 47 percent, plunging millions of US families into poverty and jeopardizing the US housing market.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, CMS has documented the disproportionately high rates of undocumented residents and refugees in “essential critical infrastructure” sectors, as defined by the US Department of Homeland Security. Recent CMS reports have used these estimates and other data to identify social determinants of health in immigrant communities in Brooklyn and Queens.
Late last year, CMS released its most ambitious study yet in this series, which is titled “Ready to Stay: A Comprehensive Analysis of the US Foreign-Born Populations Eligible for Special Legal Status Programs and for Legalization under Pending Bills.” This study provides detailed estimates of 40 immigrant populations that may be eligible for legal status programs, and those that would be eligible to legalize under pending legislation.
CMS has recently initiated a new project that provides customized data and analysis in response to requests from select government agencies, policymakers, community-based organizations, faith-based groups, researchers and the press. These institutions and individuals will use CMS data to expand services to immigrants, to increase their access to legal status programs and public benefits, to strengthen integration policies, to advocate for policy reforms, and to educate the public on the contributions, needs and challenges of immigrant communities.
The data request form is available on CMS’s website – www.cmsny.org. We would be pleased to hear from those with US data needs or who might be interested in creating similar projects in other countries. Thank you.
 A 2021 paper by Robert Warren describes CMS’s methodology for assigning legal status to each noncitizen in the American Community Survey.