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

Results from Screening for Immigration Legal Options

Jeanne M. Atkinson
Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.

Tom K. Wong
University of California, San Diego

Editorial Credit: Diego G Diaz /

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


This article 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, much less be able to afford the costs or take the necessary steps to obtain it. The two million figure is drawn from an analysis of screening data from 4,070 unauthorized immigrants from 12 states. The study highlights the profound impact that a national project to screen for legal status would have on the entire US population, including eligible immigrants, their family members, and the country at large.

The need for legal screening has become particularly acute in light of the Trump administration’s focus on apprehension and deportation of unauthorized immigrants without regard to their length of residence in the United States, family relationships to US citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPRs), or other positive factors. The proposed termination of benefits for many Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)1 recipients would add more than one million individuals — approximately 325,000 (Warren and Kerwin 2017), and 700,000 (Krogstad 2017) people, respectively — to the pool of unauthorized immigrants.


Author Names

Jeanne M. Atkinson, Tom K. Wong

Journal Journal on Migration and Human Security
Date of Publication 2018
Pages 161-166
DOI 10.1177/2331502418771915
Volume 6
Issue Number 2