Original Articles

Original Articles

Fixing What’s Most Broken in the US Immigration System: A Profile of the Family Members of US Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents Mired in Multiyear Backlogs

This paper offers estimates and a profile of the 1.55 million US residents potentially eligible for a family-based immigration visa based on a qualifying relationship to a US citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR) living in their household.  It finds that this population – which is strongly correlated to the 3.7 million persons in family-based visa backlogs – has established long and strong roots in the United States, with US-born citizen children, mortgages, health insurance, and median income and labor force participation rates that exceed those of the overall US population. The paper offers several recommendations to reduce family-based backlogs.  First, it calls for Congress to pass and the administration to implement legislation that provides a path to LPR status for persons in long-term backlogs. This legislation should: 1) define the spouses and minor unmarried children of LPRs as “immediate relatives” not subject to numerical limits, 2) not count the derivative family members of principal visa beneficiaries against per country and annual quotas, and 3) raise per country caps. The administration should also re-issue the visas of legal immigrants who emigrate each year, particularly those who formally abandon LPR status. Finally, Congress should also advance the cutoff date for the US registry program.

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Bodily Inertia and the Weaponization of the Sonoran Desert in US Boundary Enforcement: A GIS Modeling of Migration Routes through Arizona’s Altar Valley

This paper explores the impact of the US Border Patrol’s strategy of “Prevention Through Deterrence” along unauthorized migration routes in the Sonoran Desert. Using Geographic Information System (GIS) modeling of the Sonoran Desert, Arizona, and an analysis of comprehensive activity logs of the use of clean drinking water along migration routes between 2012 to 2015, it finds that migration routes shifted to increasingly rugged and more dangerous terrain. Coupled with everyday interference with clean drinking water sites provided by humanitarian organizations, this deterrence policy maximizes the physiological harm experienced by unauthorized migrants. It also explains the persistence of mortality of unauthorized migrants, and the increase in the rate of mortality over time. The paper concludes with several policy recommendations for US Customs and Border Protection, including: 1) making interference by border officials and vandalism of humanitarian aid a fireable offense; 2) the formation of a border-wide agency tasked with search-and-rescue and emergency medical response; and 3) ending Prevention Through Deterrence as a nationwide strategy.

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US Undocumented Population Continued to Fall from 2016 to 2017 and Visa Overstays Significantly Exceeded Illegal Crossings for the Seventh Consecutive Year

This paper finds that the US undocumented population from Mexico declined by 1.3 million people from 2010 to 2017, including a decrease of 400,000 from 2016 to 2017. For the first time ever, Mexican nationals constitute less than half of the total US undocumented population. The paper also finds that visa overstays contributed significantly more to the population of newly undocumented residents than illegal border crossers from 2010 to 2017. It recommends that the administration and Congress work together to: 1) provide more resources to the US Department of State for their visa-issuance work and 2) pass legislation to legalize the DREAM-Act eligible population, long-term Temporary Protected Status beneficiaries, and “intending immigrants” with US citizen or lawful permanent resident family members. These findings reveal a disconnect between public discourse on the border wall and empirical data, and argue for more nuanced and evidence-based responses to undocumented migration.

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Is Regular Migration Safer Migration? Insights from Thailand

This paper challenges the assumption within international development programming that regular and orderly migration is also safer for migrants. Based on data collected from Cambodian, Burmese, Laotian, and Vietnamese labor migrants recently returned from Thailand, this paper illustrates the limits of regular migration to provide meaningfully “safer” experiences. It observes that migrant workers who move through legal channels do not systematically experience better outcomes. While regular migrants report better pay and working conditions than irregular migrants, they also systematically report working conditions that do not meet legal standards, and routinely experience contract substitution. Regular migrants also have a higher likelihood of experiencing exploitation, contract breaches, harassment, abuse, and involuntary return. These findings challenge mainstream development discourses seeking to promote safer migration experiences through expanding migration infrastructure. The paper recommends: 1) re-examining the conflation of “safe” with “regular and orderly” migration and advocating for practices that increase migrant safety, 2) focusing on broadening rights offered to migrant workers, and 3) strengthening and expanding oversight of labor standards and migrant regulations.

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Communities in Crisis: Interior Removals and Their Human Consequences

This paper examines the characteristics of deportees from the United States and the effects of deportation on deportees, their families, and their communities. It analyzes the findings from 133 interviews with deportees at a migrant shelter in Sonora, Mexico and interviews with family members of deportees and others affected by deportation in three Catholic parishes in the United States. These findings include: 1) the deportees had established long and deep ties in the United States, including strong economic and family ties, 2) deportation severed these ties and impoverished and divided affected families, 3) most deportees planned to return to the United States, and 4) the US deportation system treated deportees as criminals and the Trump administration sought to instill fear in immigrant communities. The paper concludes with policy recommendations to mitigate the ill effects of the administration’s policies and promote the integrity of families and communities, including: using detention as a “last resort”; reducing funding to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); and limiting collaboration between police and ICE and Customs and Border Protection.

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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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