Original Articles

Original Articles

The Role of Migration Research in Promoting Refugee Well-Being in a Post-Pandemic Era

This paper summarizes the presentations and discussions of a virtual stakeholder meeting on Refugee Resettlement in the United States which built on the foundation of the May 2019 workshop represented in this special issue. With support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and hosted by the Committee on Population (CPOP) of the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine on Dec 1–2, 2020, the meeting convened migration researchers, representatives of US voluntary resettlement agencies, and other practitioners to consider the role of migration research in informing programs serving refugees and migrants during the COVID-19 pandemic, continuing an emphasis on bringing global learning to those on the ground working with refugees. The goal of CPOP’s work in this area has always been to build bridges between communities of research and practice and to create a dialogue for a shared agenda.

 

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Can You Hear Me Now? Attorney Perceptions of Interpretation, Technology, and Power in Immigration Court

The Executive Office for Immigration Review houses America’s trial-level immigration courts, which adjudicate hundreds of thousands of cases annually, many resulting in deportations. Most proceedings require interpretation and all rely heavily upon technology. Yet, we know little about communication and technology in these hearings, and even less about the views of attorneys who navigate this system daily. I examine the effects courtroom interpretation and technology have on immigrant voices as described in interviews with immigration attorneys representing clients facing deportation. Attorneys overwhelmingly characterize the court as procedurally unjust, pinpointing how flaws in interpretation, telephonic conferencing, and videoconferencing offer the illusion of due process.

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When Internal Migration Fails: A Case Study of Central American Youth Who Relocate Internally Before Leaving Their Countries

This paper examines the experiences of Central American youth who have attempted internal relocation before migrating internationally. Based on interviews and participant observation with Guatemalan, Honduran, and Salvadoran youth migrating through Mexico, this paper shows how youth from the Northern Countries of Central America turn to their domestic networks to escape labor exploitation and gang violence before undertaking international journeys. The paper further demonstrates how those domestic networks lead youth into contexts of poverty and violence similar to those they seek to escape, making their internal relocation a disappointment. The failure of their internal relocation attempts makes them turn to international migrant networks as their next option. This paper sheds light on the underexplored issue of internal migration among Central American youth and that migration’s synergy with Central American youths’ migration to the United States. The paper finds that internal relocation is unsuccessful when the internal destination fails to resolve the issues from which youth are attempting to escape. This failure ultimately triggers their departure from their home country.

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Disrupting the Traffic Stop-to-Deportation Pipeline: The New York State Greenlight Law’s Intent and Implementation

This article analyzes the traffic stop-to-deportation pipeline in New York State, how it harms children of immigrants, and how New York’s Greenlight Law seeks to disrupt it but has been hobbled by an implementation gap. It first establishes the phenomenon of the traffic stop–to-deportation pipeline by documenting how traffic stops are a key cause of deportations in New York State. Second, it analyzes how the pipeline harms (mostly US citizen) children of undocumented immigrants in New York State, who are more than 7 percent (more than 300,000) of New York State’s children. The pipeline makes these children fear and mistrust the police; harms their educational, social, and brain development; and consumes family income with the Mexican driver tax (costs incurred because parents could not get a driver’s license). Third, the article analyzes how the Greenlight Law should help remedy these harms, and how an implementation gap leaves many parents and children vulnerable to the pipeline. The implementation gap is partly due to the pandemic but also driven by political and other factors that could be addressed by policy. Finally, the article analyzes how variation in implementing the Greenlight Law could leave the pipeline undisrupted and lead to unequal protection of the law by place in New York State. The article makes policy recommendations for stronger enactment to reduce the pipeline’s harms.

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Tax Equality for Immigrants: The Indispensable Ingredient for Remedying Child Poverty in the United States

Both at the federal and state levels, tax credits have proved effective policy instruments to combat poverty, and they are at the heart of President Biden’s massive initiative on childhood poverty. However, about one of every five children suffering poverty in the United States has an unauthorized immigrant parent and thus little or no access to tax credits. That is nearly two million children, and 85 percent of them are US citizens. Achieving historic reductions in childhood poverty thus will be impossible without remedying the eligibility exclusions and bureaucratic impediments that unauthorized immigrants face in the US tax system.

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A Virus Without Papers: Understanding COVID-19 and the Impact on Immigrant Communities

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the inequalities facing vulnerable populations: those living in economically precarious situations and lacking adequate health care. In addition, frontline workers deemed essential to meet our basic needs have faced enormous personal risk to keep earning their paychecks and the economy running. Immigrant communities face an intersection of all three vulnerabilities (e.g., economic precarity, health care barriers, essential workforce), making them one of the most vulnerable populations in the United States. The authors conducted 26 interviews via Zoom with immigrant service providers in Pennsylvania and New York, including lawyers, case workers, religious leaders, advocates, doctors, and educators in order to gain a better understanding of the impact of COVID-19 on immigrant communities. These interviews affirmed that immigrants are concentrated in essential industries, which increases their exposure to the virus. In addition, they lack access to social safety nets when trying to access health care or facing job/income loss. Last, COVID-19 did not adequately slow the detention and deportation machine in the United States, which led to increased transmission of the virus among not only detainees but also others in the detention system, surrounding communities, and the countries to which people were deported, countries that often lacked an adequate infrastructure for dealing with the pandemic.

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Migration Management and Changes in Mobility Patterns in the North and Central American Region

Since the beginning of the twenty-first century, changes have occurred in the regional dynamics of international migration and in the ways governments manage human mobility. This article argues that the migratory system connecting the three northern countries of Central America (Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras) with Mexico and the United States has not been accompanied by regional management of migratory flows. Instead, a succession of government plans and projects reveals a perspective marked by the effects of the “externalization” of US borders, leading to more complex migration routes and increased vulnerability of migrants. The article discusses how externalized control policies influence migratory spaces, routes, and timelines, and leave many stranded in transit countries before they eventually arrive at their intended destinations. Reconsidering the process of mobility in light of migration management policies would appropriately enlarge the traditional economic, social, cultural, and environmental factors that affect migration strategies.

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(Im)mobility in the Age of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted global human mobility dynamics. This IMR Dispatch examines the historical, bidirectional links between pandemics and mobility and provides an early analysis of how they unfolded during the first nine months of the COVID-19 emergency. Results show, first, that international travel restrictions to combat the spread of the coronavirus are not a panacea in and of themselves. Second, our analysis demonstrates that the pandemic, government responses, and resulting economic impacts can lead to the involuntary immobility of at-risk populations, such as aspiring asylum-seekers or survival migrants. In a similar fashion, stay-at-home measures have posed dire challenges for those workers who lack options to work from home, as well as for migrants living in precarious, crowded circumstances. Moreover, global economic contraction has increased involuntary immobility by reducing both people’s resources to move and the demand for labor. Third, we show that people’s attempts to protect themselves from the virus can result in shifting patterns of mobility, such as increases in cross-border return migration and urban-to-rural movements. Drawing on international guidance for measures to combat pandemics and relevant frameworks on mobility, we propose approaches to alleviate the burden of travel restrictions on migrants and people aspiring to move, while still addressing the need to contain the pandemic and lessen its repercussions.

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Charting a Course to Rebuild and Strengthen the US Refugee Admissions Program

This report analyzes the US Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP), leveraging data from a national survey of resettlement stakeholders conducted in 2020. The survey examined USRAP from the time that refugees arrive in the United States. Its design and questionnaire were informed by three community gatherings organized by Refugee Council USA in the fall and winter of 2019, extensive input from an expert advisory group, and a literature review.

This study finds that USRAP serves important purposes, enjoys extensive community support, and offers a variety of effective services. Overall, the survey finds a high degree of consensus on the US resettlement program’s strengths and objectives, and close alignment between its services and the needs of refugees at different stages of their settlement and integration. Because its infrastructure and community-based resettlement networks have been decimated in recent years, the main challenges of subsequent administrations, Congresses, and USRAP stakeholders will be to rebuild, revitalize, and regain broad and bipartisan support for the program. This article also recommends specific ways that USRAP’s programs and services can be strengthened.

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Migrant Detention and COVID-19: Pandemic Responses in Four New Jersey Detention Centers

On March 24, 2020, a 31-year-old Mexican national in Bergen County Jail, New Jersey, became the first federal immigration detainee to test positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). By April 10, 2020, New Jersey had more confirmed COVID-19 cases among immigration detainees than any other state in the nation. This article examines the relationship between COVID-19 and processes of migrant detention and deportation through a case study of New Jersey — an early epicenter of the pandemic and part of the broader New York City metro area. Drawing on publicly available reports and in-depth interviews with wardens, immigration lawyers, advocates, and former detainees, we describe the initial COVID-19 response in four detention facilities in New Jersey. Our findings suggest that migrant detention and deportation present distinct challenges that undermine attempts to contain the spread of COVID-19. We provide testimonies from migrant detainees who speak to these challenges in unsettling personal terms. Our interviews highlight the insufficient actions by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to contain the spread of the pandemic and a troubling lack of due process in immigration court proceedings. Based on these findings, we argue that reducing the number of migrants detained in the United States is needed not only in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic but also as a preventative measure for future health crises. Reductions can be achieved, in part, by reforming federal immigration laws on “mandatory detention.”

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