North America

North America

One Hundred Years of American Catholic Assistance to Immigrants in Transit

One hundred years ago, it seemed that immigration to the United States would be a thing of the past. Congress had already forbidden most migration from Asia. In 1921 it began restricting migration from Europe. However, in 1921, the United States Catholic hierarchy organized within the National Catholic Welfare Conference (NCWC) its Bureau of Immigration. Since 2001, that organization has been known as Migration and Refugee Services (MRS), which is now a division of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). The earliest records of the NCWC Bureau of Immigration’s main office in Washington, DC, and its busy port office in New York City, are located at the Center for Migration Studies of New York. What do these records of a century of action on behalf of immigrants have to tell us today?

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CMSOnAir | Dora Schriro on Family Detention

This episode of CMSOnAir is the third in a series featuring academics, policymakers, and advocates who have written for the Center for Migration Studies’ (CMS) Journal on Migration and Human Security (JMHS).

In this interview, Dora Schriro speaks with Michele Pistone and Jack Hoeffner about family residential facilities and her 2017 paper, “Weeping in the Playtime of Others: The Obama Administration’s Failed Reform of ICE Family Detention Practices.” During the Obama administration, Schriro served as senior advisor to US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano and then as US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) first director of the Office of Detention Policy and Planning. She later served as a subject matter expert on the DHS Advisory Committee on Family Residential Facility formed by Secretary Jeh Johnson.

Schriro shares her insights on working to reform immigrant detention practices, the difference between criminal and civil detention, and the impact of family detention on parents. Schriro recommends a case management approach to the reception of families and suggests US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) as the first point of contact.

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The CRISIS Survey: The Catholic Church’s Work with Immigrants in the  United States in a Period of Crisis

The CRISIS Survey documents the reach, diversity, and productivity of Catholic institutions that work with immigrants and refugees during a pandemic that has particularly devastated their communities and an administration whose policies and rhetoric made their work far more difficult. At a time of rampant “Catholic decline” narratives, the survey also documents the reach, vitality, and relevance of Catholic immigrant-serving institutions. It identifies the obstacles encountered by immigrants in accessing Catholic programs and ministries – both organizational (funding, staffing, and siting) and exogenous (federal policies, the pandemic, and community opposition). It underscores the threat posed by US immigration policies to immigrants and to the work of Catholic institutions.

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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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Making Citizenship an Organizing Principle of the US Immigration System

This paper proposes that the United States treat naturalization not as the culmination of a long and uncertain individual process, but as an organizing principle of the US immigration system and its expectation for new Americans. It comes at a historic inflection point, following the chaotic departure of one of the most nativist administrations in US history and in the early months of a new administration whose executive orders, administrative actions, and legislative proposals augur an entirely different view of immigrants and immigration.

The paper examines two main ways that the Biden-Harris administration’s immigration agenda can be realized – by expanding access to permanent residence and by increasing naturalization numbers and rates. First, it proposes administrative and, to a lesser degree, legislative measures that would expand the pool of eligible-to-naturalize immigrants. Second, it identifies three underlying factors – financial resources, English language proficiency, and education – that strongly influence naturalization rates. It argues that these factors must be addressed, in large part, outside of and prior to the naturalization process. In addition, it provides detailed estimates of populations with large eligible-to-naturalize numbers, populations that naturalize at low rates, and populations with increasing naturalization rates. It argues that the administration’s immigration strategy should prioritize all three groups for naturalization.

The paper endorses the provisions of the US Citizenship Act that would place undocumented and temporary residents on a path to permanent residence and citizenship, would reduce
family- and employment-based visa backlogs, and would eliminate disincentives and barriers to permanent residence. It supports the Biden-Harris administration’s early executive actions and proposes additional measures to increase access to permanent residence and naturalization. It also endorses and seeks to inform the administration’s plan to improve and expedite the naturalization process and to promote naturalization.

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Planning for Climate Change and Human Mobility: The US Return to the Paris Accord on Climate Change

In the context of the US return to the Paris Accord on Climate Change, President Joseph Biden issued an executive order (EO) requiring a multi-agency report on climate change and its impact on human mobility. The report is to focus on forced migration, internal displacement, and planned relocation. Among the issues the EO stipulates will be addressed are the international security implications of climate-related movement; options and mechanisms to protect and, if necessary, resettle individuals displaced by climate change; proposals for the use of US foreign assistance to reduce the negative impacts of climate change; and opportunities to work collaboratively with others to respond to these movements. The order is a welcome step towards providing greater protection in the face of escalating impacts of climate change. It could also become a blueprint for other countries.

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Innovating Inclusion: A New Wave of State Activism to Include Immigrants in Social Safety Nets

States across the country are tackling an equity issue in the tax code by breaking from federal eligibility standards for their state Earned Income Tax Credits (EITCs). Specifically, states are taking it upon themselves to end the exclusion of taxpayers who file their taxes with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). ITINs are personal tax processing numbers issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to individuals who are not eligible for a Social Security number. They are primarily issued to undocumented immigrants, although they are also issued to certain lawfully present immigrants. Millions of people pay taxes with ITINs every year. Together ITIN-filers paid $23.6 billion in taxes in 2015. In less than a year, five states have successfully passed legislation to end the exclusion of these tax filers from their EITCs.

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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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CMSOnAir | Jennifer Podkul on the Humanitarian Protection of Children

In this interview, Jennifer Podkul, the Vice President of Policy and Advocacy at Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), describes the United States’ recent history with respect to the humanitarian protection of children and offers an overview of the current situation at the US-Mexico border for child migrants. An international human rights lawyer and expert on child migration to the United States, Podkul recently testified before the House Committee on Homeland Security on the best practices for the care and protection of child migrants.

Podkul’s 2016 JMHS paper, “The Impact of Externalization of the Migration Controls on the Rights of Asylum Seekers and Other Migrants,” examined how the United States, Australia, and the European Union sought to prevent migrants and refugees from arriving at their borders to seek protection. One example presented in the paper is the Obama administration’s response to the increase in unaccompanied children in 2014. Podkul describes what has changed since the Obama administration with respect to the deterrence of child migrants and offers policy recommendations for the care and reception of child migrants.

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