American Immigrant Policy Portal
Click here to visit the Portal July/2018
Research to Inform Policy and Practice   
on Migration-Related Issues
Policy-related reports, studies, and information about the challenge and promise of immigrant integration. Materials organized by collection topic.
In This Issue


Paper traces the development of language rights through the regulation-setting process
University of Colorado Law Legal Studies Research Paper,  May 20, 2018, 29 pp.
Author: Ming Hsu Chen

The "rights revolution" in the United States consisted of both sweeping changes in constitutional doctrines and landmark legislative reform, followed by decades of innovative implementation in every branch of the federal government -- Congress, agencies, and the courts. This paper -- a chapter in a recently released book on the rights revolution and based on the author's research for her doctoral dissertation- tells the story of how "policy entrepreneurs" within various federal agencies worked to extend civil rights protections to language minorities after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Hart-Cellar Act of 1965. Of particular importance were the actions of officials within the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) and officials within the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Their interpretations of the law, treated with some deference by the courts because of their superior expertise, were either upheld or constrained by the courts. Paradoxically, the courts seemed to grant greater leeway to the OCR, even though there was some lack of consensus as to appropriate educational remedies in the aftermath of the Lau v. Nichols decision of 1974. The EEOC, on the other hand, found their interpretations of the law repeatedly challenged by the courts. The author reviews the "regulatory roller coaster" of the last 50 years and concludes that "regulatory rights rest on shifting ground" although they are "sufficiently rooted to remain," because the complexity and ever-changing nature of modern life make regulation an indispensable tool of government.


MPI publishes an analysis of the impact of the Trump Administration proposal to expand the definition of "public charge" as a way of reducing the flow of immigrants to the U.S.
Chilling Effects: The Expected Public Charge Rule and 
Its Impact on Legal Immigrant Families' Public Benefi ts Use,
Migration Policy Institute, June 2018, 41 pp.
Authors: Jeanne Batalova et al
The Trump Administration is currently writing a regulation that will completely change the way the government determines whether an immigrant (or an immigrant's sponsor) is "likely to become a public charge" by greatly expanding the list of public benefits, the use of which will make immigrants inadmissible (and possibly deportable). In "Chilling Effects," the Migration Policy Institute reviews a leaked draft of the proposed rule, and provides data on the number of immigrants who use the four major means-tested public benefits for which data is available in the American Community Survey:  Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps), and Medicaid, the Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP) or other public health insurance programs. According to MPI's analysis, more than 6.8 million noncitizens used at least one of these programs, but a larger number-10.3 million-lived in households where at least one person--including U.S. citizen children--used one or more of these programs. The effect will be to raise the share of noncitizens for whom benefits use could be considered in a public charge determination from 3 percent today to 47 percent under the new rule. Most immigrants in benefits-receiving families are employed and use benefits as work supports. In the estimation of the authors, the use of this new rule, once implemented, will allow the administration to drastically cut back on legal immigration--particularly family-based immigration--without having to go through Congress to change the law. Looking back at the experience of restrictions on the receipt of benefits imposed by the 1996 welfare reform law, MPI estimates that in total, between 20 and 60 percent of immigrants will disenroll from public benefits programs--even if they are entitled to them. While this study focused on benefits use, a future report will estimate the impact of the new rule on the future flow of immigrants (Maurice Belanger, Maurice Belanger Consulting)

Report finds improvements in "happiness" levels among immigrants and native-born persons, suggesting that "human migration contributes to a happier world."

Does Migration Increase Happiness? It Depends ,

Migration Policy Institute, June 21, 2018, 8 pp.
Author: Martijn Hendriks

This article reviews available evidence from the social science literature on the effects of migration on the happiness of both migrants and native-born residents in immigrant-receiving countries, with special attention to the 2018 World Happiness Report published by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network. Researchers determine  Happiness  levels in two ways: affectively using mood questions, and cognitively using questions to determine overall satisfaction with life. According to the 2018 World Happiness Report , based on a Gallup survey of some 36,000 migrants from more than 150 countries, international migrants worldwide evaluate the quality of their lives on average 9 percent higher after migration (based on a comparison with those who stayed behind). However, there were wide variations in happiness levels based on countries of origin and destination: for example, a gain of 29 percent for migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa moving to Europe, but negligible gains or negative results for Latin American and Caribbean immigrants moving to North America or Europe. The authors also note that happiness gains tend to level off the longer immigrants live in the destination country, perhaps because they "evaluate their conditions in the host country through an increasingly critical lens." Although the author notes that "the literature on migrant happiness is in its infancy," he asserts that current evidence "suggests that human migration contributes to a happier world..."


Study documents the crucial role played by immigrants in the fashion industry & the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), 2018, 32 pp. + appendices

In addition to employing more than 1.9 million workers nation-wide, the U.S. fashion industry bolsters the profits of numerous ancillary industries, such as photography, graphic design, publishing, set design, public relations, and hospitality. The industry has long been dependent on the infusion of talent and manpower from immigrants. This report documents the role that immigrants play in the industry, laments short-sighted policies that are cutting off the flow of talent from abroad, and makes specific recommendations to address these concerns, including increasing the number of H-1B visas available to trained fashion professionals and reforming the O-1 visa to meet the specialized needs of the fashion industry. Building on an earlier work that focused solely on the fashion industry in New York, this report highlights the role that immigrants play in regional fashion hubs, such as Los Angeles, San Diego, Nashville, St. Louis, and Miami. The report's findings are based on detailed interviews with over 30 industry professionals, a literature review, and a 25-question survey distributed to CFDA members.

CSII report urges asset-building funders and immigrant integration funders to achieve greater alignment in their grant-making approaches

Immigrant Lives, American Future: 
Linking Asset Building and Immigrant Integration
Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration,
University of Southern California, 
May, 2018, 49 pp.
Authors: Manuel Pastor et al

This report seeks to create common cause and greater alignment among funders interested in immigrant integration and those interested in asset-building. Often, the horizon for action is different for both, i.e. more short-term and crisis oriented for integration funders, and more long-term and life cycle focused among asset-building funders. To bridge this difference will require a change in perspective on the part of both types of funders. The report also takes a broad view of asset-building, calling attention to those assets often overlooked by traditional funders, including language skills, immigration status, and cultural capital. The paper includes a useful chart showing how immigration status interacts with specific asset-building tools, products, and opportunities, and urges asset-building funders to expand their grant portfolios to target the growing immigrant population in the U.S. Successful grant-making in this area will require funders to be more culturally sensitive and to recognize that building assets and wealth is not a "culturally neutral endeavor." Drawing on both the literature in the field, as well as interviews with funders and experts, the report describes promising practices at the intersection of immigrant integration and asset-building. Finally, the report offers a series of recommendations for funders interested in bridging the two fields, including ways to build knowledge of emerging communities and grant-making strategies of proven effectiveness, such as investments in immigrant entrepreneurship and policy advocacy leading to systemic change. This report was commissioned by The Asset Funders Network and Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees.

Article suggests that the courts should extend constitutional scrutiny to immigration enforcement activities because they have worked to erode labor rights in the U.S.

Georgetown Immigration Law Journal,
Vol. 31 (2017), 34 pp.
Author: Lori Nessel

In this article, Lori Nessel, Professor of Law at Seton Hall University School of Law, argues the plenary power doctrine, which shields immigration law from constitutional scrutiny, coupled with the Trump Administration's targeting of all undocumented immigrants for deportation, have created a climate of fear in the workplace, which creates a "largely compliant workforce," unable and unwilling to assert their rights. Rather than being an unintended consequence of immigration enforcement, she suggests that this policy is "a means of creating an obedient workforce and community." Low-wage undocumented workers, for example, are more than twice as likely as low-wage American workers to suffer minimum wage violations, yet they are reluctant to report labor, wage, and health code violations for fear of employer retaliation. Moreover, immigrants refrain from seeking medical treatment and even sending their children to school, worried that in so doing, they will expose themselves to deportation. By focusing attention on the domestic implications of immigration law enforcement, she joins other commentators in calling for greater judicial scrutiny and constitutional protections for immigrants. The article reviews the evolution of immigration policy as a tool for social control going back to the 19 th century. The author also looks for hopeful signs in recent court decisions meant to constrain the blatantly discriminatory policies of the Trump administration.

AIC Fact Sheet reviews the H-4 visa program and suggests that the elimination of the program will discourage high-skilled immigrants from coming to the U.S.
The H-4 Visa Classification: Attracting 
and Maintaining Global Talent ,
American Immigration Council, Fact Sheet,
March 26, 2018, 3 pp.

This fact sheet provides an overview of the H-4 Visa and a profile of current recipients. It explains the eligibility of certain H-4 spouses to work and the benefits of allowing them to do so. The H-4 visa category is for the spouses and unmarried children under 21 of other H temporary nonimmigrant workers, including H-1B specialty workers. In 2017, there were more than 136,000 H-4 visas issued-86 percent to family members of workers from India. Beginning in 2015, H-4 spouses of certain H-1B workers were given the right to work. In the government's fiscal year 2016, 41,526 work authorizations were issued to eligible H-4 spouses. The ability of spouses to work makes a job offer from a U.S. employer a more attractive proposition for talented H-1B workers. The Trump administration is preparing a regulation that will rescind the 2015 rule permitting H-4 spouses of H-1B workers to work. The Council suggests that such a change will discourage high-skilled immigrants from coming to the U.S.  (Maurice Belanger, Maurice Belanger Consulting)
Law Enforcement

Study documents the baneful influence of for-profit prison corporations on the U.S. immigration detention system

Journal on Migration and Human Security,
2018, 16 pp.
Authors: Denise Gilman & Luis A. Romero

Some 350,000 immigrants are detained each year by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and about 30,000 immigrants are in detention on any day. Private prison corporations increasingly manage and profit from rising immigrant detention. Managing immigrant detention is a money-making business for corporations like the GEO Group, which opened a family detention facility in 2014 and soon after had $30 million in increased quarterly profits. The CoreCivic prison company had $245 million in revenue in one year from family detention. Prison companies lobby governments to expand their role and profitability, spending $1.5 million in lobbying in 2014 compared to close to zero dollars in 2006. The prison industry has persuaded Congress to mandate a daily immigration detention quota, which incentivizes U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to fill detention beds it has already paid for. In Texas, the GEO group nearly convinced the state legislature to grant them a childcare license; the company sought the license because "the licensing process (would) allow longer lengths of stay" for families in detention. Data from one private facility showed that ICE decisions on bond amounts and length of detention fluctuate to keep detention beds filled. The authors argue that the detention system is rife with "economic inequality," as release from detention often depends on whether an immigrant can afford to post bond. Private companies seek immigrant detention contracts in part because nationally there is a trend away from incarceration contracts with private firms for the general prison population, and the overall U.S. prison population is declining. Paradoxically, expansion of private detention occurs while irregular border crossings and the overall undocumented population are actually in decline. The article concludes with a number of recommendations, including the scaling back of private prison contracting, which "should be the rare exception rather than the rule." 
(Rob Paral, Rob Paral and Associates)

Vera Institute report finds no evidence that "zero tolerance" approaches actually work to deter unauthorized border crossings

Operation Streamline: No Evidence that Criminal 
Prosecution Deters Migration,
Vera Institute of Justice, June 2018, 12 pp.
Authors: Michael Corradini et al

Before the so-called "zero-tolerance" policy implemented by the Trump Administration in April of 2018 that mandated criminal prosecution for all immigrants entering the country without authorization, there was a similar policy known as "Operation Streamline," which began in 2005 and continued through 2014. This paper examines whether Operation Streamline was effective in curtailing illegal border crossings during this period, a claim that the Trump administration has used to justify its tough stance on border enforcement. Using monthly apprehension data broken down by border sector, the researchers were able to track immigration flows in sectors implementing Streamline and those that did not. The report concludes that "there is no evidence to support the conclusion that Operation Streamline succeeded in deterring unauthorized border crossings, nor that it had any effect whatsoever on immigrants' decision to come to the United States." Moreover, Operation Streamline, by clogging the federal court system with immigration cases (In 2013, 47 percent of all completed cases in the federal court system were immigration-related), Operation Streamline may have diverted law enforcement and judicial attention away from the activities of violent organized gangs or drug cartels. Moreover, the due process rights of immigrants were effectively compromised, as public defenders (a constitutional requirement for indigent clients in criminal cases) often had to handle hundreds of Streamline defendants in a single day, making it virtually impossible for immigrants to claim equities under the law or to file asylum applications, as required under international treaty obligations. A final perverse result of Operation Streamline may have been to increase the size of the undocumented population in the U.S., as immigrants already resident in the U.S. stayed put, rather than risk the consequences of leaving and not being able to return, and loved ones outside the U.S. tried to cross the border to reunify with family members in the U.S. An apt description of Operation Streamline, according to the authors, might be "deterrence theater."

lcLatest Commentary
A selection of recent OpEds from immigration researchers and major opinion leaders

July 11, 2018
The travel ban in numbers: Why families and refugees lose big
Raquel Aldana, The Conversation
Read More

July 10, 2018
Racial resentment is the biggest predictor of immigration attitudes, study finds
Christopher Ingraham, The Washington Post
Read More

July 2, 2018
For Democrats, Immigration Is a Political Problem Without a Policy Solution
Eric Levitz, New York
Read More

June 27, 2018
Don't Feed the Troll in the Oval Office
Thomas B. Edsall, The New York Times
Read More

June 27, 2018
There is No Immigration Crisis
Peter Beinart, The Atlantic
Read More

June 26, 2018
Violence drives immigration from Central America
Sarah Bermeo, Brookings
Read More

June 26, 2018
GOP increasingly opposes legal --not just illegal -- immigration
Ronald Brownstein, CNN
Read More

June 25, 2018
Why care about undocumented immigrants? For one thing, they've become vital to key sectors of the US economy
Mary Jo Dudley, The Conversation
Read More

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