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Migration Policy Institute Podcasts

MPI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank dedicated to the study of the movement of people worldwide.

Will Immigration Reform Ever Succeed Again? The Legacy of IRCA & Its Enduring Lessons

Posted in US Immigration Policy, Immigrant Integration, Immigration Enforcement by migrationpolicy on June 26th, 2019

Over the past two decades, efforts at immigration reform have failed again and again in Congress, leaving the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA), together with its “follow-on” bill, the Immigration Act of 1990, as the most recent comprehensive immigration reforms to have made their way into law. And it appears that, at least for the foreseeable future, IRCA may retain that title amid vast partisan and ideological gulfs over immigration that seem unbridgeable despite near-universal recognition that the current system is badly broken.

So what happened in the politics of the 1980s that enabled passage of a major reform to the country’s enforcement, legal immigration, and employment systems? Is it possible to reconstruct the political conditions and coalitions that permitted the law’s passage, or has too much changed?

And what is IRCA’s real legacy: Did its passage mark the beginning of the potent pro- and anti-immigration movements that are central actors in today’s politics?  Did it, as some argue, poison the well for future immigration reform, or, conversely, did it represent sound policy? And what lessons do IRCA’s enactment and implementation offer today’s policymakers, scholars, and advocates?

This provocative, thoughtful discussion featured Migration Policy Institute (MPI) Resident Fellow Charles Kamasaki's book, Immigration Reform: The Corpse That Will Not Die. Kamasaki is joined by other veterans of the IRCA debate, MPI's Doris Meissner and Muzaffar Chishti, for a conversation on these questions, the lessons that can be learned, the intended and unintended consequences, and how the 1986 law’s legacy has shaped contemporary politics surrounding immigration.

Embarking on the Next Journey: Innovations in Predeparture Orientation Programs for Refugees

As the number of resettlement countries grows across Europe, Latin America, and Asia, the question of how to better prepare resettling refugees, as well as receiving communities, for what lies ahead is more pressing than ever. For resettling refugees, adjusting to their new lives can be particularly difficult. Often, they have lived for long periods in remote regions or refugee camps, with no or little formal education and limited knowledge of how to navigate bureaucracies. Equally, receiving communities may lack the information and support they need to welcome new neighbors. While predeparture orientation alone can neither guarantee a smooth transition nor expedite integration, it holds the potential to increase refugees’ confidence in their decision to resettle and to improve their ability to start life anew in an unfamiliar place. If done effectively, orientation can make a difference for refugees’ well-being and be an investment in receiving-community social cohesion.

While the potential benefits of such preparation are clear, it is far less obvious how exactly to make the most out of the limited time at hand before refugees depart. It can be challenging to strike a delicate balance between conveying key messages and skills for the next steps ahead while meeting refugees’ own information needs. What do resettling refugees need to learn before departure, and what information can wait until after arrival? Who is best placed to deliver predeparture orientation, and how can information be shared in the most accessible and credible way? And how can receiving communities best be supported in welcoming newcomers? To answer these questions, this Migration Policy Institute Europe webinar examines concrete and innovative practices of how to better design and implement predeparture orientation programs from the perspective of a diverse range of actors.

This webinar draws from the report, Preparing for the Unknown: Designing Effective Predeparture Orientation for Resettling Refugees and features remarks from the report authors, a refugee who went through resettlement process and now serves as a mentor for those being resettled in The Netherlands, and the head of the resettlement and integration support unit at IOM Norway. The report was produced in the framework of the European Union Action on Facilitating Resettlement and Refugee Admission through New Knowledge (EU-FRANK) project and lays out guiding principles for effective orientation programs for Member States as they decide or rethink what support they offer to refugees before arrival.

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