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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.

World of Migration: Building a Modern U.S. Immigration and Asylum System in the National Interest

People on all sides of the policy debate largely agree that the current U.S. immigration system is broken. What should a 21st century immigration system that works in the national interest look like? And is this vision achievable amid current political realities? In this conversation, Migration Policy Institute Senior Fellow Doris Meissner speaks with Policy Analyst Ariel Ruiz Soto about how to build an immigration system that reflects today’s realities and builds in the flexibility to adapt to future developments.

2021 Immigration Law & Policy Conference Keynote: Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas

The 18th Annual Immigration Law and Policy conference opened with welcoming remarks from: Anna Gallagher, Executive Director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.; MPI President Andrew Selee; and William M. Treanor, Dean and Executive Vice President of Georgetown University Law Center,

Following introductory remarks, MPI Senior Fellow and Director of the U.S. Immigration Policy program Doris Meissner engaged Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas in the keynote conversation.

Changing Climate, Changing Migration: Retreating from Climate Disaster in the United States

Posted in US Immigration Policy, Migration and Development, Changing Climate, Changing Migration by Migration Policy Institute on September 30th, 2021

In Western countries, a common narrative has developed that only poor or developing nations will have to confront human displacement caused by climate change. But communities in the United States and elsewhere have repeatedly moved because of environmental disasters such as flooding. This episode features a discussion on the U.S. government’s responses to internal displacement, with Kavi Chintam and Chris Jackson, co-authors of an Issues in Science and Technology article analyzing the approach to managed retreat.

Immigrant Detention to a More Effective U.S. Immigration Custody System

Posted in US Immigration Policy, Immigration Enforcement by Migration Policy Institute on September 9th, 2021

The sprawling U.S. immigration detention system has long been controversial for its conditions of care, number of immigrants and asylum seekers detained, and costs. Prioritizing detention also has distorted the broader immigration enforcement system by causing a backlog in the immigration courts that must handle cases of detained migrants over those of the 3 million-plus nondetained people who then wait years for decisions, including those with compelling claims for asylum and other forms of relief. Responding to these conditions and likely future immigration realities both at U.S. borders and the interior necessitates rethinking the role and nature of the immigration custody system, steering it away from a punitive, detention-centered approach towards a more effective and fair approach. This represents an opportune moment for action given the substantial reduction of individuals in detention due to COVID-19, coupled with the Biden administration’s pledge to reimagine the custody system. This discussion focuses on a report - https://bit.ly/2WhJy52 - from its Rethinking U.S. Immigration Policy initiative that examines how the U.S. government can shift from jailers to case managers in ways that serve the national interest. Report authors lay out current conditions and costs in the system, along with their vision for a reimagined immigration custody system, including areas for congressional action and change in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The conversation covers priorities for custody determinations in a redesigned system, alternatives to detention, and how deterrence can ultimately be achieved when the immigration system’s border and interior enforcement, custody, supervision, and asylum adjudication measures are all effectively working together.

A First Step Towards Equity for Dual Language Learners in Early Childhood Systems: Identifying Their Language Needs and Characteristics

Posted in US Immigration Policy, Immigrant Integration by Migration Policy Institute on June 22nd, 2021

MPI research shows that one third of children ages 5 and under in the United States are Dual Language Learners (DLLs) who live with at least one parent who speaks a language other than English at home; over 80 percent are racial or ethnic minorities and 95 percent are U.S. citizens. These DLLs have the potential to become bilingual and biliterate, given appropriate home language and other supports. They also disproportionately face challenges including lower levels of family income, parental educational attainment, and access to the internet and digital devices.

With extensive research in recent decades demonstrating the disparities and language learning challenges and opportunities DLLs face, calls for adoption of early childhood policies and programs that are equitable and responsive to these children’s needs are longstanding. Yet, nearly all state early childhood systems currently lack standardized definitions and policies to identify DLL children, which means that these systems lack information critical to understanding whether DLLs are being effectively and equitably served. However, as new investments and substantial relief funds for early childhood services begin to flow to states, leaders and stakeholders both inside and outside government have a rare opportunity to develop processes to identify DLLs across early childhood systems—an essential step in promoting equitable services and outcomes for this large and growing population.

In this webinar, MPI experts Margie McHugh, Delia Pompa, and Maki Park discuss a framework describing the most critical elements that should be included in standardized, comprehensive DLL identification and tracking processes for early childhood systems, based on program and policy needs. They also explore promising approaches from across the United States as identified in an accompanying report and provide an analysis of state and national DLL data. The Executive Director of Early Edge spoke about the legislative efforts to effectively define and identify DLLs across the state of California through a strengths-based approach.

Disparities Facing U.S. Children in Immigrant Families: New Data and Ideas for Indicators to Promote Equity

Posted in US Immigration Policy, Immigrant Integration by Migration Policy Institute on April 22nd, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has inarguably exacerbated longstanding disparities that undermine the economic mobility and integration of immigrant parents in the United States and their children’s prospects for success in school and beyond. These include critical two-generational barriers disproportionately experienced by immigrant families, such as poverty, limited English proficiency, digital access and device challenges, linguistic isolation, and low levels of parental formal education. These disparities sit at the intersection of K-12, early childhood, adult education, and social services systems where they are largely unaddressed, despite expectations that each system play a major role in addressing them.

This webcast explores findings from an analysis conducted by the Migration Policy Institute’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy, which compares key sociodemographic characteristics of immigrant and U.S.-born parents of young and school-age children and underscores their two-generational implications. Speakers examine disparities evident in the analysis and discuss potential ways to incorporate equity-sensitive measures associated with them in the policy and program frameworks of key systems, with an eye to achieving more responsive and effective service designs and improving equity and access more generally for families facing multiple disparities.

A Year of Pandemic: The State of Global Human Mobility & What Is on the Horizon

Posted in US Immigration Policy, Labor Migration, Mobility and Security, International Migration, European Migration by Migration Policy Institute on April 11th, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic fundamentally changed mobility and cross-border movement in 2020, decimating tourism and business travel, severely curtailing labor migration, and dampening all forms of migration, including refugee resettlement. Since the onset of the public-health crisis, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has tracked the hundreds of travel restrictions, border closures, and health-related travel requirements imposed by governments globally. An IOM-Migration Policy Institute (MPI) report draws from the IOM database to sketch the state of mobility across world regions in 2020, and the range of mobility-related strategies used to contain and mitigate the spread of the virus.
 

This two-panel discussion, featuring introductory remarks by IOM Director General António Vitorino, examines how the pandemic reshaped border management and human mobility in 2020 and what the lasting impacts may be throughout 2021 and beyond. The first panel examines the government actions and regional and international coordination undertaken in 2020, including “travel bubbles” and immunity passports, along with how policymakers balanced health and economic concerns and the needs of vulnerable populations and unprecedented logistical issues in their responses. The second panel explored what policymakers should consider as the world enters into a new, uneven phase marked on the one hand by rising vaccinations, but on the other by the spread of new COVID-19 variants and additional mobility restrictions as caseloads rise in some regions. Speakers discussed what it may take to reopen fully, a possible new border infrastructure focused on public health, what regional and international coordination efforts are showing promise, and a look ahead to major decisions that will need to be made in 2021.

Changing Climate, Changing Migration: Is Climate Change Driving Migration from Central America?

Hundreds of thousands of migrants have left Central America in recent years, and climate extremes have been identified as one of the factors that might be driving this movement, along with elements such as political instability and violence. In this episode, we hear from geographer and climatologist Diego Pons, of Colorado State University, to dissect how changing climate, food insecurity, and migration intersect in this region.

Prospects for a U.S. Legalization Program and the Unauthorized Immigrant Groups that Could Factor in the Debate

Posted in US Immigration Policy by Migration Policy Institute on February 8th, 2021

Sixty percent of the estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the United States have lived in the country for a decade or more, becoming an enduring part of its workforce, economy, and communities. While the resource requirements for deporting this entire group would be insurmountable, there has been sparse serious congressional action to provide any path to legalization for the last 20 years. Dogged by questions of who should be eligible for legalization and under what conditions as well as the political reactions these questions trigger, lawmakers have repeatedly hit an impasse, inevitably dooming the prospects for urgently needed broader immigration reform.  

On day one of his administration, President Joe Biden called upon Congress to enact a sweeping proposal to give unauthorized immigrants a pathway to citizenship. How will Congress respond to this latest effort? Is it likely to garner bipartisan support?

Marking the release of a report (http://bit.ly/usimmleg) that takes stock of various legalization options, particularly amid growing calls to recognize the role immigrants deemed essential workers have played during the COVID-19 pandemic. Drawing upon MPI’s unique methodology to provide estimates of the unauthorized immigrant population and study their characteristics, the report examines the composition of the unauthorized population and offers important new data on various subgroups, including DREAMers and essential workers. Beyond unveiling the findings, the discussion features Republican and Democratic perspectives on possible legislative strategies surrounding legalization, the likelihood of achieving bipartisan support, and what has and has not changed in Congress since the last major effort at immigration reform in 2013.

Mission Critical: The Evolution of U.S. Homeland Security in the 21st Century

Posted in US Immigration Policy by Migration Policy Institute on November 18th, 2020

Created in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the largest reorganization of the federal government since World War II, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was designed to coordinate and execute a comprehensive national strategy to safeguard the country against terrorism. DHS was also tasked with carrying out all functions of the 22 federal agencies and entities that were entirely or partially folded into the new department, ensuring that those not directly related to protection of the homeland were not diminished nor neglected. With a portfolio covering everything from cybersecurity and protection of the nation’s maritime waters to facilitation of trade and emergency management, DHS is arguably the largest federal agency with the most disparate policy goals.

What does it mean to “secure the homeland” in the 21st century? What lessons can be drawn from the U.S. government efforts to do so? And how do DHS work and operations on migration and border security figure into the equation?

With the department well into its second decade and on the precipice of a new presidential term with some of its component agencies pulled into the polarization around immigration and border security, this Migration Policy Institute discussion with the editors and authors of Beyond 9/11: Homeland Security for the Twenty-First Century examines these questions. Leading security experts, Juliette Kayyem, Chappell Lawson, Alan Cohn, and Christian Marrone assess the department’s evolution and how it organizes its operations and work on migration and border management. They offer crucial strategic lessons and detailed recommendations on how to improve the U.S. homeland security enterprise.

The Post-Pandemic Ascent: The Role of Migration in Emerging from the Economic and Labor Market Turmoil

Posted in US Immigration Policy, Immigrant Integration, Labor Migration, International Migration, European Migration by Migration Policy Institute on November 10th, 2020

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, globally interconnected economies and societies are navigating uncharted waters. The pandemic and its aftermath present policymakers with two crucial challenges: how to manage the spread and hopefully eradication of the disease and how to deal with the economic devastation caused by stay-at-home orders, travel bans, and other measures taken to halt the spread of the virus. Currently migration and mobility have come to a relative standstill. Will migration levels return to pre-pandemic levels? And as most countries’ labor systems and economies are linked to immigration, might this public-health crisis result in a fundamental realignment of economic relationships? Will it stimulate a rethink of migration systems, where policymakers seriously re-examine the role and composition of the foreign-born workforce and approaches to immigrant integration? Or post-pandemic, will countries just revert to their previous approaches to migration, or possibly surge further towards protectionism and restrictionism?

This Migration Policy Institute (MPI) and Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) discussion highlights the impact of the coronavirus on migration and mobility systems, and findings from OECD’s International Migration Outlook 2020 on recent developments in migration movements and policies in OECD countries and some non-member countries. As policymakers grapple with a way forward, speakers--including Demetrios G. Papademetriou, Jean-Christophe Dumont, and Jonathan Chaloff--share their perspectives on the opportunities for innovation, what labor demands may emerge, the role of migration in North America and Europe at this challenging point in history, and whether this moment can be the catalyst for rebuilding of economies and societies that provide the best outcomes for both the native born and immigrants alike.  MPI's Meghan Benton moderated the discussion. 

What Is Immigration Policy Expected to Look Like in a Biden Administration?

Posted in US Immigration Policy, Immigrant Integration, Labor Migration, Mobility and Security, Immigration Enforcement by Migration Policy Institute on November 9th, 2020

What actions might the incoming Biden administration take on immigration, and what challenges and opportunities does it face? Migration Policy Institute experts analyze the campaign pledges and prospects ahead, for everything from unwinding the Remain in Mexico program, ending border wall construction, and reviving DACA, as well as the Biden camp’s affirmative vision for change, including legalization.

The U.S. Immigration Policymaker-in-Chief: The Long History of Executive Authority over Immigration

Posted in US Immigration Policy by Migration Policy Institute on September 12th, 2020

The inability of Congress to enact any meaningful legislation on immigration during the past quarter-century has left the United States with a long-outdated immigration system that works for very few, leaving the president with enormous influence and control over U.S. immigration policy. While President Obama’s decision to protect DREAMers via the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was praised by some as an overdue action amid congressional stalemate, it also was the subject of major legal challenge and was criticized as presidential overreach.

Well into its fourth year, the Trump administration has undertaken more than 400 executive actions on immigration. President Trump has been able to dramatically reshape the U.S. immigration system through regulatory, policy, and programmatic changes, and his executive actions have prompted extensive advocacy and litigation in response.

Is executive action on immigration a recent development? And has it always been as controversial as it seems today? Two leading legal scholars, Adam B. Cox and Cristina M. Rodríguez, tackle this question in their book, The President and Immigration Law (Oxford University Press). 

In this webinar, these scholars join Elena Goldstein from the New York State Office of the Attorney General, and MPI's Muzaffar Chishti and Sarah Pierce for a discussion that examines the Trump administration’s substantial use of executive power to change the country’s course on immigration, and how the president’s role in immigration policy is a inevitability that should be carefully considered and reimagined in any blueprint for immigration reform or strategy for activism on immigration.

Excluding Millions: How Trump Administration Changes to the Decennial Census Could Leave Out U.S. Citizens and Immigrants

Posted in US Immigration Policy by Migration Policy Institute on August 29th, 2020

In July 2020, the Trump administration announced it is excluding unauthorized immigrants from the 2020 Census data used to reapportion representatives in the U.S. House of Representatives among the 50 states. The plan is to match Census data with administrative records to identify the U.S. citizens or lawfully present noncitizens in the Census, excluding all others. At a time when the once-a-decade Census collection has already been greatly challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic, and shortened by a month, the administration’s actions are raising questions about the accuracy of the 2020 Census, and concerns about a potential undercount and under-representation of immigrant and other hard-to-reach communities across the United States.

Drawing on evidence of past data-matching exercises, the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) has estimated that up to 20 million U.S. citizens could incorrectly be lumped together with unauthorized immigrants. With the Census counts shaping not only congressional apportionment, but also billions of dollars in federal spending, and government and private-sector planning, the 2020 Census continues to face more legal challenges than any prior Census.

This conversation, featuring a former U.S. Census Bureau director and other top experts, examines how the many challenges facing the 2020 Census could affect the count and representation of immigrant communities, the difficulties inherent in data matching to determine legal status, and the legal and constitutional issues surrounding the administration’s actions.

 

A Bumpy Path to U.S. Citizenship: A Survey of Changing USCIS Practices

Posted in US Immigration Policy by Migration Policy Institute on July 16th, 2020

Even as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) continues to approve the lion’s share of naturalization applications it receives, the agency’s average processing times have risen significantly in recent years. The backlog of citizenship cases has grown in 2020, with the naturalization process grinding to a halt for several months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And it will swell further if USCIS furloughs two-thirds of its staff in August amid a projected $1.2 billion budget shortfall.

Nine million immigrants are eligible to become U.S. citizens but have not done so for a variety of reasons. A more recent element has been added to the mix: increasingly strict scrutiny of applications by USCIS officers as the agency shifts its focus from customer service to fraud detection, as traced in a Migration Policy Institute report, A Rockier Road to U.S. Citizenship? Findings of a Survey on Changing Naturalization Procedures. The report traces the agency’s evolving adjudication standards and procedures for citizenship applications during the Trump administration, drawing on a nationwide survey of naturalization assistance providers. The report findings were shared during this MPI webinar, which features officials who oversaw the citizenship process during prior administrations, as well as the study’s lead researcher and the executive director of the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, which administered the survey.

In this interesting conversation moderated by MPI’s Doris Meissner, the discussants—MPI Director of Research for U.S. Programs Randy Capps, ILRC Executive Director Eric Cohen, and former USCIS Director Leon Rodriguez—examine the increasing obstacles to citizenship as a result of changing USCIS practices, and the effects the pandemic-related shutdown and USCIS financial turmoil could have on the ability of would-be Americans to take the oath of citizenship in the months ahead.

Beyond the Border: U.S.-Mexican Migration Accord Has Ushered in Sweeping Change in Mexico in Its First Year

Following months of rising Central American migration through Mexico to the United States, the U.S. and Mexican governments on June 7, 2019 signed a joint declaration pledging to work together to manage and reduce irregular migration. The accord effectively marked a new era in the development of Mexico’s immigration enforcement and humanitarian protection systems. To avert the imposition of tariffs on Mexican goods threatened by President Donald Trump, the administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador agreed to deploy its recently created National Guard to combat illegal immigration and accepted the expansion of the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP, also known as Remain in Mexico) along the entirety of the U.S.-Mexico border. In turn, the Trump administration agreed to expedite asylum processing for migrants waiting in Mexico under MPP and committed to addressing the conditions driving migration by investing in economic development efforts in southern Mexico and Central America.

While the full effects of the U.S.-Mexico cooperation agreement will take years to unfold, the Migration Policy Institute has assessed the changes during the accord’s first year. At the agreement’s one-year anniversary, MPI researchers Andrew Selee and Ariel Ruiz Soto engaged in discussion with former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Roberta Jacobson, former Mexican Ambassador to the U.S. Gerónimo Gutiérrez, and journalist Angela Kocherga about the changes it has sparked. The panelists also discussed how the agreement, coupled with U.S. policies designed to narrow access to asylum, has increased demand for humanitarian protection in Mexico, exposed significant weaknesses in the systems for protecting vulnerable migrants and exacerbated precarious conditions for migrants along the U.S.-Mexico border. As both countries face mobility challenges due to COVID-19, speakers explored how these changes may affect the future of U.S.-Mexico relations. 

Humanitarian Protection in an Era of Pandemic

The rapid closures of borders around the world have been among the most dramatic migration-related effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 130 countries have introduced entry restrictions at their borders, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates. While these closures have virtually suspended leisure and business travel across the world, the effects are proving even more severe for refugees and migrants fleeing danger. Crossing an international border to a country of safety and filing an asylum claim is no longer possible in many places—a seismic shock to the foundations of a post-World War II international protection system that relies on the goodwill of national governments to grant access to their territory for those in need.

The pandemic has also placed into stark relief the unique vulnerabilities forced migrants now confront in the face of outbreak. The reception facilities where many asylum seekers live while awaiting a verdict on their claim invite outbreaks, even in high-income countries with well-run asylum and reception systems. Infection is likely to spread even more rapidly in severely overcrowded facilities, such as the camps on the Greek islands and informal settlements in Mexican border cities where migrants awaiting U.S. asylum hearings are massed. In developing countries where access to proper health care is limited even for nationals, the consequences of the pandemic could be disastrous for refugees who often live in densely packed housing with poor sanitation. At the same time, the suspension of resettlement operations by IOM and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has closed off a crucial lifeline for the especially vulnerable.

Speakers on this webinar consider how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected—and perhaps, remade—the global protection systems. Meghan Benton, Director for Research of MPI’s International Program, is joined by MPI colleagues, Kathleen Newland, Hanne Beirens, Sarah Pierce, and Susan Fratzke, for a free-flowing conversation regarding the effects of the pandemic on asylum systems in Europe and North America, as well as those in developing regions, where 85 percent of refugees remain. In addition to considering the immediate effects the crisis has had on national asylum systems and on refugees themselves, the conversation looks ahead and begin to assess the implications for the principle of asylum and access to protection in the future.

View MPI's resources on COVID-19

Expert Podcast: Meeting Seasonal Labor Needs in the Age of COVID-19

Governments are facing urgent pandemic-related questions. One of the more pressing ones: Who is going to harvest crops in countries that rely heavily on seasonal foreign workers? In this podcast, MPI experts Hanne Beirens, Kate Hooper, and Camille Le Coz, examine ways in which countries could address labor shortages in agriculture, including recruiting native-born workers and letting already present seasonal workers stay longer. Catch an interesting discussion as border closures have halted the movement of seasonal workers even as crops are approaching harvest in some places.

 

Migration & Coronavirus: A Complicated Nexus Between Migration Management and Public Health

Governments around the world have adopted significant migration management measures to try to contain and halt the spread of COVID-19. Border closures, travel restrictions, prohibitions on arrivals from certain areas, and heightened screening have been among the leading policy responses, initially to try to block COVID-19 from crossing borders and later, as the pandemic became a global one, as part of a raft of mobility restrictions seeking to mitigate further spread. The success of these restrictions in stemming the initial breakout of public health threats across international borders as well as their role in mitigating "community spread" within affected states is a matter of dispute. More clear, however, is that internal measures—such as business closures and "lockdown" orders—are likely to be borne disproportionately by the most vulnerable, including refugees, unauthorized populations, and other immigrants.
 
This webinar, organized by the Migration Policy Institute and the Zolberg Institute on Migration and Mobility at The New School, discussed the state of play around the globe and examined where migration management and enforcement tools may be useful and where they may be ill-suited to advancing public health goals. Experts compared the current response (and rhetoric) to what has been seen during prior major public health crises in the United States and internationally, and discussed how this is likely to affect future mobility and international cooperation on issues such as humanitarian protection.

Speakers included:

Doris Meissner, Senior Fellow, MPI, and former Commissioner, U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service

Natalia Banulescu-Bogdan, Associate Director, International Program, Migration Policy Institute (MPI)

T. Alexander Aleinikoff, University Professor and Director, Zolberg Institute on Migration and Mobility, and former Deputy UN High Commissioner for Refugees

Alan Kraut, Distinguished University Professor of History, American University, and MPI Nonresident Fellow

View all MPI resources related to COVID-19.

Green Cards and Public Charge: Who Could Be Denied Based on Benefits Use?

Posted in US Immigration Policy by Migration Policy Institute on March 12th, 2020

Even before the Trump administration’s public-charge rule took effect on February 24, there was evidence of sizeable disenrollment from public benefit programs by legal immigrants afraid that use by themselves or their U.S.-born children could doom a future application for legal permanent residence.

These “chilling effects” result from confusion about which benefit programs and populations are considered under the new public-charge determination, or fear that the government could change the rules in the future. Yet the number of noncitizens who could be deemed ineligible for a green card based on existing use of a public benefit is very small, as a Migration Policy Institute (MPI) analysis shows.

On this webinar, MPI experts, Julia Gelatt, Mark Greenberg, and Randy Capps, released their estimates of the populations that could be deemed ineligible for a green card based on existing benefits use. During the webinar, the experts also discussed the far larger consequences of the public-charge rule, through its chilling effects and imposition of a test aimed at assessing whether green-card applicants are likely to ever use a public benefit in the future. This wealth test holds the potential to reshape legal immigration to the United States in far more significant ways than any other measure taken by the administration to date. 

None of the comments on this webinar should be considered as legal advice; instead, all information and content provided are for general informational purposes only. Individuals with concerns or questions should consult with an attorney.

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