Every day, organizations worldwide are engaged in a collective two steps forward, one step back march toward improved immigration services and policies. What hard-earned lessons are these nonprofits, and the foundations that support them, learning from their persistent efforts? This collection of evaluations, case studies, and lessons learned exposes and explores the nuances of effective collaboration, the value of coordinated messaging, the bedrock of ongoing advocacy efforts, and the vital importance of long-term and flexible funding.

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Legalization Through “Registry”

September 28, 2021

Current immigration law contains a provision called "registry" that allows certain non-citizens who are long-term residents of the United States, but who are either undocumented or present in the country under some sort of temporary immigration status, to "register" for Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status. In order to qualify, individuals must have entered the country on or before a specified date (known as the "registry date") and must demonstrate good moral character and continuous residence since their entry. After its creation in 1929, Congress advanced the registry date four times, most recently in 1986, when the date was set at January 1, 1972—meaning that only non-citizens who entered the United States by that date are eligible to apply for LPR status through registry. This date is now so far in the past that few individuals are eligible. However, Congress has the power to advance the registry date again at any time, which would potentially allow millions of non-citizens to become LPRs and, ultimately, U.S. citizens.

Tracking the Biden Agenda on Immigration Enforcement

May 20, 2021

This report analyzes some of the most consequential changes to immigration enforcement implemented by the Trump administration, the changes that President Biden committed to making during his campaign and transition, and the progress that his administration has achieved in its first 100 days. The report concludes with recommendations for additional changes that the administration should prioritize in working to create a fairer and more humane system of immigration enforcement.

Tracking the Biden Agenda on Legal Immigration in the First 100 Days

April 29, 2021

President Biden assumed office after making considerable commitments to implement changes to legal immigration in the United States, both to reverse harmful changes by former President Trump, but also in reforming and updating the system more broadly. Trump executed prolonged attacks on many categories of immigrants in thinly veiled attempts to limit the number of noncitizens entering the United States temporarily and permanently. These changes created a series of often duplicative barriers impacting the same populations and limiting the ability of many noncitizens to obtain or maintain immigration status in the United States. While the Biden administration has made significant progress in meeting many of its commitments in restoring and reforming legal immigration in the United States, significant barriers to access remain that will need to be addressed for the system to function in a meaningful manner.This special report analyzes some of the most significant changes to immigration policy made by the Trump administration, as well as the subsequent commitments and accomplishments made by the Biden administration on these issues during its first 100 days. The report also provides recommendations for action throughout the remainder of the Biden presidency to foster a fair and efficient system of legal immigration.

Measuring In Absentia Removal in Immigration Court

January 28, 2021

Do immigrants attend their immigration court hearings? This question is central to current debates about the immigration court system. Contrary to claims by the government that most immigrants fail to appear in immigration court, our analysis of data provided by the federal government reveals that 83% of all nondetained immigrants with completed or pending removal cases from Fiscal Years (FY) 2008 through 2018 attended all of their court hearings. Among those who were represented by counsel during the same time period, 96% attended all of their court hearings. Moreover, we reveal that 15% of those who were ordered deported because they didn't appear in court successfully reopened their cases and had their removal orders rescinded. This crucial finding suggests that many individuals who fail to appear in court wanted to attend their hearings but never received notice or faced hardship in getting to court.This report provides accurate information, based on independent analysis of government data, of the rate at which immigrants attend court. It sheds light on the concerted effort made by immigrants to comply with the law so as to increase transparency to policymakers and the public. The report provides a detailed analysis of the frequency of in absentia orders and discusses the important relationship between appearance rates and representation by counsel, applications for relief, and court location. Taken together, this data-driven report lays bare the lie that noncitizens never appear in court. It also serves as a necessary guide for the newly elected administration of President Joe Biden, which has the opportunity to take a fresh look at immigration policy and implement the data-driven policy recommendations discussed in the report's conclusion.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Noncitizens and Across the U.S. Immigration System

September 30, 2020

The COVID-19 (the novel coronavirus) pandemic, and the related federal response, disrupted virtually every aspect of the U.S. immigration system. Visa processing overseas by the Department of State, as well as the processing of some immigration benefits within the country by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), have come to a near standstill. Entry into the United States along the Mexican and Canadian borders—including by asylum seekers and unaccompanied children—has been severely restricted. Immigration enforcement actions in the interior of the country have been curtailed, although they have not stopped entirely. Tens of thousands of people remain in immigration detention despite the high risk of COVID-19 transmission in crowded jails, prisons, and detention centers that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) uses to hold noncitizens. The pandemic led to the suspension of many immigration court hearings and limited the functioning of the few courts which remain open or were reopened. Meanwhile, Congress left millions of immigrants and their families out of legislative relief, leaving many people struggling to stay afloat in a time of economic uncertainty.This report seeks to provide a comprehensive overview of the impact of COVID-19 across the immigration system in the United States. Given that the landscape of immigration policy is changing rapidly in the face of the pandemic, this report will be updated as needed.


Foreign-Trained Doctors are Critical to Serving Many U.S. Communities

January 1, 2018

Foreign-trained doctors in the United States play an indispensable role in providing health care to undeserved communities and fill health care shortages that impact millions of Americans. One-quarter of all practicing physicians in the U.S., around 247,000 doctors, are foreign-trained and therefore likely to be foreign-born. This report examines foreign-trained doctors and the socio-demographic characteristics of the Primary Care Service Areas (PCSAs) where they serve. Data was obtained from the American Medical Association (AMA), the U.S. Census, the American Community Survey and the U.S. Healthcare Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) using zip codes of practice, medical specialty and location where medical degrees were earned. The report finds that foreign-trained doctors were more likely to work in primary-care positions like family medicine, therefore caring for a large swath of the U.S. population, while US-trained doctors pursued specializations such as dermatology and orthopedics. Furthermore, between 30 to 42.5 percent of all doctors in areas that are low income, less educated and have more ethnic minorities were foreign-trained. The projected shortfall of doctors by 2025 (estimated at 46,100 to 90,400 positions) will increase demand for foreign-trained doctors. However, immigration policies related to residency and visa requirements limit the ability of doctors to immigrate and practice medicine in the U.S. The authors urge policymakers to consider the important role foreign-trained doctors play in providing health care to underprivileged communities and to adjust immigration policy accordingly.

Foreign-born STEM Workers in the United States

June 14, 2017

Foreign-born workers in the United States represent a growing share of the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) workforce in all occupational categories. This fact sheet from the American Immigration Council analyzes data from the American Community Survey to give an overview of the occupational, gender, educational and geographic distribution of foreign-born STEM workers in the United States. It offers a side-by-side comparison of two sets of STEM occupations based on two different STEM definitions. The total number of STEM workers in the U.S. has nearly doubled since 1990, with one-fifth to one-quarter of the STEM workforce being foreign-born in 2015. Foreign-born STEM workers have made significant contributions to innovation and productivity, e.g. 25 percent of high-tech companies founded between 1995 and 2005 had at least one immigrant founder. The foreign-born also dominate among those with advanced degrees -- immigrants make up the majority of STEM workers with doctoral degrees. With STEM occupations projected to grow 13 percent to more than nine million between 2012 and 2022, the U.S. will need about one million more STEM professionals than it will produce over the next decade. The authors suggest that, though increasing U.S.-born STEM workers is essential, foreign-born STEM workers, who tend to be slightly younger than the overall STEM workforce, may still be required in the U.S. to meet future labor needs.

Defining Skill: The Many Forms of Skilled Immigrant Labor

November 17, 2016

In the world of work, skills encompass more than just education. Expertise and abilities gained on the job, informally, or through specialized training programs can be adapted and used in a number of different settings. Yet, because skills are so often narrowly equated with level of education, the value of the work performed by low-wage workers (native-born and immigrant alike) is frequently devalued or overlooked entirely. From construction workers to gardeners, many low-wage immigrant workers are in fact quite skilled, but are frequently labeled as "less skilled" because their levels of formal educational attainment are relatively low or because the jobs they perform require little formal education. The purpose of this paper is to describe how certain immigrant workers acquire a wide range of skills and apply those skills in the United States. Using data from a large survey of workers, it is intended to broaden our concept of "skills" and begin to change the language we use to describe these workers.