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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Human Rights Travesty: Biden Administration Embrace of Trump Asylum Expulsion Policy Endangers Lives, Wreaks Havoc

August 24, 2021

More than seven months since President Biden took office, the U.S. government continues to turn awayand block people seeking protection at U.S. ports of entry along the southern border and to expel manyasylum seekers to growing danger in Mexico. For this report, Human Rights First researchers conducted in person and remote interviews with migrantsand asylum seekers, government officials in the United States and Mexico, attorneys, academicresearchers, humanitarian staff, and other legal monitors. Researchers spoke with 65 migrants andasylum seekers in person in the Mexican cities of Reynosa, Nuevo Laredo, Piedras Negras, and CiudadAcuña in August 2021 and more than 50 additional interviews with migrants and asylum seekers inMexico were carried out by telephone between July and August 2021. Interviews were conductedprimarily in Spanish with a limited number in English. The report draws on data from an electronic surveyof asylum seekers in Mexico conducted by Al Otro Lado between June and August 2021, as well asinformation from U.S. and Mexican government data, media sources, and other human rights reports.

Refugees & Asylum Seekers

Study of the Outcomes and Impacts of the Global Forum on Migration and Development and Civil Society Days

October 26, 2012

In November 2011, the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) and accompanying Civil Society Days (CSD) completed their fifth year of operation, with the aim of improving migration policy coherence and enhancing the benefits of migration to sending and receiving countries, and to migrants themselves. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the largest non-governmental donor to this process, commissioned this study to retrospectively assess the outcomes and impact of the CSD and GFMD on policies, practices, issue framing, and government-civil society cooperation; and to prospectively draw lessons learned for the future of the GFMD and CSD. The evaluation took place from November 2011 through September 2012, allowing the team to observe the CSD and GFMD in Geneva, conduct an in-depth case study in Mexico, distribute online surveys to participants, conduct interviews at the UN offices in New York, and conduct key informant interviews by phone. Using a mixed method approach, combining quantitative survey data with qualitative key informant interviews and an extensive document review, the team has worked to triangulate data and strengthen the validity of findings. This study is geared towards the main stakeholders of the GFMD and CSD, including governments, civil society representatives, and donors. It is hoped that the aforementioned stakeholders will be able to utilize the findings, conclusions, and recommendations within this report to better inform their work in migration and development moving forward -- both within and outside of the GFMD and CSD processes.

Civic Engagement; Field Building; Research & Evaluation

Border Insecurity: U.S. Border-Enforcement Policies and National Security

April 10, 2006

Since 9/11, concern has mounted among policymakers and law-enforcement authorities that foreign terrorists affiliated with al Qaeda might use Mexico as a transit point to enter the United States, relying on the same peoplesmuggling networks as undocumented immigrants and becoming lost in the large undocumented flow. Some lawmakers have voiced fears that terrorists might be among the growing number of undocumented non-Mexicans crossing the southern border, although these Other Than Mexicans (OTMs) come principally from Central and South America. There is no evidence this has happened, despite suggestions by several lawmakers that the extremely small number of Arab and Muslim OTMs apprehended at the border constitutes a threat to national security. Ironically, the U.S. government's efforts to stem undocumented immigration by fortifying the U.S.-Mexico border have increased the profitability of the people-smuggling business and fostered greater sophistication in the smuggling networks through which a foreign terrorist might enter the country. U.S. national security would be better servedif undocumented labor migration were taken out of the border-security equation by reforming the U.S. immigration system to accommodate U.S. labor demand. In the process, fewer immigrants would try to enter the country without authorization, the market for people smugglers would be undercut, and foreign terrorists would be deprived of the large undocumented flows and smuggling infrastructure that might aid their entry into the United States. Moreover, the U.S. Border Patrol could focus more on finding terrorists and less on apprehending jobseekers. Among the findings of this report: Immigrant smuggling across the U.S.-Mexico border is a growth industry. The share of undocumented immigrants apprehended along the southern border who reportedly were smuggled into the United States rose from 5.5 percent in Fiscal Year (FY) 1992 to 22.2 percent in FY 2004. The OTM share of apprehensions along the U.S.-Mexico border rose from 1.1 percent in FY 1997 to 5.8 percent in FY 2004 and then, according to preliminary estimates, spiked to 13.2 percent in FY 2005. More than three-quarters of OTMs are from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. The largest increases in OTM apprehensions at the southern border since 1998 have occurred among citizens of Honduras, El Salvador, and Brazil, none of which is a likely source of terrorists bent on attacking the United States. From FY 1999 through FY 2004, apprehensions along the U.S.-Mexico border of OTMs from Middle Eastern, North African, and South Asian countries of "special interest" to national security amounted to only 0.02 percent of all apprehensions and 0.7 percent of all OTM apprehensions. The number of such apprehensions declined after 2001. Until lawmakers create new avenues for both permanent and temporary immigration that are realistic and flexible, U.S. national security will continue to be undermined by border-enforcement efforts that divert labor migration through undocumented channels and into the hands of people smugglers.

Five Myths About Immigration: Common Misconceptions Underlying U.S. Border-Enforcement Policy

August 1, 2005

The current crisis of undocumented immigration to the United States has its roots in fundamental misunderstandings about the causes of immigration and the motivations of immigrants. A growing body of evidence indicates that current border enforcement policies are based on mistaken assumptions and have failed. Undocumented migrants continue to come to the United States, rates of apprehension are at all-time lows, and migrants are settling in the United States at higher rates than ever before.

Fencing in Failure: Effective Border Control is Not Achieved by Building More Fences

April 1, 2005

New proposals for more fencing and Border Patrol agents along the U.S.-Mexico border may only perpetuate an unsuccessful and counterproductive policy that does not effectively enhance national security or control undocumented immigration.

Crossing Borders Alone: The Treatment of Unaccompanied Children in the United States

January 2, 2004

Children who travel unaccompanied to the United States experience not only the trauma of family separation and the frequently predatory behavior of the traffickers who bring them, but also harsh treatment by an immigration bureaucracy that often incarcerates them with little access to legal counsel or professional support.

A Moratorium on Common Sense: Immigration Accord On Hold While Failed Border Enforcement Policies Continue

May 2, 2003

After September 11th, efforts to reach an immigration accord with Mexico came to a halt. As a result, the Bush administration continues a poorly conceived border-enforcement strategy from the 1990s that ignores U.S. economic reality, contributes to hundreds of deaths each year among border crossers, does little to reduce undocumented migration or enhance national security, increases profits for immigrant smugglers, and fails to support the democratic transition that the administration of Vicente Fox represents for Mexico.

Mexican Immigrant Workers and the U.S. Economy: An Increasingly Vital Role

September 1, 2002

America's current immigration policies are antiquated and fail to recognize the importance of Mexican workers to the national economy. U.S. immigration law must provide ways for Mexican workers to enter and remain in the U.S., in both temporary and permanent status, with protections to assure that they have the dignity and respect they deserve, given the important contributions they make to America. The status quo can no longer be accepted if the United States is to remain the world's leading economy.