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

Justice for All? Unfair Outcomes for Non-Citizens in Harris County Criminal Courts

August 16, 2021

Harris County (Texas), home to approximately 1.2 million immigrants, is one of the largest and most diverse counties in the United States. Unfortunately, it also operates an expansive jail system and is an epicenter of immigration enforcement. This report looks at criminal case outcomes before Harris County courts and highlights disparities between U.S. citizens and non-citizens in arrests, charges, bail, case disposition, and sentencing. Through this report, we seek to raise awareness about how non-citizens are unjustly treated in Harris County, and we provide key policy recommendations for stakeholders to take immediate action to address such inequities.

Criminal Immigrants in Texas: Illegal Immigrant Conviction and Arrest Rates for Homicide, Sexual Assault, Larceny, and Other Crimes

February 26, 2018

This brief uses Texas Department of Public Safety data to measure the conviction and arrest rates of illegal immigrants by crime. In Texas in 2015, the criminal conviction and arrest rates for immigrants were well below those of native-born Americans. Moreover, the conviction and arrest rates for illegal immigrants were lower than those for native-born Americans. This result holds for most crimes.

Along Racial Lines: The Genesis of Arizona’s SB 1070 Is a Cautionary Tale of Race-based Immigration Policy

October 1, 2016

For the authors and supporters of Arizona's most notorious anti-immigrant law, SB 1070, the existence of the United States as a nation was being threatened by unauthorized immigration. Specifically, this threat was understood to come from immigrants entering the U.S. from Mexico. Their argument claimed that the nation could be saved from this threat only through the strict and punitive enforcement of the country's immigration laws, even by way of flagrant racial profiling. Using the words of the very individuals who authored SB 1070—and of those who share that worldview—this report unmasks the underlying racism that motivated such an egregious law.

Lessons From the Local Level: DACA's Implementation and Impact on Education and Training Success

January 5, 2015

This report examines the ways in which local educational institutions, legal service providers, and immigrant youth advocates have responded to the first phase of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Based on extensive interviews with stakeholders in seven states -- California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, New York, and Texas -- the report identifies initiatives undertaken by educational institutions and other community stakeholders to support DACA youth's education and training success, and examine the impact of deferred action on grantees' academic and career pursuits. It provides examples of promising practices, additional challenges, and key takeaways at the high school, postsecondary, and adult education levels, as well as an exploration of the nature and scope of DACA legal outreach initiatives.

Children; Community-Based Outreach & Activity; Research & Evaluation

Promise Arizona: Building Immigrant Political Power

January 1, 2013

This case study investigates the history and accomplishments of one organization that is making considerable strides in advancing the values and political interests of the Latino community. Beginning in 2010, Promise Arizona (PAZ) and Promise Arizona in Action (PAZ en Acción) work to empower Latinos and the immigrant community to flex their civic muscle through community organizing and political action. This case study provides a snapshot of the organization's formation, growth, and organizing initiatives and explores what strategies have been central to its success. It is one model of how grassroots organizing can contribute to achieving immigration rights.

Civic Engagement; Community-Based Outreach & Activity

Enforcing Arizona's SB 1070: A State of Confusion

July 27, 2010

Arizona and the federal government await a decision from a Phoenix district judge on whether enforcement of SB 1070 will move forward on July 29th, or whether all or some parts of the law will be enjoined. Meanwhile, local law enforcement is struggling to interpret SB 1070 and provide training to officers, which could be further complicated if the judge allows only some parts of the law to go forward. In a new report released today by the Immigration Policy Center, Enforcing Arizona's SB 1070: A State of Confusion (below), journalist Jeffrey Kaye reveals that "instead of 'statewide and uniform practices' as directed by the governor, Arizona police agencies have developed a patchwork of guidelines based on varying interpretations of the law." Kaye's reporting includes interviews with police officials, who cite concerns with implementing the new law, and a review of training materials that suggest the implementation of SB 1070 will differ from one jurisdiction to another, and even within police agencies, and "will be burdensome, costly, and distort priorities."

The Criminal Alien Program: Immigration Enforcement in Travis County, Texas

February 17, 2010

In February 2008, Austin Police Department (APD) officers pulled over a car on a routine traffic stop. In the car were a Central American couple and their three-year-old U.S.-citizen son. The officers arrested Sylvia and Ernesto due to outstanding traffic tickets, and later charged them with tampering with government records after finding the couple's false Social Security cards used to gain employment. Sylvia and Ernesto were booked into the Travis County Jail, while their son Luis was temporarily placed into Child Protective Services (CPS), to be reunited with his parents once they were released from jail. However, this reunion was not to occur on American soil. Through an initiative called the Criminal Alien Program (CAP), local law enforcement agencies collaborate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to identify deportable[3] non-citizens in county jails across the county. In Austin, Texas, the seat of Travis County, the Sheriff's Office supplies ICE with a list of foreign-born arrestees and grants ICE unlimited access to the jail to interview inmates. For individuals like Sylvia and Ernesto, who are undocumented, or for legal immigrants who are still vulnerable to deportation for crimes as minor as shoplifting, an arrest can lead to deportation. Because ICE was able to take custody of them, Sylvia and Ernesto were not released into the community to be with their young son. Instead, they were held in ICE detention while deportation proceedings commenced against them. Meanwhile, CPS transferred Luis to foster care, as no relatives could be immediately found to claim him. Luis's parents were ultimately both deported to Central America, and Luis lingered in foster care for a week until a relative was found. Unfortunately, this is no isolated incident. In 2008, the University of Texas School of Law's Children's Rights Clinic saw another similar case, and in April 2009, The New York Times reported that an undocumented woman's child was placed for adoption when the court deemed she "abandoned" her son after being jailed subsequent to an immigration workplace raid. ICE and local law enforcement officials claim that CAP targets the worst criminal offenders -- those dangerous individuals who make our communities less safe. The Chief Deputy of the Travis Country Sheriff's Office (TCSO) has said, "We know for a fact that we are only getting the bottom of the barrel, so to speak. These guys are really the undesirables. Most people wouldn't want them getting out of jail and being their neighbor. They'd like to see them deported out of the country." However, stories like those of Sylvia and Ernesto, and those of many others whose families are torn apart because of traffic arrests or misdemeanor offenses, show that many of the people impacted are far from being at "the bottom of the barrel." Not only are these individuals facing deportation and separation from their families, but CAP has also negatively impacted entire communities. There have also been allegations of law-enforcement agencies engaging in racial profiling and pretextual arrests in order to get suspected deportable immigrants into the jail so they can be identified by ICE. CAP can also affect a town's reputation, economy, and school system. Achieving the opposite of its mandate, CAP in fact decreases public safety when immigrant victims and witnesses fear contacting police due to law enforcement's collaboration with immigration authorities, creating a sphere for criminals to operate with impunity. This paper provides a brief history and background on the CAP program. It also includes a case study of CAP implementation in Travis County, Texas, which finds that the program has a negative impact on communities because it increases the community's fear of reporting crime to police, is costly, and may encourage racial profiling.

A Humanitarian Crisis at the Border: New Estimates of Deaths Among Unauthorized Immigrants

February 1, 2007

In the mid-1990s, the U.S. government's deterrence approach to immigration control militarized the U.S.-Mexico border, closed off major urban points of unauthorized migration in Texas and California, and funneled hundreds of thousands of unauthorized immigrants through southern Arizonaas deserts and mountains. As a result, immigrant deaths along the border have increased dramatically.

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.