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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Are Immigrant-Heavy Metro Areas More Economically Resilient? Lessons from the Great Recession

November 18, 2021

Are metropolitan areas with larger immigrant populations more sensitive to economic downturns? And, if so, how quickly are these immigrant-heavy regions able to recover?While it is too soon to draw conclusions from the Covid-19 pandemic, the Great Recession of 2008 offers important lessons on how well local economies recover. As past research suggests, immigrant workers often have complementary labor force characteristics — meaning they possess different skills and work in different industries than U.S.-born workers — yet they are also often disproportionately affected by economic downturns. Given that immigrants make up significant shares of the workforce in key industries, such as technology, construction, accommodation, food services, and agriculture, the ability of immigrants — and, by extension, immigrant-dense local economies — to bounce back will have significant impact on the overall recovery of the U.S. economy. As such, examining how immigrant-dense metro areas fared during and after the Great Recession compared to less-immigrant-dense communities could help policymakers better anticipate and recover from a Covid-19 recession.To this end, we first analyze data from the American Community Survey to assess how employment rates fluctuated during and after the Great Recession in the 100 largest metro areas in the United States. After factoring for differences in industry and the workforce in each, we then determine whether and how immigrant density contributes to the economic resilience of metro areas. Lastly, we divide our analysis into two periods: the recession (2008-2012), to determine how sensitive metro areas with different immigrant densities were to economic shocks; and the recovery (2012-2015), to determine how quickly employment rates rebounded in metro areas with different immigrant densities.

The ROI of ESOL: The Economic and Social Return on Investment for ESOL Programs in Greater Boston

February 6, 2020

Recognizing the importance of immigrants to Greater Boston and the value of English classes and other supports to building an inclusive and welcoming community, the Boston Foundation and the Latino Legacy Fund commissioned a study that explores the "return on investment" (ROI) for teaching English to adults who are speakers of other languages. Known as ESOL programs, these services are an important component of adult education and a key piece of the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. The result of that study is this report, comprising an analysis of the region's ESOL landscape that provides background and context for the in-depth case studies and ROI estimates that follow.

Better Educated, but Not Better Off: A Look at the Education Level and Socioeconomic Success of Recent Immigrants, 2007 to 2017

April 17, 2018

This analysis confirms other recent research showing a dramatic increase in the education level of newly arrived immigrants over the last decade. However, our findings show that this increase has not resulted in a significant improvement in labor force attachment, income, poverty, or welfare use for new arrivals. This is true in both absolute terms and relative to the native-born, whose education has not increased as dramatically. In short, new immigrants are starting out as far behind in 2017 as they did in 2007 despite a dramatic increase in their education. Though more research is needed, we explore several possible explanations for this finding.


A New Estimate of the Cost of Reversing DACA

February 15, 2018

Using data on the age and educational outcomes of nearly 3,000 college students who are DACA recipients this study forecasts their income in the ensuing decade to estimate the total economic and fiscal impact over the next decade of allowing this cohort to remain in the country and legally pursue employment.

How Might Restricting Immigration Affect Social Security’s Finances?

December 1, 2017

Most economists agree that immigration boosts productivity, raises the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and prevents labor shortages. In 2016, one in six workers in the United States was an immigrant. These immigrant workers finance a major share of Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance (OASDI) payroll taxes that fund Social Security. The restrictionist Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act proposed in 2017 would halve the number of green cards granted yearly and change the criteria for awarding them, moving from a largely family-based system to an employment-based one. The bill aims to raise wages for American workers and promote economic growth. In How Might Restricting Immigration Affect Social Security's Finances, the Urban Institute analyzes the proposed bill and concludes that the RAISE Act would shrink the number of workers by two million workers by 2030 and 8 million by 2070. As a result, it would weaken Social Security finances by reducing OASDI payroll tax revenues. Over a 75-year period, the RAISE Act would increase Social Security's unfunded obligations from $11.6 trillion to $13.1 trillion. Additional analysis finds that restricting immigration would reduce GDP and have only marginal impact on American wages (no more than 0.16 to 0.23 percent). The authors warn that policymakers should reconsider supporting legislation such as the RAISE Act as it would exacerbate Social Security's financial problems and do little to improve the wages of the U.S.-born. 

Immigrant Entrepreneurship: Trends and Contributions

November 1, 2017

This article analyzes recent U.S. data to examine how immigrants during the last 15 years have contributed to entrepreneurship through self-employment and earnings. It aims to address the questions of how do immigrants contribute to recent U.S. self-employment trends, in what industries are immigrant entrepreneurs concentrated, and how do their earnings compare to those of U.S.-born entrepreneurs?

Michigan: We Are All Migrants Here

June 28, 2017

This report is a clarion call from two Michigan economic development organizations to recognize and support the significant contributions that immigrants are making to the revival of the Michigan economy. The authors are concerned that the gains that the state has made in creating an immigrant-friendly environment are being undermined by policies of the Trump Administration. Although immigrants constitute only 6 percent of the state's population, they punch above their weight on many indices of economic activity, including being 25 percent of the state's high-tech start-ups and running firms that employ over 150,000 other people. Immigrants have also brought an infusion of talent and labor to offset the decline in the native-born population over the last 15 years. The authors summarize the many initiatives the state has taken with the support of state, municipal, and industry leaders to promote the state as an immigrant-friendly destination, including the creation of the Michigan Office of New Americans by Republican Governor Rick Snyder. However, policies of the Trump Administration, such as the scaling back of H-1B visas, the travel ban affecting predominantly Muslim countries, and reductions in refugee admissions, threaten to reverse these gains.

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.

From Struggle to Resilience: The Economic Impact of Refugees in America

June 1, 2017

Refugees living in the United States show a strong upward economic trajectory over time and make significant contributions to their new communities. This report uses data from the 2015 American Community Survey to examine 2.3 million likely refugees based on year of arrival in the U.S. and country of origin. The report finds that, although refugees in the U.S. for five years or less have a median household income of $22,000, that figure more than triples in subsequent decades, exceeding the median income of U.S. households overall. In addition, while only nine percent of the U.S.-born population and 11.5 percent of the non-refugee immigrant population were self-employed in 2015, 13 percent of refugees were entrepreneurs. Refugees are also willing to put down roots in the U.S., with 84 percent of refugees who have been in the U.S. for 16 to 25 years becoming citizens compared to half of the overall foreign-born population in the country for that length of time. As refugees are demonstrating a willingness to make long-term investments in the U.S., the authors recommend that more work be done to track and publicize the successes of the refugee population, in part to justify the short-term assistance provided to refugees during the resettlement process. 

Unlocking Skills: Successful Initiatives for Integrating Foreign-Trained Immigrant Professionals

February 27, 2017

With nearly 2 million college-educated immigrants and refugees in the United States unable to fully utilize their professional skills, better understanding of the elements of successful programs and policies that reduce the waste of advanced education and skills can benefit immigrants, their families, and the U.S. economy more generally. This report explores a range of frontline programs and policy reforms that are providing cutting-edge career navigation, relicensing, gap filling, and job search assistance for foreign-trained professionals in a wide range of occupations. It also examines different state policy and licensing contexts that affect these highly skilled individuals, with a focus on the dense thicket of state laws and regulations that slow or prevent qualified individuals from practicing in a wide range of occupations.

Immigrants Assimilate into the Political Mainstream

January 19, 2017

This report separates immigrant political and policy opinions by citizenship status. Noncitizen immigrants cannot vote but their political opinions are mostly similar to those of natives. However, naturalized citizen-immigrants who can vote have political opinions even closer to those of natives and are near-fully assimilated into the political mainstream.

The Elephant in the Classroom: Mass Immigration's Impact on Public Education

September 8, 2016

This report attempts to estimate the costs of the public education of undocumented immigrants to state and federal education systems, based on data from 2015 and 2016.