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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Reforming Employment-Based Immigration: Charting A Path Forward

July 27, 2022

Comprehensive immigration reform has been "on the table" in Congress for two decades, with the last substantial reform to the legal immigration system passed in 1990 under then-President George H.W. Bush. Yet majorities of both parties view the current system as broken and support legalization for long-term undocumented residents, including Dreamers, and securing the southern border.However, polling by the Bipartisan Policy Center and Morning Consult in April and May 2021 offered a potential path forward for legislation by focusing on updating legal immigration, and economic-based immigration in particular. The polls found that Democrats, independents, and Republicans were more likely to compromise on "providing visas for immigrants supporting U.S. economy by filling positions where companies cannot find U.S. workers," than either border security or legalization. This policy was also generally ranked in the middle in salience, meaning that it is neither the most nor least important to either party, providing an opening for policymakers to finally create movement on reform.With this in mind, over several months in 2021 and 2022, BPC convened separate groups of diverse stakeholders, representing employers, labor union perspectives, and immigrant rights advocates, to discuss possible reforms to the United States' lesser-skilled and high-skilled legal immigration systems. The groups considered what the legal immigration system might look like if designed from the ground up, instead of thinking about tweaks to the existing system. What follows is an overview of the conclusions we have drawn from these meetings that might provide a framework for future legal immigration reform discussions in Congress.

Stronger Rules Against Bias: A Proposal for a New DHS Nondiscrimination Policy

September 9, 2022

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has a problem with discriminatory profiling. Too often, it relies on religious, ethnic, or racial stereotypes in carrying out its expansive counterterrorism mandate, as well as its other functions. DHS agents question Muslim travelers about their religious views when they enter the United States and single out Latino communities for detention and deportation.  They detain Americans at the border simply based on their country of birth.  Officers charged with identifying potentially risky travelers by looking for suspicious behaviors have said that the scientifically discredited program they used amounted to a back door for racial profiling. The administration has disavowed anti-extremism programs that wrongly assumed that Muslims are predisposed to terrorism, and yet DHS continues to fund similar initiatives.DHS must strengthen its nondiscrimination rules, ensure that those rules cover all its activities, and develop effective accountability mechanisms. Building on our recommendations in A Course Correction for Homeland Security: Curbing Counterterrorism Abuses, this report proposes a model policy that would close current gaps. The secretary of homeland security has the authority to adopt such a policy and should waste no time in doing so.

The Nightmare Continues: Title 42 Court Order Prolongs Human Rights Abuses, Extends Disorder at U.S. Borders

June 16, 2022

On May 23, 2022, the Title 42 policy was set to end. For more than two years, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had used this Trump-era policy to block asylum at U.S. ports of entry and to expel asylum seekers to grave dangers without allowing them to apply for U.S. asylum. However, on May 20, 2022, a federal court in Louisiana preliminarily enjoined decision by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to terminate its prior Title 42 orders, and the court directed the U.S. government to continue the Title 42 disaster. At the same time, a ruling by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals prohibiting DHS from using Title 42 to expel asylum-seeking families "to places where they will be persecuted or tortured" went into effect on May 23.Despite these seemingly dueling Title 42 judicial decisions, DHS retains clear authority to except individuals from Title 42 and remains obligated under U.S. refugee law and binding treaty commitments not to return anyone--whether a family, adult, or child--to persecution or torture, as the legal rationale of the D.C. Circuit Court decision confirms.However, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the border enforcement arm of DHS, continues to turn away people attempting to request asylum at U.S. ports of entry without screening for asylum, stranding them in Mexico facing life-threatening dangers. DHS also continues to expel people who cross the border between ports of entry to grave danger in Mexico, Haiti, and other countries of persecution from which they fled without allowing them to apply for asylum or asking fear screening questions.This update is based on interviews with 74 asylum seekers conducted by Human Rights First researchers in Ciudad Acuña, Nuevo Laredo, and Piedras Negras, Mexico in late May 2022 as well as additional remote interviews in June 2022; information from legal services and humanitarian aid providers across the border region; observations from outside the Del Rio, Eagle Pass, and Laredo ports of entry; publicly available U.S. government data and information; as well as media and other human rights reporting.

Information Nation: The Need for Improved Federal Civil Rights Data Collection

April 27, 2022

This report urges the Biden administration to prioritize and improve data collection, especially in regards to marginalized and vulnerable communities. It builds on our earlier reports documenting the broad attacks on data collection that took place under the Trump administration. It also grew out of our response to the Biden administration's efforts to improve federal data collection in its larger pursuit of racial equity in connection with Executive Order 13985. The order committed the administration to pursue a "comprehensive approach to advancing equity for all, including people of color and others who have been historically underserved, marginalized, and adversely affected by persistent poverty and inequality."  Our report underscores many of the recommendations in the report recently issued by the White House titled, "A Vision for Equitable Data: Recommendations from the Equitable Data Working Group." We also provide concrete examples and steps that can be taken by the Biden administration, including recommendations for the Office of Management and Budget and federal agencies to ensure stakeholder input at all stages of federal surveys and data collection; restore and expand the scope, frequency, and public accessibility of data; add much-needed data collections; increase disaggregation of data; improve cost-benefit analyses; and preserve data privacy.

A Course Correction for Homeland Security: Curbing Counterterrorism Abuses

April 20, 2022

In the wake of 9/11, Congress established a new cabinet agency with a singular mission: to keep the country safe from terrorism. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) brought together 22 agencies with disparate functions under one roof. Two decades on, it struggles to carry out its work effectively and equitably.With the Homeland Security Act of 2002, Congress tasked the new department with keeping the country safe from terrorist attacks. DHS carved out a role for itself in two main areas: partnerships with state, local, tribal, and territorial authorities and screening of travelers and immigrants.Section I of this report identifies the agency's counterterrorism collaborations with state and local authorities and private firms. These programs have routinely surveilled American Muslims, traumatizing entire communities and casting them as hotbeds of terrorism. DHS agents have deployed these very tools against protestors, activists, and journalists.Section II turns to travel and immigration screening programs. DHS has accumulated vast stores of information about people who travel into, out of, and over the United States. The Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP), among other DHS components, use this data to draw inferences about them, document their movements, and subject them to warrantless searches and interrogations. Agents do all of this without suspicion of potential wrongdoing. Unsurprisingly, reports of religious or ethnic profiling are common.Section III analyzes DHS's oversight infrastructure. Three primary offices — the Privacy Office, the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL), and the Office of Inspector General (OIG) — have curbed some of the department's transgressions. But they have allowed many other civil rights and civil liberties violations to continue.Finally, this report identifies five avenues for reform: stronger safeguards against profiling; better protections for privacy and free expression; rigorous evaluations of program efficacy; meaningful transparency about data holdings and the implications DHS programs have for civil rights and civil liberties; and more robust internal oversight. Forthcoming Brennan Center reports will delve into these recommendations in greater detail.

Falling Short on Follow-Through: Assessing and Alleviating Implementation Gaps in U.S. Trafficking Policy for Foreign National Child and Youth Trafficking Survivors

January 31, 2022

This policy paper identifies four areas where policy does not reach child trafficking survivors, and provides recommendations on how the U.S. government can amend policies and practices to ensure it does not fall short on protecting foreign national child survivors of human trafficking.

Children

One Year In: The Biden Administration’s Treatment of Vulnerable Migrants

January 18, 2022

With January 20, 2022 marking one full year in office for the Biden administration, this paper examines how it has done on three distinct pathways to protection for vulnerable migrants: Asylum at the border, refugee resettlement from overseas, and the evacuation and resettlement of Afghan allies before, during and after the U.S.'s withdrawal from Afghanistan. While the Biden administration has made significant progress in all three areas, it has often been unable to adhere to its initial, vocal commitments to protect the most vulnerable and has struggled to deliver on other elements of an ambitious immigration agenda. President Biden still has the opportunity to build on the progress he has made in his first year and put the country on track to creating better, more humane processes for those fleeing violence and persecution. To do so, his administration must prioritize its commitments to vulnerable migrants, fostering a political consensus around these issues and avoiding abrupt policy reversals.

Rebuilding the U.S. Refugee Program for the Future: 22 Recommendations for 2022

January 11, 2022

Refugees seeking resettlement to the U.S. experience major barriers that cause delays, confusion, and, ultimately, a failure to fairly adjudicate their claims for protection. This report by the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) offers 22 recommendations to address current challenges and improve the refugee resettlement program in 2022 and onwards. The proposals include several of the goals set forth by President Biden in his February 4, 2021 executive order relating to refugees (the "Refugee EO") and can help the Biden administration meet its commitment to resettle 125,000 refugees in Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22). Importantly, though, this report urges the Biden administration to look to the future of resettlement. Improving the capacity, efficiency, and transparency of USRAP this year will ensure the program can continue to be a life-saving protection tool for refugees, advance U.S. strategic interests overseas more fully, and strengthen the resiliency of local communities across the country

Temporary Protected Status Is Critical To Tackling the Root Causes of Migration in the Americas

October 28, 2021

This policy brief examines the impact that Temporary Protected Status (TPS) would have on alleviating the root cuases of migration in the Americas, specifically issues such as gang violence, food insecurity, political instability, and natural disasters. The author explores the ways remittances from TPS holders could improve the lives of families abroad.

La Gran Manzana: The Road Ahead For New York City’s Latino Community

October 26, 2021

This report from Hispanic Federation is a policy blueprint with recommendations on how the next Mayor and City Council can improve the lives of nearly 2.5 million Latinos who call New York City home. Recommendations include, increasing New York City's Nonprofit Stabilization Fund to $50 million over a five-year period to support people of color-led nonprofit organizations and ensure that nonprofits can engage in long-term planning to meet operational infrastructure needs and technical assistance, establishing free full-day pre-kindergarten for all three- and four year olds, electing a Latino/a as the next Speaker of the City Council, and more.

An Oversight Agenda for Customs and Border Protection: America’s Largest, Least Accountable Law Enforcement Agency

October 12, 2021

The nation's largest law enforcement agency, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), is also its least transparent and accountable. The need for oversight and reform is pressing: Along the border, there have been numerous examples of CBP encounters leading to civilian deaths.This report proposes a bottom-up, good governance approach to reforms, and identifies six discrete needs for oversight which have in common a focus on changing CBP culture. It steers clear of border-policy debates by focusing on increased professionalism and transparency, as well as on improved processes for addressing misconduct. These oversight topics address a culture of impunity that must be — or at least must become — unacceptable to every CBP leader, officer, and agent among the many who do serve honorably.

Smart Borders or a Humane World?

October 6, 2021

On January 20, 2021, his first day in office, President Biden issued an executive order pausing the remaining construction of the southern border wall initiated during the Trump administration. Soon after, the White House sent a bill to Congress, the US Citizenship Act of 2021, calling for the deployment of "smart technology" to "manage and secure the southern border."This report delves into the rhetoric of "smart borders" to explore their ties to a broad regime of border policing and exclusion that greatly harms migrants and refugees who either seek or already make their home in the United States. Investment in an approach centered on border and immigrant policing, it argues, is incompatible with the realization of a just and humane world.The report concludes by arguing that we must move beyond a narrow debate limited to "hard" versus "smart" borders toward a discussion of how we can move toward a world where all people have the support needed to lead healthy, secure, and vibrant lives. A just border policy would ask questions such as: How do we help create conditions that allow people to stay in the places they call home, and to thrive wherever they reside? When people do have to move, how can we ensure they are able to do so safely? When we take these questions as our starting point, we realize that it is not enough to fix a "broken" system. Rather, we need to reimagine the system entirely.