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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.
As a long-standing immigration destination, the United States has depended on the entrepreneurial contributions of immigrants as an economic driver. While much of the current immigrant entrepreneurship discussion centers on high-tech start-ups and Fortune 500 companies 1, immigrants create businesses of all sizes that help fuel American economic growth. The U.S. Census' 2007 and 2012 Survey of Business Owners (SBO) found that immigrants had formed about 25% of new businesses in the United States, with rates surpassing 40% in some states. Immigrants are also 10% more likely to own their own business than U.S. natives. Simply put, the United States' economic success story would not exist without immigrant entrepreneurs with a range of backgrounds and skill levels who were willing to launch their business ideas here. This report shows a consistent set of drivers and barriers that impact immigrant entrepreneurs in the United States, and outlines recommendations for policymakers at all levels of government to better support these entrepreneurs and enable a more robust U.S. economy.
According to government data, 2021 was a year of climate disasters: The U.S. experienced 20 separate billion-dollar disasters, putting the year in second behind 2020, which had a record 22 separate billion-dollar events. The number and cost of weather and climate disasters are increasing across the world, with a dire climate report issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on Monday, February 28, warning that climate change, and climate disasters, will "redistribute populations on a planetary scale."Despite the increased attention being paid to the phenomenon of climate migration, substantive recommendations and solutions to this growing occurrence are few and far between at the local, national, and international levels. The lack of a dedicated international mechanism for climate migrants as well as local and national solutions has forced many to seek protections under existing international legal mechanisms, such as refugee and asylum laws, which were not designed for this new type of migration. Many of the international initiatives addressing migration more generally are non-binding, meaning that they provide a framework for signatory countries to follow, but do not compel those signatory countries to take specific actions, leaving an international patchwork of responses to a growing global phenomenon.
While the framework at the border for dealing with crossings has not substantively changed in decades, the recent changes in the makeup of migrant flows at the border require a new framework for addressing "border security." Given the large number of arrivals of children and families seeking asylum, which is legal under U.S. law, it is necessary to address the arrivals separately from the needs of securing the border from threats such as smuggling, contraband, or migrants seeking to evade capture. Specifically, the United States needs to set up separate systems for receiving and processing asylum seekers and vulnerable populations at the border and apprehending and processing other immigrants trying to make illegal entries.The following outlines recommendations for a new framework that recognizes a fundamental shift in migrant demographics at the border and the different components needed for dealing with each activity. Together, they provide a comprehensive approach to securing the border against crime, drugs, and terrorism, while addressing unauthorized migration and meeting legal obligations to receive and decide asylum claims.
This paper analyzes the history of immigration federalism in the United States and examines how other countries have created regional immigration systems to address the needs of individual areas. It subsequently looks at the problems with the current immigration system and why it is insufficient to meet states' needs. It then analyzes the multiple solutions that have been proposed. Finally, it looks at the remaining questions that must be addressed before moving forward with a new, state-based immigration program.
The Bipartisan Policy Center's review of law enforcement agencies in Atlanta, Austin, Charlotte, Denver, and Los Angeles shows that the actual operation of local law enforcement agencies and their work with immigration enforcement agencies is more complex and nuanced than is often reported in the public debate.
With numerous charts and graphs, this paper outlines the projected growth of various age segments of the U.S. population, showing that the native-born, working-age population will grow much more slowly than the foreign-born working-age population. The relative growth of the 65-and-over population will present economic challenges. In particular, the Social Security trust fund is projected to be depleted by 2034, assuming that current levels of immigration remain relatively constant. Policy changes will ultimately be needed to save the fund from depletion, including expanding the labor force by increasing immigration. In an aging population, there is a decline in workforce participation, which depresses economic growth. The arrival of working-age immigrants can counter, to some extent, the slowdown in economic activity as older workers retire. The relative demographic structure of immigrants vs. natives-with immigrants being more likely to be of working-age and to participate in the workforce-also impacts the federal budget. Modeling of a 2013 immigration reform bill found that the bill's legalization program and increase in legal immigration would reduce the federal deficit by $180 billion over 10 years. In general, though, current levels of immigration cannot entirely offset the economic and fiscal drag of our aging population. Liberalizing immigration will help, but other policy changes will be needed to reduce the federal deficit and stave off Social Security insolvency.
Over the past several decades, native-born Americans have become increasingly detached from the labor force, with declining rates of employment and labor force participation. Seeking explanations, many attempt to blame these trends on immigration itself, under the notion that immigrants both displace native-born workers and drive down their wages. Although superficially appealing, these arguments are ultimately overly simplistic and misguided, as they ignore several other factors driving these trends. Our research suggests that declining native-born labor force participation is largely due to the various options native-born individuals tend to have at their disposal to pursue non-labor force activities—namely retirement, disability, and school enrollment, rather than any direct competition from immigrants. Additionally, native- and foreign-born individuals tend to work in different industries. A majority of the predominantly foreign-born industries are composed of lesser-skill, lower-wage occupations, some of which have seen strong employment growth in recent years, and have even suffered from labor shortages.