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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Reducing Barriers, Improving Outcomes: Using Federal Opportunities to Expand Health Care Access for Individuals with Limited English Proficiency

July 1, 2023

The United States' health care system consistently fails people whose primary language is not English, frequently known as individuals with limited English proficiency (LEP). These breakdowns result in increases in both unnecessary care due to misdiagnoses and poor health outcomes. Luckily, there are clear and actionable policy interventions that Congress and federal agencies can take to address these health disparities. By increasing the quality of languages services, making them more available, and strengthening both provider and patient understanding of existing rights and tools, we can improve the health of millions of families in the U.S.

Lives at Risk: Barriers and Harms As Biden Asylum Ban Takes Effect

May 19, 2023

This joint report presents findings and recommendations regarding the end of the Title 42 policy and the implementation of punitive policies along the border, including the Biden administration's new asylum ban. From May 10 to 12, adelegation of human, civil, and immigrants' rights leaders saw firsthand the difficulties that people seeking asylum face when attempting to secure appointments at U.S. ports of entry via the CBP One app; the barriers some face waiting and trying to seek asylum at ports of entry without a CBP One appointment; the squalid and inhumane living conditions of migrants at the border; and the violence and anti-Black racism that people seeking asylum endure while waiting in Mexico.

Refugees & Asylum Seekers

A Decade of State Immigrant Rights Victories: Moving Toward Health Care and Economic Justice for All

December 1, 2022

In the decade following the 2012 elections, and culminating in 2022, immigrants and allies have won significant victories in states across the country. These inclusive state policies are a result of years of organizing and a growing advocacy infrastructure that tackles issues affecting low-income communities of color. State and local officials increasingly recognize that the health and well-being of their residents is interconnected and have taken steps to address longstanding disparities in access to health care and economic support.In 2022, states made remarkable progress toward the goal of providing health care for all by extending coverage to seniors, children, pregnant people, and other residents regardless of their immigration status. In response to effective organizing, states also improved access to higher education and professional licenses, expanded access to driver's licenses, protected workers' rights, strengthened consumer privacy, and invested in access to counsel for immigrants. States extended tax credits to residents who use Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs) and offered cash assistance to workers who were excluded from federal pandemic relief and unemployment insurance.

Overview of Immigrant Eligibility for Federal Programs

June 1, 2022

The major federal public benefits programs have long excluded some non–U.S. citizens from eligibility for assistance. Programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program), nonemergency Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and its precursor, Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), were largely unavailable to undocumented immigrants and people in the United States on temporary visas.However, the 1996 federal welfare and immigration laws introduced an unprecedented era of restrictionism. Prior to the enactment of these laws, lawful permanent residents of the U.S. generally were eligible for assistance in a manner similar to U.S. citizens. Once the laws were implemented, most lawfully residing immigrants were barred from receiving assistance under the major federal benefits programs for five years or longer.Even where eligibility for immigrants was preserved by the 1996 laws or restored by subsequent legislation, many immigrant families hesitate to enroll in critical health care, job-training, nutrition, and cash assistance programs due to fear and confusion caused by the laws' complexity and other intimidating factors. As a result, the participation of immigrants in public benefits programs decreased sharply after passage of the 1996 laws, causing severe hardship for many low-income immigrant families who lacked the support available to other low-income families.Efforts to address the chilling effects and confusion have continued since that time. The Trump administration's exclusionary policies compounded the problem, making it even more difficult to ensure that eligible immigrants and their family members would secure services.This article focuses on eligibility and other rules governing immigrants' access to federal public benefits programs. Many states have attempted to fill some of the gaps in noncitizen coverage resulting from the 1996 laws, either by electing federal options to cover more eligible noncitizens or by spending state funds to cover at least some of the immigrants who are ineligible for federally funded services.In determining an immigrant's eligibility for benefits, it is necessary to understand the federal rules as well as the rules of the state in which an immigrant resides. Updates on federal and state rules are available on NILC's website.

The SCOTUS Shortlist and Immigration: What Their Previous Rulings Reveal

February 18, 2022

Based on public reporting, President Joe Biden has identified a shortlist of highly credentialed and exceptionally well-qualified Black women – Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, Justice Leondra Kruger, and Judge J. Michelle Childs – to serve on the United States Supreme Court following Justice Stephen Breyer's retirement. With distinguished service in private practice, public service, and on the bench, each of these women would bring a wealth of diverse experience to the Court.Given the increasing frequency with which federal courts are called upon to resolve questions of immigration law and immigrants' rights, it is in the immigrant justice movement's interest to do the same. Immigrant justice advocates understand the impact Supreme Court decisions have firsthand – from positive rulings on DACA and the census to negative decisions on the Muslim Ban and Remain in Mexico. And while this nominee will not alter the current balance of the Supreme Court, she will have a hand in shaping the law around immigrants' rights for decades to come.At this crucial moment, the National Immigration Law Center has carefully researched and analyzed each potential nominee's past rulings in immigration-related cases. This report outlines those findings.

State Immigrant Rights Highlights 2021: Advancing Community Health and Well-Being

January 14, 2022

This report highlights the immigrant inclusive laws enacted in 2021, as well as some pending bills and campaigns. During this time, states adopted policies improving access to health care, higher education, and professional licenses for immigrants; protecting the rights of workers and tenants; investing in access to counsel; strengthening driver and consumer privacy; and limiting local entanglement in federal immigration enforcement efforts.As Congress considers options for providing a pathway to permanent status or temporary relief to millions of immigrants in the U.S., states and localities have taken significant action to improve the lives of their community members, regardless of their immigration status. In response to effective local organizing, almost half the states adopted immigrant-inclusive laws and policies in 2021.

Food Over Fear: Overcoming Barriers to Connect Latinx Immigrant Families to Federal Nutrition and Food Programs

December 1, 2020

This report sheds light on why many immigrant families are forgoing vital assistance from federal nutrition and food programs and lifts up recommendations aimed at ensuring that all families and individuals, regardless of immigration status, are nourished and healthy.While the findings of this report are informed by a series of focus groups conducted from November 2019 to January 2020 (prior to the onset of COVID-19), the need to connect immigrant families to nutrition programs is arguably of even greater importance given how COVID-19 is fueling unprecedented food insecurity and ravaging communities of color and immigrant communities at disproportionately high rates due to unique barriers faced by families that include noncitizens.

Untangling the Immigration Enforcement Web

September 1, 2017

Immigrants are caught in a complex and opaque web of databases, related systems, and information-sharing mechanisms that facilitate immigration enforcement and erect barriers to their full participation in economic and social life in the United States. These databases, systems, and mechanisms often depend on the entanglement of state and local law enforcement or licensing agencies with federal immigration and law enforcement agencies.We hope that the following questions and answers will give immigrants and their advocates a better understanding of (1) how the exchange of data among agencies at different levels of government occurs currently, (2) how to evaluate the potential immigration-related risks and benefits of interacting with federal and state authorities, and (3) how to forge strategies and measures that will protect immigrants more effectively.

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.

Inclusive Policies Advance Dramatically in the States: Immigrants' Access to Driver's Licenses, Higher Education, Workers' Rights, and Community Policing

October 1, 2013

As Congress debated federal immigration reform this year, states led the way by adopting policies designed to integrate immigrants more fully in their communities. In the wake of the 2012 elections, with Latino and Asian voters participating in record numbers,1 the 2013 state legislative sessions witnessed a significant increase in pro-immigrant activity. Issues that had been dormant or had moved in a restrictive direction for years, such as expanding access to driver's licenses, gained considerable traction, along with measures improving access to education and workers' rights for immigrants.This report summarizes the activity on immigrant issues that took place during the states' 2013 legislative sessions, as well as efforts to improve access to services for immigrant youth.

Advocacy; Children; Civic Engagement