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Special Reports

Our most in-depth publication, Special Reports provide detailed analyses of special topics in U.S. immigration policy.

Opportunity and Exclusion: A Brief History of U.S. Immigration Policy

(Updated January 2012) The United States and the colonial society that preceded it were created by successive waves of immigration from all corners of the globe. But public and political attitudes towards immigrants have always been ambivalent and contradictory, and sometimes hostile. The early immigrants to colonial America—from England, France, Germany, and other countries in northwestern Europe—came in search of economic opportunity and political freedom, yet they often relied upon the labor of African slaves working land taken from Native Americans. The descendants of these first European immigrants were sometimes viewed as “racially” and religiously suspect the European immigrants who came to the United States in the late 1800s from Italy, Poland, Russia, and elsewhere in southeastern Europe. The descendants of these immigrants, in turn, have often taken a dim view of the growing numbers of Latin American, Asian, and African immigrants who began to arrive in the second half of the 20th century.

Published On: Fri, Jan 13, 2012 | Download File

Our American Immigrant Entrepreneurs: The Women

By Susan Pearce, Elizabeth Clifford and Reena Tandon

When Americans picture an immigrant entrepreneur, they likely imagine a man who began the migration of his family, later bringing his wife over to become a volunteer assistant in the shop. This image is straying farther and farther from reality as more women open their own enterprises. Yet the idea that immigrant women might be the owners and originators of some of our restaurants, motels, Silicon Valley hi-tech firms, local real-estate agencies, or other entrepreneurial ventures has yet to become conventional wisdom.

Today, immigrant women entrepreneurs abound in every region of the United States. In 2010 for example, 40 percent of all immigrant business owners were women (1,451,091 immigrant men and 980,575 immigrant women). That same year, 20 percent of all women business owners were foreign-born. These numbers indicate that there is a quiet revolution of immigrant women’s business ownership that is organically growing, but is going relatively unnoticed in the culture at large.

In this report, we asked women from a range of business sectors in several cities to tell us why and how they started their ventures, what challenges they faced, what their businesses mean to them, and what contributions they are making.­

Published On: Thu, Dec 08, 2011 | Download File

The Secure Communities Program: Unanswered Questions and Continuing Concerns

The Secure Communities program, which launched in March 2008, has become a centerpiece of immigration enforcement efforts by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Its rapid expansion coupled with serious concerns about the design, goals, and implementation of the program has resulted in a great deal of controversy.

Under Secure Communities, participating jurisdictions submit arrestees’ fingerprints not only to criminal databases, but to immigration databases as well, allowing ICE access to information on individuals held in jails. While state and local law-enforcement officers are not directly enforcing federal immigration law or making arrests for immigration violations, the transmission of fingerprints allows ICE to tap into information about detainees and make determinations about additional ICE enforcement action.

While some may claim that Secure Communities is an improvement over other federal-local partnerships—such as the 287(g) program, which deputizes state and local police officers to enforce immigration laws through agreements with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)DD DD—the Secure Communities program still faces many of the same criticisms. A Task Force appointed by DHS to make recommendations regarding the program concluded that Secure Communities is fundamentally flawed.DD DD While roughly half of the Task Force members favored a suspension or termination of the program and half believed the program must be continued while reforms are being made, all Task Force members agreed that the program must be reformed.
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Published On: Tue, Nov 29, 2011 | Download File

Rebooting the American Dream: The Role of Immigration in a 21st Century Economy

There is plenty of evidence that immigration helps to fuel the U.S. economy, just as it has throughout our history. Immigrants continue to play an important role in the economy as workers, entrepreneurs, taxpayers, and consumers. However, most observers agree that our current immigration system is outdated and dysfunctional, making it more difficult for the U.S. to compete in the global marketplace. The last time Congress made significant changes to the employment-based immigration system was 1990, when the Immigration Act of 1990 created the five-tiered employment-based immigration system and the numerical limits used today.

Our immigration system needs to be updated and overhauled, but inflamed rhetoric often obscures reform efforts. The first step in reforming our immigration system is to understand the basic facts surrounding the debate. This report seeks to answer some basic questions about the role of immigration in today’s economy.

Read the Executive Summary

Read the Full Report

Published On: Tue, Nov 08, 2011 | Download File

Turning Off the Water: How the Contracting and Transaction Provisions in Alabama's Immigration Law Make Life Harder

Turning Off the Water: How the Contracting and Transaction Provisions in Alabama's Immigration Law Make Life Harder For Everyone

By Joan Friedland

Since passage of HB 56, Alabama’s extreme new immigration law, many are aware of the most immediate consequences of the law—rotting tomatoes, racial profiling, and frightened school children. However, two provisions of the law that have the potential to be extremely damaging to the state’s economy, rule of law, and municipal functioning have received comparatively little attention. These two provisions have been in effect since September 30,, 2011, and are likely to result in an increase of exploitation of workers, erosion of fundamental legal protections, and denial of access to state and local government services and activities. In other words, these provisions will undoubtedly impact the daily lives of all Alabamians.Read more...

Published On: Tue, Nov 01, 2011 | Download File

Locked Up Without End: Indefinite Detention of Immigrants Will Not Make America Safer

By Michael Tan, Esq.

One of the ugliest myths in the immigration debate is that immigrants are more likely to commit crime or pose a danger to society. Although studies repeatedly have shown that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than native-born Americans, politicians continue to exploit the public’s fear of crime to justify ever more punitive immigration measures, including the mass incarceration of immigrants for reasons that would never be permitted for U.S. citizens. A prime example of this political double standard is the “Keep Our Communities Safe Act of 2011” (H.R. 1932), introduced this past spring by Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. H.R. 1932 proposes a massive expansion of our immigration lock-up system that would waste millions of taxpayer dollars and violate our constitutional commitments to individual liberty and due process of law, while doing little to make America safer.

The vast scope of H.R. 1932 became clear during its committee mark-up, where members of the House Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement challenged the language and intent of the legislation and sought to amend its reach. During that meeting, Rep. Smith was forced to acknowledge that the bill’s detention mandates extend to immigrants who have no criminal record whatsoever, much less focus narrowly on hard-core offenders. Since that time, however, Rep. Smith has continued to misrepresent that “the bill only specifies that a small segment of criminal immigrants may be detained for extended periods.”Read more...

Published On: Thu, Oct 06, 2011 | Download File

The Morton Memo and Prosecutorial Discretion: An Overview

By Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, Esq.

On June 17, 2011, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton issued two significant memoranda on the use of prosecutorial discretion in immigration matters.  Prosecutorial discretion refers to the agency’s authority to not enforce immigration laws against certain individuals and groups.  The primary memo (the Morton Memo on Prosecutorial Discretion) calls on ICE attorneys and employees to refrain from pursuing noncitizens with close family, educational, military, or other ties in the U.S. and instead spend the agency’s limited resources on persons who pose a serious threat to public safety or national security.  Morton’s second memo focuses on exercising discretion in cases involving victims, witnesses to crimes, and plaintiffs in good faith civil rights lawsuits.  The memo instructs “[a]bsent special circumstances or aggravating factors, it is against ICE policy to initiate removal proceedings against an individual known to be the immediate victim or witness to a crime.”  

A closer look at the Morton Memo on Prosecutorial Discretion reveals that it reaffirms many of the principles and policies of previous guidance on this subject.  The memo, however, takes a further step in articulating the expectations for and responsibilities of ICE personnel when exercising their discretion.

Published On: Wed, Jul 20, 2011 | Download File

Revitalizing the Golden State

By Raúl Hinojosa-Ojeda, Ph.D.

California is home to nearly 10 million immigrants, more than one quarter of the state’s population. Of those, 2.7 million are undocumented, and the vast majority of them have been living in the United States for more than 10 years. California’s immigrant contributions to the Golden State cannot be overstated. From Cesar Chavez, the pioneering agricultural labor-rights leader in the 20th century to Sergei Brin, the Russian entrepreneur behind one of the 21st century’s most revolutionary companies, Google Inc., the foreign born and their descendants are woven into the state’s cultural and economic fabric. 

Still, that reality has not prevented some Californians, frustrated with our broken federal immigration system, to call for an Arizona-style “papers please” approach. The stated goal of this new wave of state-based enforcement legislation is to trigger a mass exodus of undocumented immigrants, by making “attrition through enforcement” the policy of state and local government agencies. The threshold question that proponents of S.B.1070-style legislation have failed to answer is whether that goal serves the economic interests of the state’s constituents.Read more...

Published On: Wed, Apr 27, 2011 | Download File

Debunking the Myth of "Sanctuary Cities"

By Lynn Tramonte

There is much confusion about the term “sanctuary city.”  The term is often used derisively by immigration opponents to blast what are best described as community policing policies.  Critics claim that these cities and states provide “sanctuary” to undocumented immigrants, but research shows that the opposite is true.  In fact, community policing policies are about providing public safety services, not sanctuary, to both immigrant residents and the entire community.  Crime experts, including hundreds of local police officers, have found that cities with community policing policies continue to work closely with DHS and have built bridges to immigrant communities that have improved their ability to fight crime and protect the entire community.

Historically, the federal government has enforced civil immigration law, and state and local police have focused on enforcing criminal law.  However, propelled by increased frustration with the nation’s broken immigration system and by growing anti-immigrant sentiment, politicians’ demands for state and local police to take on an increased role in immigration enforcement have grown exponentially.  This culminated in the passage of Arizona’s notorious SB1070 law in 2010, which would turn Arizona state and local police officers into deportation agents. Read more...

Published On: Tue, Apr 26, 2011 | Download File

Q&A Guide to Arizona's Immigration Law

One year after the passage of Arizona’s tough new immigration law (SB1070), both opponents and proponents are attempting to assess the impact the new law may have on residents of Arizona—citizens and immigrants alike.  A federal district court ruling preliminarily enjoined large parts of the controversial law, meaning that those portions of the new law cannot be implemented, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the preliminary injunction.  Other lawsuits have been filed challenging the constitutionality of the law and have yet to be ruled on, opponents have mounted boycotts, and numerous polls show that a majority of the public both supports the Arizona law and comprehensive immigration reform.  Furthermore, despite criticism of SB1070 from Republicans, Democrats, police officials, religious leaders, and civil-rights leaders, legislators in many states have introduced or are considering introducing similar legislation.
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Published On: Tue, Apr 26, 2011 | Download File