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Special Reports

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

Prosecutorial Discretion in Context: How Discretion is Exercised Throughout Our Immigration System

By Hiroshi Motomura

Discretion takes many forms throughout the immigration enforcement process. Every removal of a noncitizen from the United States, for example, reflects a series of complex choices which reflect discretion.

To understand the role of discretion fully, however, we need to examine the entire range of opportunities to exercise discretion in immigration enforcement and the cast of decision makers who make discretionary decisions, such as members of Congress who enact laws, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officers who make arrests, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) trial attorneys who represent the government in removal proceedings, and immigration judges who preside over those proceedings.

This Special Report traces the role of discretion throughout the immigration enforcement process. Understanding these roles is important not only in individual cases, but also in how policymakers write regulations and draft laws. Knowing how the enforcement system anticipates and incorporates discretion is key to understanding how our immigration laws work.

  • Listen to Hiroshi Motomura discuss this report.


Published On: Wed, Apr 11, 2012 | Download File

Q&A Guide to State Immigration Laws

What You Need to Know if Your State is Considering Anti-immigrant Legislation

State Guide ThumbUpdated 2012 - In April 2010, Arizona governor Jan Brewer signed the “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act,” or, as it is commonly known, SB1070. At the time of its passage, Arizona’s immigration law surpassed all previous state immigration-control efforts. While much of the law has been enjoined by the courts, its passage inspired legislators in other states to pass similar legislation.

Since SB1070 passed, 36 other states have attempted to pass harsh immigration-control laws. Of those, 31 states have rejected or refused to advance their bills. However, five states—Utah, Indiana, South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama—have passed laws that mirror or go beyond the Arizona law. It is likely that additional states will attempt to pass similar anti-immigrant legislation during the 2012 legislative session.

SB1070 and other immigration-related state legislation represent, among other things, a growing frustration with our broken immigration system. The courts will decide the constitutionality of the various laws, and time will answer many questions about their impact. In the short term, much evidence suggests that an enforcement-only strategy—whether attempted at the federal or state level—will not solve the root causes of unauthorized immigration.Read more...

Published On: Thu, Feb 16, 2012 | Download File

Discrediting “Self Deportation” as Immigration Policy

Why an Attrition through Enforcement Strategy Makes Life Difficult for Everyone

By Michele Waslin

The day that Alabama’s draconian anti-immigrant law went into effect in October of 2011, thousands of school children were reported absent from schools across the state, and workers did not show up for their jobs. In recent months, many immigrants living in the state have confined themselves to their homes, fearful of driving their kids to school, getting groceries, or seeking medical attention. The Alabama State Representative behind the law, Mickey Hammon, explicitly stated that this was the law’s intended effect. He said that the law, HB56, “attacks every aspect of an illegal alien’s life” and “is designed to make it difficult for them to live here so they will deport themselves.”

Alabama provides a sterling example of the devastating impact of a strategic and systematic plan being promoted by anti-immigrant groups and lawmakers who have jumped on the bandwagon. The plan is called “attrition through enforcement” (sometimes called “self deportation”) and the groups behind it have created a web of federal and state legislative proposals that seek to reduce illegal immigration by making it difficult, if not impossible, for unauthorized immigrants to live in American society. While individual proposals may appear to be relatively benign, they are part of a larger systematic plan that undermines basic human rights, devastates local economies, and places unnecessary burdens on U.S. citizens and lawful immigrants.Read more...

Published On: Mon, Feb 06, 2012 | Download File

Immigrant Entrepreneurs: Creating Jobs and Strengthening the Economy

By Marcia Hohn, Ed.D.
Director, Public Education Institute at The Immigrant Learning Center, Inc.

There is widespread agreement across a number of key economic planning groups that immigrant entrepreneurs create jobs and strengthen the economy. Yet, the U.S. immigration system often forces out immigrant entrepreneurs, driving them to other countries that are competing for international talent. Although many people recognize the giants of immigrant entrepreneurship, such as Sergey Brin of Google and Pierre Omidyar of eBay, thousands of other science and technology businesses are quietly making a difference by creating almost half a million jobs for Americans and generating revenue of more than $50 billion. The depth and breadth of immigrant entrepreneurs extend across the spectrum of enterprises, including neighborhood, growth, and transnational businesses. Expansion of employment-based visas would allow companies’ access to high-potential foreign individuals who are graduates of U.S. universities. Businesses, cities, and states across the country should support changes in visa policy and work to develop partnerships with immigrant entrepreneurs to create jobs and strengthen the economy.

The report features profiles of immigrant entrepreneurs and shines a light on some of the difficulties they face. Current immigration laws make it difficult for many immigrant entrepreneurs to contribute to the nation’s growth. The report contains administrative and legislative proposals that taken together could create an atmosphere that fosters growth.Read more...

Published On: Wed, Jan 25, 2012 | Download File

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.

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