Eight Key U.S. Immigration Policy Issues: State of Play and Unanswered Questions

Doris Meissner & Julia Gelatt
Date of Publication: 
May, 2019
Source Organization: 
Migration Policy Institute

The United States is witnessing one of the most dynamic policy periods in the immigration arena, with the Trump administration moving to reshape many facets of the immigration system with use of its executive powers. The administration’s marked activity on the immigration front contrasts sharply with Congress, which has been largely unable to tackle substantive change to the immigration system over nearly two decades.

While the administration has been significantly focused on the border, this report examines a range of policy areas that have not been at the forefront of debate but deserve greater information sharing with the public and policymakers. “This period of significant action by the executive branch, which has surfaced a real questioning of long-held immigration policies and practices, presents a new opportunity for lawmakers to inject policy ideas of their own into what have been prolonged, often stagnant, legislative debates,” the report states.

Among the questions it asks:

  • What achievable definition of border security should the federal government be measured on? And what border spending is likely to generate the highest returns on investment, in particular in an era where migration patterns have changed significantly and the U.S. government is spending one-third more on immigration enforcement than on the combined budgets of the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Secret Service, U.S. Marshal’s Service, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives?
  • With the H-1B visa program the main vehicle through which U.S. employers can sponsor skilled foreign workers for admission, what program reforms would address concerns about the replacement of U.S. workers while still meeting employer needs?
  • With 1.6 million unauthorized immigrants eligible for green cards as the spouses or minor children of U.S. citizens or green-card holders, is it time for Congress to revisit the three- and ten-year bars on re-entry that are blocking most unauthorized immigrants who could be sponsored by a relative or employer from applying for fear of triggering lengthy absences from the United States?

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Meissner, D. & Gelatt, J. (2019). Eight Key U.S. Immigration Policy Issues: State of Play and Unanswered Questions. Washington, DC: Migration Policy Institute. Retrieved from https://www.migrationpolicy.org/research/eight-key-us-immigration-policy-issues