Creating Cohesive, Coherent Immigration Policy

Pia M. Orrenius & Madeline Zavodny
Date of Publication: 
April, 2017
Source Organization: 
Center for Migration Studies

For anyone wanting a lesson in some of the contradictions apparent in U.S. immigration law, this article is a good starting point. For example, one of those contradictions includes trying to limit illegal immigration through strict border control while tolerating lax interior enforcement. Another is the mismatch between the number of people granted temporary work visas and the number of permanent employment-based green cards available for people completing their period of temporary work (e.g. the wait time for Third Preference visas from China has grown from 9 months to 62 months over the last 25 years).  In the area of refugee policy, the authors question why there is an annual quota for refugees but not one for the number of people granted political asylum. The authors also wonder why the Temporary Protected Status program has evolved into a program of longer-term legal residence. Policy makers have also been oblivious to the fact that one aspect of immigration law, e.g. tighter border enforcement, may be exacerbating another, e.g. creating an incentive for undocumented immigrants to remain in the U.S., rather than to return to their home countries. The authors also believe that flexibility should be built into the system "via automatic adjustment mechanisms, such as a formula that increases the number of temporary and permanent employment-based visas when the unemployment rate is low and falling and GDP growth is rising..." They also argue that, in order to maintain an effective immigration system and avoid political backlashes, "lawmakers have a responsibility to prevent migration surges, keep migration legal, and maintain effective border controls."

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Orrenius, P. M. & Zavodny, M. (2017). Creating Cohesive, Coherent Immigration Policy. New York:Journal of Migration and Human Security. Available here: