Moving Beyond Comprehensive Immigration Reform and Trump: Principles, Interests, and Policies to Guide Long-Term Reform of the US Immigration System

by Donald Kerwin


Executive Summary

This paper introduces a special collection of 15 papers that chart a course for long-term reform of the US immigration system. The papers look beyond recent legislative debates and the current era of rising nationalism and restrictionism to outline the elements of a forward-looking immigration policy that would serve the nation’s interests, honor its liberal democratic ideals, promote the full participation of immigrants in the nation’s life, and exploit the opportunities offered by the increasingly interdependent world. This paper highlights several overarching themes from the collection, as well as dozens of proposals for reform. Together, the papers in the collection make the case that:

  • Immigration policymaking should be embedded in a larger set of partnerships, processes, and commitments that respond to the conditions that force persons to migrate.
  • The US immigration system should reflect liberal democratic values and an inclusive vision of national identity.
  • It is incumbent on policy and opinion makers to publicize the broad national interests served by US immigration policies.
  • Policymakers should, in turn, evaluate and adjust US immigration policies based on their success in furthering the nation’s interests.
  • The United States should prioritize the gathering and dissemination of the best available evidence on migration and on the nation’s migration-related needs and programs, and should use this information to respond flexibly to changing migration patterns and new economic developments.
  • Immigrant integration strengthens communities and represents an important, overarching metric for US immigration policies.
  • The successful integration of the United States’ 43 million foreign-born residents and their progeny should be a national priority.
  • An immigration federalism agenda should prioritize cooperation on shared federal, state, and local priorities.
  • An immigration federalism agenda should recognize the federal government’s enforcement obligations; the interests of local communities in the safety, well-being and participation of their residents; the importance of federal leadership in resolving the challenges posed by the US undocumented population; and the need for civil society institutions to serve as mediators of immigrant integration.
  • Immigration reform should be coupled with strong, well-enforced labor standards in order to promote fair wages and safe and healthy working conditions for all US workers.
  • Fairness and due process should characterize US admission, custody, and removal decisions.
  • Family unity should remain a central goal of US immigration policy and a pillar of the US immigration system.
  • The United States should seek to craft “win-win” immigration policies that serve its own interests and that benefit migrant-sending states.
  • US immigration law and policy should be coherent and consistent, and the United States should create legal migration opportunities for persons uprooted by US foreign interventions, trade policies, and immigration laws.  
  • The United States should reduce the size of its undocumented population through a substantial legalization program and seek to ensure that this population never again approximates its current size.



DOI: https://doi.org/10.14240/jmhs.v5i3.98


ISSN 2330-2488 (Online), 2331-5024 (Print)  © 2017 by the Center for Migration Studies of New York

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