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MPI President Sketches Vision for Pragmatic U.S. Immigration Policy Reform in 'American Prospect' Magazine Cover Story

Press Release
Tuesday, March 12, 2013

MPI President Sketches Vision for Pragmatic U.S. Immigration Policy Reform in 'American Prospect' Magazine Cover Story

WASHINGTON — In the cover story in the latest edition of The American Prospect magazine¸ Migration Policy Institute President Demetrios Papademetriou tackles some of the major challenges Congress must resolve if it is to create an immigration system in the national interest — now and for the future.

The article, The Fundamentals of Immigration Reform , also provides an overview of the policies, politics and errors of omission and commission that have created the antiquated, inflexible immigration system that the United States has today.

Among the failings: the “false promise” of family reunification for all but the closest relatives of U.S. citizens; five- to nine-year wait times for international students with advanced degrees to gain a green card; and the rise of illegal immigration, with the resulting flattening of wages for immigrant and native-born workers alike in low-wage sectors.

“Because immigration amounts to social engineering, how well we do it has profound consequences for huge swaths of our society, from education to health care to economic growth to foreign relations,” Papademetriou writes in the introduction.

The article, which calls the current immigration reform frameworks advanced by a bipartisan group of senators and the White House “nothing short of audacious,” urges consideration of key fundamentals beyond those being publicly discussed, including:

  • Creating risk-management models to accompany the full implementation of an entry-exit system to detect visa overstays. Such models would, over time, supplement the visa judgments of U.S. consular officials and lead to better decisions about who should be admitted to the United States in an expedited way and which applications merit closer scrutiny.
  • Providing the integration services that assure the economic and social integration of newcomers and their children, perhaps funding these services in part through the fines that unauthorized immigrants eligible for legalization would have to pay or tapping the Earnings Suspense File in which Social Security withholdings that cannot be credited to valid Social Security numbers are kept. These could be used to create a fund that states would access to assist those awaiting legalization to meet the English proficiency and civics requirements contemplated under the legislative proposals.
  • Inclusion of flexible selection formulas to ensure that the various visa categories adjust to meet the nation’s strategic priorities.
  • Allowing the administration to propose changes to the immigration system regularly to address small problems before they become large ones. The changes would take effect unless Congress rejected such proposals.


“It is important to acknowledge that we won’t get everything right … and that no perfect answer exists to some of the immigration problems we face,” Papademetriou concludes. “So why not seize the opportunity that the political winds seem to be giving us, experiment with some of the solutions technology offers, consider ideas that other countries have tried with much success in order to address one of the biggest social, moral, and economic challenges of our time?”

He ends: “When successful, immigration systems choose who should be admitted rather than ratifying the decisions of immigrants, their families, and their employers. The latter has been the U.S.’s main experience with immigration for nearly 50 years. It is time for legality, orderliness, and values to be again at the heart of our immigration policy.”

Papademetriou, who is a former director for immigration policy and research at the U.S. Department of Labor and former chair of the World Economic Forum's Global Agenda Council on Migration, co-founded MPI in 2001.

Read the article here.

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The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank in Washington, DC dedicated to analysis of the movement of people worldwide. MPI provides analysis, development and evaluation of migration and refugee policies at the local, national and international levels. For more on MPI, please visit www.migrationpolicy.org.