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Unaccompanied Child Migration to the United States: The Tension between Protection and Prevention

April 9, 2015 Comments off

Unaccompanied Child Migration to the United States: The Tension between Protection and Prevention
Source: Migration Policy Institute

Between 2011 and 2014, the number of Central American children and “family units”—parents traveling with minor children—who arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border increased rapidly, reaching a peak of 137,000 in fiscal year 2014. While many of these migrants have valid claims for asylum or other forms of humanitarian relief, others are chiefly driven by economic concerns and a desire to reconnect with family members. This mixed flow has challenged the capacity of the United States to carry out its core immigration functions of preventing the admission of unauthorized immigrants while also providing protection to those who cannot be safely returned to their home countries.

Media coverage of Central American arrivals in 2014 portrayed their entry as a failure of border security, but the actual policy failures were in the processing and adjudication of claims for relief from migrants presenting in a mixed migration flow of humanitarian and irregular migrants. Inadequate judicial and legal resources left some migrants waiting two years or more for a hearing before an immigration judge. Such delays amounted to a de facto policy of open admission for children and families. Furthermore, the Obama administration’s responses to the rising Central American flows, including greater law enforcement resources at the border, expanded detention facilities, and the establishment of dedication child and family immigration court dockets, focused exclusively on immediate needs rather than longer-term solutions and they failed either to adequately protect vulnerable immigrants or to prevent future unauthorized flows.

This report explains the shifting patterns of Central American migration between 2011 and 2014, analyzes the root of the policy challenges posed by these flows, and outlines U.S. and regional policy responses to address the crisis. It also makes recommendations on policies that advance both critical protection and enforcement goals in situations of complex, mixed flows, and provides additional policies that the United States, Mexico, and the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras might adopt to better manage child and family migration pressures today and in the future.

Assessing the Political Impact of Immigration as the United Kingdom Heads to the Polls

April 9, 2015 Comments off

Assessing the Political Impact of Immigration as the United Kingdom Heads to the Polls
Source: Migration Policy Institute

Immigration has featured early in the opening week of the United Kingdom’s general election campaign, which officially began on March 30, 2015. Prime Minister David Cameron was pressed on the issue in a televised interview and the Labour Party was criticized for producing campaign mugs emblazoned with pledges to control immigration.

As voters head to the polls on May 7, it remains to be seen how central the often-roiled debate over migration will be in what is a deeply unsettled election year. Immigration is a key political issue, brought about through major changes in immigration patterns over the past two decades, significant policy changes that have failed to reassure the public, and the rise as a political force of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP)—which has pressed for a temporary ban on new immigration. Paradoxically, immigration may have less visibility during the general election, given the issue is now political poison for the major parties.

Above all, this election cycle will determine the next stage in a long-running political fight: the question of the United Kingdom’s continued membership in the European Union and a possible voter referendum on the matter. Immigration and Europe have now become entangled in voters’ minds and it is likely that the issue of free movement within the European Union could be the determining factor for many voters in any such referendum.

This article briefly reviews the politics of immigration in the United Kingdom since 2010 before examining whether immigration will impact the election and exploring how immigration politics will develop in the future, particularly in regard to the United Kingdom’s place in Europe.

Immigrant Women in the United States

April 7, 2015 Comments off

Immigrant Women in the United States
Source: Migration Policy Institute

Following a history of majority male migration through the mid-20th century, women have migrated to the United States in large numbers as a result of the emphasis on family reunification ushered in by the 1965 Immigration Act. Female immigrants represent 51 percent of the overall foreign-born population, with 21.2 million immigrant women residing in the United States in 2013, out of a total immigrant population of 41.3 million. The female share of the immigrant population is higher in the United States than it is globally, where about 48 percent of the international migrant stock is female (see Figure 1). Even as female migration has increased globally since 1980, the share in the United States—the world’s top immigrant destination—has decreased slightly from 53 percent in 1980 to around 51 percent in 2013.

The gender of the immigrant population raises implications for sending and receiving countries, with respect to labor opportunities, family structure, gender roles, and more.

Using data from the United Nations Population Division, the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2013 American Community Survey (ACS), and the Department of Homeland Security’s Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, this Spotlight provides information on the population of female immigrants in the United States, focusing on marital status, fertility, and other key socioeconomic characteristics, with comparison to both native-born women and immigrant men.

Women’s Labour Migration from Asia and the Pacific: Opportunities and Challenges

March 27, 2015 Comments off

Women’s Labour Migration from Asia and the Pacific: Opportunities and Challenges
Source: Migration Policy Institute

The number of women migrants in many countries in the Asia-Pacific region is on the rise, both absolutely and proportionately: in 2013 women comprised nearly half (48 percent) of overall migrants to the region and 44 percent of migrants from the region, in line with global trends. Earlier it was thought that out-migration of women mostly takes place in the context of associational migration, including marriage, but a larger share of female migrant workers are now migrating on their own as a result of a variety of economic and cultural factors in both sending and receiving countries.

The gendered dimensions of migration both within and from the region have implications for migration flows and trends as well as for migrants themselves. The majority of female migrant workers in the region work in low-skilled, women-dominated occupations in the domestic, hospitality, health-care, and garment and entertainment sectors, and many skilled female professionals from the region must take up substandard employment due to skills mismatch and lack of recognition of their qualifications. With the Millennium Development Goals set to expire at the end of 2015, the formulation of the next development agenda offers a window of opportunity for better support of gender equality and women’s empowerment across the developing world.

This Issue Brief, one in a series by MPI and the International Organization for Migration, looks at the trends and patterns in female labor migration in the Asia-Pacific region as well as the key policy challenges relating to female migration that governments in the region face. It also examines the significant financial and social impacts of female migrant workers and recommends best practices for policymakers looking to capitalize on these gains while supporting the rights and welfare of migrant women and their families.

Protection in Crisis: Forced Migration and Protection in a Global Era

March 26, 2015 Comments off

Protection in Crisis: Forced Migration and Protection in a Global Era
Source: Migration Policy Institute

More than 51 million people worldwide are forcibly displaced today as refugees, asylum seekers, or internally displaced persons. According to the 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, to be recognized legally as a refugee, an individual must be fleeing persecution on the basis of religion, race, political opinion, nationality, or membership in a particular social group, and must be outside the country of nationality. However, the contemporary drivers of displacement are complex and multilayered, making protection based on a strict definition of persecution increasingly problematic and challenging to implement.

Many forced migrants now fall outside the recognized refugee and asylum apparatus. Much displacement today is driven by a combination of intrastate conflict, poor governance and political instability, environmental change, and resource scarcity. These conditions, while falling outside traditionally defined persecution, leave individuals highly vulnerable to danger and uncertain of the future, compelling them to leave their homes in search of greater security. In addition, the blurring of lines between voluntary and forced migration, as seen in mixed migration flows, together with the expansion of irregular migration, further complicates today’s global displacement picture.

This report details the increasing mismatch between the legal and normative frameworks that define the existing protection regime and the contemporary patterns of forced displacement. It analyzes contemporary drivers and emerging trends of population displacement, noting that the majority of forcibly displaced people—some 33.3 million—remain within their own countries, and that more than 50 percent of the displaced live in urban areas. The author then outlines and assesses key areas where the international protection system is under the most pressure, and finally examines the key implications of these trends for policymakers and the international community, outlining some possible policy directions for reform.

The Development of EU Policy on Immigration and Asylum: Rethinking Coordination and Leadership

March 20, 2015 Comments off

The Development of EU Policy on Immigration and Asylum: Rethinking Coordination and Leadership
Source: Migration Policy Institute

While policymakers in the European Union are working on a European Agenda on Migration to address the short- and long-term migration and asylum challenges facing the region, it has become clear that the modus operandi of the European institutions is ill equipped to respond in either a timely or comprehensive manner. The process for developing, implementing, and reviewing legislation has failed to ensure coherent, robust outcomes. Furthermore, immigration as a topic has outgrown the Home Affairs portfolio, and as such needs to be addressed in a more cross-cutting fashion, involving multiple spheres of government.

During the reorganization of the European Commission in late 2014, the Home Affairs portfolio was renamed and restructured as the new Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs (DG HOME), reflecting the high priority of the topic for the new president and other leaders. However, the change has yet to be substantiated with deeper reconfiguration to the supporting framework on coordination, which must be strengthened for existing policy to be sustained and effective new policy created.

This policy brief addresses the underlying mechanisms of policymaking around migration and asylum at the European Union level and identifies areas in which the EU institutions must reform if they are to ensure that the policy solutions designed in Brussels have the desired effect on the ground. The brief highlights the need for stronger leadership and coordination on immigration policy—which still lacks a coherent, comprehensive approach beyond the Home Affairs domain—as well as for the allocation of resources, political and otherwise, to effect real change, both within the European Union and with third countries.

Not Adding Up: The Fading Promise of Europe’s Dublin System

March 18, 2015 Comments off

Not Adding Up: The Fading Promise of Europe’s Dublin System
Source: Migration Policy Institute

The chief purpose of the European Union’s Dublin Regulation—adopted as the first element of the new Common European Asylum System (CEAS) in 2003 and recast in 2013—is to act as a mechanism that swiftly assigns responsibility for processing an individual asylum application to a single Member State. It seeks to ensure quick access to protection for those in need while discouraging abuses of the system by those who would “shop” for the Member State with the most favorable asylum practices or reception conditions. As long as separate national asylum systems exist within a European area without internal border controls, Dublin—or a mechanism like it—will remain a necessary element of any European approach to asylum.

However, as implemented, the Dublin system is largely failing to achieve its two primary goals. Low effective transfer rates and a persistently high incidence of secondary movement among asylum seekers have undermined the efficiency of the Dublin system. In addition, asylum advocates have criticized Dublin for procedural delays in the evaluation of protection claims, which may disrupt family unity and put vulnerable individuals at risk. Crucially, the regulation does not recognize or address the main factor underlying the Dublin system’s problems: despite the harmonization efforts of the CEAS, essential differences remain in the asylum procedures, reception conditions, and integration capacity of EU Member States. These differences invalidate Dublin’s core assumption that asylum applicants will receive equal consideration and treatment regardless of where they submit their claims.

This report examines the key criticisms of the Dublin system as it stands now, with special attention to those that address the efficient operation of the European asylum system and the ability of applicants to quickly access asylum procedures and protection. The report then evaluates the potential of the recently adopted recast of the Regulation (Dublin III), and concludes by recommending several topics for consideration during the European Commission’s scheduled 2016 review of the Dublin system.

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