Immigration Research Initiative (IRI)



New York, NY


Immigration Think Tank



Program Director:

David Dyssegaard Kallick

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Immigration Research Initiative (IRI) is a left-of-center think tank and research group that focuses on immigration issues, with an emphasis on securing government entitlement benefits such as Medicaid and unemployment compensation for undocumented immigrants. 1


Immigration Research Initiative is a project of the labor union-supported think tank Fiscal Policy Institute. In 2022 it was launched as its own organization, 2 and receives fiscal sponsorship from NEO Philanthropy. It is a member of the Economic Analysis Research Network (EARN), and provides support to other members of this group. 3

As part of its advocacy work, IRI conducted a survey of 259 immigrants to gauge their awareness of and access to Medicaid benefits. Based on the survey respondents, some of whom had never heard of Medicaid, IRI proposed changes to make the program more accessible to immigrants. These changes included translation of documents into more languages, moving Medicaid offices to public transport-accessible locations, and hiring more staff to reduce wait times. IRI also suggested diversity training to combat “conscious and unconscious bias […] xenophobia, and religious discrimination” among Medicare staff. 4

State Immigration Project

Along with the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), Immigration Research Initiative is a partner and supporter of the State Immigration Project. This initiative was spearheaded by the State Priorities Partnership and Economic Analysis Research Network (EARN), and launched in 2012. The program pushes for “inclusive” policies for immigrants such as driver’s licenses, government-funded health care, and safeguards against deportation. It operates in 15 states, and receives funding from the Ford Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York. 5

State Immigration Project was purportedly launched in response to an increase in legislation that allowed police to request proof of citizenship of suspected illegal immigrants. In 2013 this group worked to overturn one such piece of legislation, SB 90, in Colorado. 6 7

Excluded Worker Fund Evaluation

In 2023 Immigration Research Initiative partnered with the Urban Institute to publish an evaluation of New York’s Excluded Worker fund. This fund had been established as a relief effort for illegal immigrants affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing them to access money to pay for basic household expenses and to repay debts accrued during the pandemic. Although other states had launched similar initiatives, New York’s was the largest, topping out at $2.1 billion. 8

While IRI cast this project in a mostly positive light, the program was criticized by the immigration-restrictionist Center for Immigration Studies, which pointed out that the reported fiscal use percentages (68 percent for rent, 38 percent for food, 29 percent for debt repayment etc.) exceeded 100 percent and therefore could not be accurate. Center for Immigration Studies also drew attention to the problem of New Yorkers fraudulently pretending to be illegal immigrants to access the funds, which averaged around $16,500 per recipient. 9

Unemployment Bridge Program and Racial Bias

Immigration Research Initiative is a proponent of the Unemployment Bridge Program (UBP), which is designed to provide unemployment benefits to immigrants without work authorization, the formerly incarcerated, and self-employed workers across New York. IRI estimates that the program would be accessible to 750,000 workers, and would require annual funding of around $500 million. 10

In addition to providing a financial cushion for these workers, IRI hopes that it will address a purported “racial bias” problem related to the distribution of unemployment benefits. IRI highlights the statistic that while Latinos comprise 19 percent of the population of New York, they are 56 percent of the total pool of workers who lack authorization, and are subsequently unable to have unemployment insurance. 11


David Dyssegaard Kallick is the director of Immigration Research Initiative, and a teacher of Urban Economics for the Pratt Institute’s Graduate School for City and Regional Planning. Kallick is also the former deputy director of immigration research at Fiscal Policy Institute. Kallick is also a former senior fellow at the Preamble Center, and an editor at Social Policy magazine. 12

In June 2023, Kallick co-authored a blog post with National Employment Law Project attorney Jenna Gerry in which he called on California governor Gavin Newsom (D) to “fix” that state’s unemployment insurance by extending these benefits to illegal immigrants. 13


  1. “About.” IRI. Accessed August 21, 2023.
  2. “Immigration Research Initiative’s One-year Anniversary Celebration.” Facebook. January 17, 2023. Accessed August 21, 2023.
  3. “About.” IRI. Accessed August 21, 2023.
  4. Roldan, Cyierra and Sutherland, Ashleigh-Ann. “I have Never Heard the Word Medicaid…” IRI. March 7, 2023. Accessed August 21, 2023.
  5. “The State Immigration Project.” IRI. Accessed August 21, 2023.
  6. “The State Immigration Project.” Fiscal Policy Center. Accessed August 21, 2023.
  7. “The State Immigration Project.” IRI. Accessed August 21, 2023.
  8.  Kallick, David Dyssegaard et al. “New York State’s $2.1 Billion Excluded Workers Fund: A Program Evaluation.” IRI. February 20, 2023. Accessed August 21, 2023.
  9. North, David. “N.Y. State Squandered $2.1 Billion to Keep Illegals in the U.S.” Center for Immigration Studies. February 6, 2023. Accessed August 21, 2023.
  10. “Unemployment Bridge Program.” IRI. Accessed August 21, 2023.
  11. Kallick, David Dyssegaard “Race Equity and the Unemployment Bridge Program.” IRI. February 10, 2023. Accessed August 21, 2023.
  12. “David Dyssegaard Kallick.” Linkedin. Accessed August 21, 2023.
  13. Kallick, David and Gerry, Jenna. “California Should Fix Unemployment Insurance to Include Presently Excluded Immigrant Workers.” National Employment Law Project. June 22, 2023. Accessed August 21, 2023.
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Immigration Research Initiative (IRI)

New York, NY