The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) is a think tank that produces research and policy analysis advocating for permanent legal residence for undocumented immigrants in the United States and increased legal rights for migrants and refugees worldwide.
Migration Policy Institute receives funding from a variety of left-of-center ideological funders, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and George Soros’s Open Society Foundations.
Migration Policy Institute has offices in Washington, D.C. and Brussels, Belgium, and works on both U.S. and global migration policy. In the United States, MPI focuses on U.S. immigration policy, border security, immigrant integration, and internal enforcement issues. 1 It publishes Migration Information Source, a regularly updated online journal for demographic and statistical data relating to migration around the world, including country-by-country and state-by-state snapshots of immigrant populations. 2
MPI’s Brussels office, started in 2011, focuses on international refugee policy and humanitarian aid to migrants, as well as immigration policy within the European Union and other European states. 3
Support for Legal Status
MPI and its fellows have advocated for permanent legal status for undocumented immigrants residing in the United States, paired with increases in border security and workplace enforcement. 4 Demetrios G. Papademetriou, then head of MPI, supported President George W. Bush’s proposed “guest worker” program, which would have provided employment visas to undocumented immigrants, describing it as “a step in the right direction and better than the status quo,” but called for it to include a pathway to permanent legal residence for undocumented immigrants. 5
In 2012, fellows at MPI argued that enacting the “DREAM Act,” which would have provided permanent legal residence and a pathway to citizenship to illegal immigrants who had been brought into the United States as children, would be a net economic positive. 6
Opposition to Trump Administration Policies
After 2017, MPI and its fellows emerged as a vocal critics of the Trump administration’s immigration policies.
MPI fellow Doris Meissner, former head of the Immigration and Naturalization Service under President Bill Clinton, called the Trump Administration’s plan to erect a wall across the southern U.S. border “overkill.” 7
In September 2017, the Trump Administration announced that it would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, an Obama administration executive decree that made children brought illegally to the United States before 2012 were eligible for renewable two-year deferrals from deportation and could receive work permits. The administration delayed the end of the program for six months to give Congress time to enact a legislative compromise; MPI issued a series of commentaries and policy papers advocating for passage of the DREAM Act. 8
In December 2017, policy analysts Jeanne Batalova and Michael Fix analyzed the residential and employment distribution of the DREAM Act-eligible population, and argued that permitting them to stay in the country would not significantly impact the employment prospects of native-born young people. 9
In January 2018, policy analysts Julia Gelatt and Sarah Pierce criticized as “lopsided” the Administration’s proposed legislative deal, which would have traded permanent residence for DACA beneficiaries for expanded border security, changes to asylum protocols, and the end to so-called “chain migration” through which green card recipients can petition for legal entry on behalf of parents, children, and other family members. “These major changes to the country’s immigration system are offered in exchange for a path to legal status for a small slice of the country’s unauthorized population,” said MPI, which denounced the proposed deal “a vehicle to enact sweeping, hardline reforms in the guise of a bill for DREAMers.” 10 Ultimately, no deal on DACA was reached and proponents sued to block the Administration from ending the program. The Supreme Court was expected to resolve the case in 2020, though the closing of the Court in response to coronavirus in March 2020 may delay a decision. 11
In May 2018, MPI published a report, based on a year-long series of visits to local Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) offices as well as Freedom of Information Act requests, that documented state and local resistance to the Administration’s stepped-up immigration enforcement policies. The report noted that “changes in enforcement have resulted in a sudden and substantial increase in arrests and deportations,” but that arrests and deportations had not “reached peak levels set during the Bush and early Obama administrations” largely because of “state and local policies limiting cooperation with ICE,” especially “sanctuary” policies that prohibited or discouraged local enforcement from coordinating with federal immigration officials, programs educating illegal immigrants on their legal rights, and legal changes such as state laws permitting the undocumented to obtain driver’s licenses. 12
MPI also criticized the “family separation” policy by which the children of asylum seekers were detain separately from the parents. Even after the policy ended in June 2018, Pierce argued that “the price tag in human and financial costs is a long way from being tallied in full” and that “an administration that thrives on chaos may view the crisis as one that has resulted in a significant victory, even at the expense of current PR hits.” 13
With support from the liberal funders Ford Foundation, Carnegie Endowment, and Open Society Foundations, in 2020 Pierce published a comprehensive list of the Trump administration’s policies on immigration enforcement and border security. The report noted not only increased border and internal security related to immigration, but also zero-tolerance enforcement of immigration laws, changes to asylum protocols that limited the “credible fear” grounds for seeking asylum, and funding restrictions on “sanctuary cities” as examples of the “unprecedented” scope of the Trump’s immigration policy agenda. 14
In 2020, MPI criticized the Administration’s “public charge” rule, by which permanent residence could be denied to immigrants based on a determination that they were likely to become a public charge and access welfare and other benefits. An MPI report found “evidence of sizeable disenrollment from public benefit programs by legal immigrants and their U.S.-born children arising from fears that such use could doom future applications for legal permanent residence.” 15
MPI has received multi-million grants from a number of left-of-center foundations, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (more than $3 million since 2009)16; Open Society Foundations (nearly $3 million since 2016)17; and Carnegie Corporation of New York (more than $8 million since 2004)18; and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation(nearly $10 million since 2006). 19 Other funders include Atlantic Philanthropies, Annie E. Casey Foundation, California Community Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, Service Employees International Union, World Health Organization, and the World Bank.
MPI was co-founded in 2001 by Kathleen Newland and Demetrios G. Papademetriou. The daughter of a Naval officer, Newland organized Vietnam War protestors as treasurer of the Harvard University chapter of the Vietnam Moratorium Committee. 20 Prior to co-founding MPI, she co-directed the International Migration Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment; was a lecturer at the London School of Economics; and worked at the United Nations University in Tokyo. She has worked as a consultant on migration policy for the International Labour Organization, the International Organization for Migration, the United Nations Secretary General’s office, UNICEF, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and the World Bank. 21
Papademetriou was the first president of MPI, holding the post until 2014. He was also the first president of MPI Europe, serving until 2018. He has served as chair of the Global Agenda Council on Migration at the World Economic Forum, chaired advisory boards on migration at the Open Society Foundations and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and worked as a senior official at the U.S. Department of Labor. He holds a doctorate in public policy from the University of Maryland. 22
The current president of MPI is Andrew Selee. A scholar on Latin American migration, Selee holds a doctorate from the University of Maryland and spent 17 years at the Woodrow Wilson Center at Princeton University, where he founded the Center’s Mexico Institute and later served as executive vice president. He has also worked as staff in the U.S. Congress and on development and migration programs in Tijuana, Mexico. 23
- “Our Mission.” Migration Policy Institute. Accessed April 10, 2020. https://www.migrationpolicy.org/about/about-migration-policy-institute.
- “Migration Information Source.” Migration Policy Institute. Accessed April 10, 2020. https://www.migrationpolicy.org/programs/migration-information-source.
- “About Migration Policy Institute Europe.” Migration Policy Institute Europe. Accessed April 10, 2020. “https://www.migrationpolicy.org/programs/mpi-europe/about-mpi-europe.
- “Interview: Dimitri Papadimitriou discusses the positive points in granting amnesty to illegal Mexican immigrants in the US.” National Public Radio. July 17, 2001. Accessed on Westlaw (2001 WLNR 11938966) on April 11, 2020.
- “Flaws in Bush’s Immigration Plan.” San Francisco Chronicle. Nov. 24, 2004. Accessed on Westlaw (2001 WLNR 11938966) on April 11, 2020.
- Khara Persad. “DREAM Act report draws skepticism, support.” Arizona Daily Star. Oct. 23, 2012. Accessed on Westlaw (2012 WLNR 21027531) April 11, 2020.
- “Migration Policy Institute Senior Fellow Fact-Checks Trump’s Border Wall Claims.” National Public Radio. December 19, 2018. Accessed April 10, 2020. https://www.npr.org/2018/12/19/678294361/migration-policy-institute-senior-fellow-fact-checks-trump-s-border-wall-claims.
- “DACA Holders Set to Begin Losing Protections in Growing Numbers Next March, Reaching an Average of 915 Per Day through March 2020.” Migration Policy Institute. November 2017. Accessed April 10, 2020. https://www.migrationpolicy.org/news/daca-holders-set-begin-losing-protections-growing-numbers-next-march-reaching-average-915-day.
- Jeanne Batalova and Michael Fix. “Will DREAMers Crowd U.S.-Born Millennials Out of Jobs?” Migration Policy Institute. December 2017. https://www.migrationpolicy.org/news/will-dreamers-crowd-us-born-millennials-out-jobs.
- Julia Gelatt and Sarah Pierce. “The Trump Immigration Plan: A Lopsided Proposal.” Migration Policy Institute. January 2018. Accessed April 10, 2020. https://www.migrationpolicy.org/news/trump-immigration-plan-lopsided-proposal.
- Ian Milhiser. “One way or another, the Supreme Court is likely to let Trump end DACA.” Vox.com. Nov. 12, 2019. Accessed April 19, 2020. https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/11/12/20961371/daca-supreme-court-dreamers-gorsuch-kavanaugh.
- Randy Capps, Muzaffar Chishti, Julia Gelatt, Jessica Bolter, and Ariel G. Ruiz Soto. “Revving Up the Deportation Machinery: Enforcement under Trump and the Pushback.” Migration Policy Institute. May 2018. Accessed April 10, 2020. https://www.migrationpolicy.org/research/revving-deportation-machinery-under-trump-and-pushback.
- Sarah Pierce. “Far from a Retreat, the Trump Administration’s Border Policies Advance its Enforcement Aims.” Migration Policy Institute. June 2018. Accessed April 10, 2020. https://www.migrationpolicy.org/news/far-retreat-trump-border-policies-advance-enforcement-aims.
- Sarah Pierce. “Immigration-Related Policy Changes in the First Two Years of the Trump Administration.” May 2019. Accessed April 10, 2020. https://www.migrationpolicy.org/research/immigration-policy-changes-two-years-trump-administration.
- Randy Capps, Julia Gelatt, and Mark Greenberg. “The Public-Charge Rule: Broad Impacts, But Few Will Be Denied Green Cards Based on Actual Benefits Use.” March 2020. Accessed April 10, 2020. https://www.migrationpolicy.org/news/public-charge-denial-green-cards-benefits-use
- “Grants Database.” Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Accessed April 11, 2020. https://www.gatesfoundation.org/How-We-Work/Quick-Links/Grants-Database#q/k=migration%20policy%20institute.
- “Awarded Grants.” Open Society Foundations. Accessed April 11, 2020. https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/grants/past?filter_keyword=migration+policy+institute.
- “Grants Database.” Carnegie Corporation of New York. Accessed April 11, 2020. https://www.carnegie.org/grants/grants-database/grantee/migration-policy-institute/#!/grants/grants-database/grant/329917339.0/.
- “Grants.” John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Accessed April 11, 2020. https://www.carnegie.org/grants/grants-database/grantee/migration-policy-institute/#!/grants/grants-database/grant/329917339.0/.
- Nora Boustany. “A Humanitarian’s Quiet Path to Change.” Washington Post. March 15, 2002. Accessed April 10, 2020. https://www.migrationpolicy.org/sites/default/files/publications/WaPo_Kathleen.pdf.
- “Kathleen Newland.” Migration Policy Institute. Accessed April 10, 2020. https://www.migrationpolicy.org/about/staff/kathleen-newland.
- “Demetrios G. Papademetriou.” Migration Policy Institute. Accessed April 10, 2020. https://www.migrationpolicy.org/about/staff/demetrios-g-papademetriou
- “Andrew Selee.” Migration Policy Institute. Accessed April 10, 2020. https://www.migrationpolicy.org/about/staff/andrew-selee.