Thursday, January 30, 2014
Policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic face significant constraints in addressing the population of unauthorized migrants in their countries. Limited resources to tackle illegal migration, legal frameworks that protect individuals regardless of their residence status, and the risk that comprehensive enforcement efforts may have adverse consequences in related policy domains such as public health and safety are at the heart of the challenges governments face.
These considerations are explored in the latest report in a series by the Migration Policy Institute's Transatlantic Council on Migration that focuses on practical policy solutions to curb the influence of "bad actors" who facilitate and profit from illegal migration: smugglers, traffickers, and unscrupulous employers among them.
In Trade-Offs in Immigration Enforcement, MPI Europe Director Elizabeth Collett and MPI Senior Policy Analyst Will Somerville argue that a successful migration enforcement regime is best defined as one that does limited or no harm to a country’s institutions of governance and to citizens’ livelihoods, while fortifying public trust that the government is running an efficient and effective system.
The report notes that policymakers must recognize the context in which they operate, not least the strong demand for cheap labor in a globalized world, and the toxic political discussion surrounding immigration, particularly illegal.
Governments face some difficult decisions, including whether to allocate resources to reduce the overall unauthorized population or target those unauthorized immigrants who pose the greatest threat (typically those involved in crime). Alternatively, policymakers may also choose the politically less popular but often more pragmatic option of legalization, where there are many policy lessons to be learned regarding how to design, target, and implement such programs.