Immigration policy analysts released the Migrant Integration Policy Index (MIPEX) results for the United States recently, including the survey’s implications for immigration and integration policy in the U.S. MIPEX is a tool which measures the immigration and integration policies of 38 countries across 167 indicators in eight policy areas: labor market mobility, family reunification, education, health, political participation, permanent residence, access to nationality, and anti-discrimination.
Overall, the U.S ranked 9th out of the 38 countries surveyed, and 2nd in terms of its anti-discrimination laws and protections. Compared with many other countries, legal immigrants in the U.S. enjoy employment, educational, and health opportunities. However, MIPEX also acknowledges that the U.S.’s complex immigration laws, limited visa availability, high fees, and long visa backlogs may make it challenging for immigrants to integrate and become more strongly woven into the fabric of American life. As such, the U.S. scored 63 out of 100 on the MIPEX scale.
The 2015 MIPEX results for the U.S. reflect a broader context as well as changes in policy. According to MIPEX:
“Despite congressional inaction on Comprehensive Immigration Reform, a few immigrants will benefit from better opportunities to participate in society in the US…A significant minority of undocumented immigrants, through the administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Executive Action programs, enjoy slightly favorable opportunities on the US labor market. More generally, immigrants should benefit from more work-related English training programs approved by Congress.”
Another important policy change, according to MIPEX, this time initiated by a Supreme Court decision, “allows same-sex couples to sponsor spouses for immigration status in the same manner as heterosexual couples. This has allowed same-sex couples to reunite in the United States, and ensures equal treatment under US immigration laws.”
The MIPEX USA report goes on to state:
“Without comprehensive immigration reform, US policies only score 63/100, creating a slightly favorable path for some immigrants to fully participate in society and become US citizens…Still, the path to citizenship, even for legal immigrants, is not as easy as many think. Disproportionate fees, limited family visas, long backlogs, and insecure rights defer many from the American dream of citizenship, a secure family, and a good job…Averaged together, these obstacles put the US at just 9th, compared to 38 countries.
“Clinching higher spots on the ranking…a few Western countries outperform the US on issues such as reuniting families, encouraging workers and students to settle, facilitating the requirements for naturalization and working to recognize immigrants’ credentials.
“The weak federal role on integration may improve in the future. In 2015, the White House’s Task Force for New Americans agreed a Federal Strategic Action Plan on Immigrant and Refugee Integration, entitled ‘Strengthening Communities by Welcoming All Residents’. This new proposal, plus the 2016 presidential campaign debates, may lead to more ambitious and effective immigration and integration policies.”
The White House Task Force on New Americans’ federal strategy for immigrant and refugee integration—which the White House released in April as one of the products stemming from executive action—contains many of the MIPEX indicators and policy areas, even though it wasn’t organized around MIPEX’s eight particular policy areas. Temporary measures like DACA, expanded DACA, and DAPA, and tweaking certain family-based and employment-based immigrant and non-immigrant visa categories, are attempts to address components of integration. But ultimately, the level of community involvement and local level receptivity is important—as all immigration processes play out at the local level in communities where people live life on a daily basis. The MIPEX results are an essential component of that conversation.
Photo by Ray.