The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) describes itself as an “independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit think tank … dedicated to analysis of the movement of people worldwide,” whether their relocations are voluntary or forced, and whether they occur at the local, national, or international levels.
MPI was established in 2001 by Kathleen Newland (a former senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace) and Demetrios Papademetriou (former director for immigration policy and research in President Bill Clinton‘s Labor Department), when the Carnegie Endowment’s International Migration Policy Program (IMPP) became an independent entity. IMPP was known for conducting migration policy briefings and roundtables, luncheon seminars, and study advisory groups aimed at influencing legislators and program officials in Washington.
MPI has continued its predecessor’s tradition by supporting: (a) “self-governance” for communities that straddle the U.S./Mexico border, rather than strict obedience to immigration policies set in Washington; (b) a more permissive U.S. refugee admissions and resettlement policy; (c) increased social-welfare benefits for illegal immigrants residing in the U.S.; (d) a movement beyond “absolute notions of [national] sovereignty”; (e) “the re-conceptualization of the common border and the border region as a line of convergence rather than separation”; and (f) the creation of “a North America with gradually disappearing border controls.”
In April 2002, then-MPI co-director Papademetriou issued a paper urging the United States to strike a “grand bargain” with Mexico that would include: a registration program for illegal immigrants, to be followed by an “earned regularization” program with a “Mexicans-first” provision giving preference to registrants from that country; a broad U.S. temporary-worker program for new Mexican employees; and an expedited family-reunification provision to bring immediate family members of “unauthorized” immigrants from Mexico to the United States with all the legal protections and worker rights enjoyed by legal U.S. residents. This “grand bargain,” as Papademetriou saw it, would not impose on Mexico any new obligation to discourage its citizens from illegally emigrating to America.
Post-9/11, MPI steadfastly opposed the Patriot Act and other homeland-security efforts as “measures more commonly associated with totalitarian regimes.” In one report, the Institute claimed that “the U.S. government’s harsh measures against immigrants” had “failed to make us safer,” “violated our fundamental civil liberties,” “undermined national unity” unfairly “target[ed] specific ethnic groups,” and flouted “the Fifth Amendment right to equal treatment.”
1) Migration Management: This pillar addresses such themes as how to balance domestic security with immigration demands and human rights; how to alter immigration policy to reflect changing economic or demographic realities; and how to “manage the impact of immigration on disadvantaged sectors of domestic society.”
2) Refugee Protection and International Humanitarian Response: MPI works closely with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees as well as other international organizations and governments, to “clarify some of the interpretive issues that are making consistent application of refugee law difficult.” Of particular concern are “physical and administrative barriers that prevent would-be refugees from gaining access to full and fair asylum adjudication.”
3) North American Borders and Migration Agenda: Proceeding from “the assumption that borders are integrated social and economic zones that should be viewed as resources rather than barriers,” MPI calls for America and Mexico to develop a “new migration relationship” that reduces “undocumented migration” by “combining higher levels of legal, permanent immigration with well-designed programs for temporary work that protect the labor and social rights of temporary workers and the domestic labor force.”
Regarding the need to reconcile “the dilemmas of illegal immigration” with national-security concerns as well as the rights of legal immigrants, MPI’s solution is to “provide a path to legal status for unauthorized immigrants who can demonstrate steady employment, knowledge of English, payment of taxes, and passage of a background security check, among other requirements.”
4) Immigrant Settlement and Integration: This program seeks to help countries integrate immigrants and refugees “into their social and political fabric,” so as to prevent such people from becoming “marginalized.” Especially problematic, says MPI, is “the limited response of the current [American] workforce system to the needs of low-skilled immigrant workers.” To address this problem, MPI advocates policies that help “low-income [immigrant] families with children in particular” to access publicly funded services related to schooling, family literacy, and day care. The Institute also offers English-language and life-skills instruction to new immigrants.
Another issue of concern to MPI is the “unsettling new trend” whereby some state and local officials have been federally deputized (as in Arizona) to combat illegal immigration. The Institute likewise objects to “the recent proliferation of state and local laws and ordinances barring illegally resident immigrants from working, obtaining housing, or using public benefits.”
MPI’s former vice president for programs, Donald Kerwin, previously served 15 years as executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.
Enjoying a strong relationship with the European Union, MPI in 2011 expanded its operations with the creation of MPI Europe, a research institute based in Brussels.
MPI has received financial support from numerous charitable foundations, including the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Fannie Mae Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the German Marshall Fund of the United States, the JEHT Foundation, the J.M. Kaplan Fund, the (now-defunct) George Soros‘s Open Society Institute, the Public Welfare Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
For additional information on MPI, click here.
 According to author Lance Sjogren’s 2006 book, Immigration Politics, one MPI task force was replete with “open borders ideologues.”
 It is particularly important to promote citizenship nowadays, adds MPI, because the welfare-reform legislation that was passed in 1996 stipulates that new immigrants must now wait five years before they are eligible to receive public benefits from the “core” federal safety-net programs: Food Stamps, Medicaid, SCHIP, TANF, and SSI.