US Can Better Help Migrants Integrate Into Society, Report Says


LatinaLista—The Migrant Integration Policy Index (MIPEX) is an annual international effort published by the British Council and the Belgium-based Migration Policy Group that measures how easy or hard it is for immigrants with legal residency to feel a part of an adopted country. This year, the Immigration Policy Center was chosen to be a US partner for the Index.

One hundred forty-eight policy indicators are examined separated into seven categories: employment opportunities, family reunion, education, political participation, long-term residence, access to citizenship and anti-discrimination. Participating countries include all 27 European Union member states, Norway, Switzerland, Canada, and for the first time the United States.

The objective of the index is to compare countries to see what immigration policies are working and which are just bad practices.

For a beginner, the US didn’t fare too badly. It ranked in the top ten (#9) among 31 countries.

Overall the US ranked ninth in terms of integration policies, and first in terms of its strong anti-discrimination laws and protections. The US also ranked high on the access to citizenship scale because it encourages newcomers to become citizens in order to fully participate in American public life. Compared with other countries, legal immigrants in the US enjoy employment opportunities, educational opportunities, and the opportunity to reunite with close family members.

However, the researchers did note that far from it being a walk in the park, current US immigration policies have built-in roadblocks that prove a challenge to immigrants from quickly and legally becoming contributing members of US society.

MIPEX also acknowledges that the U.S.‘s complex immigration laws, limited visa ability, high fees, and long backlogs may make it challenging for immigrants to integrate into the fabric of American life.

These are some of the very issues that spur illegal immigration and which underscore the fact that current immigration policy needs to be reformed by increasing the amount of visas, making fees affordable and quickly handling immigration requests.

One element that researchers commended the United States was how individual states and cities have created special departments devoted to immigrant integration. Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maryland, Washington state, as well as major cities like New York, Chicago, and San Francisco, all have created departments that accomplish this goal.

From providing resources where English as a Second Language classes are taught to making it clear what is acceptable and legal behavior in the United States to how to become civically involved, these departments are doing more than just distributing welcome packets—they are grooming the next wave of business leaders, local politicians and concerned citizens.

This post originally appeared February 28, 2011, on Latina Lista