Center for American Progress

RELEASE: CAP Report Proposes New Paradigm for Humane and Effective Immigration Enforcement
Press Release

RELEASE: CAP Report Proposes New Paradigm for Humane and Effective Immigration Enforcement

Press Contacts

  • Claudia Montecinos

Washington, D.C. — A new report released today by the Center for American Progress proposes a new paradigm for immigration enforcement in the United States that strives to be more humane, in that it does not subject individuals or communities to unnecessary suffering; more effective, in that increased compliance with the law can be realistically and efficiently achieved; and more just, in that people can, in practice, obtain the rights and enjoy the privileges the rules afford. These mechanisms can largely be put in place through executive actions by the incoming Biden administration to achieve meaningful and immediate progress.

The report proposes a shift away from Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) mass detention and deportation strategy and toward rethinking the rules to be enforced, which dictate who can be penalized for immigration violations and what penalties can be imposed; the mechanics of enforcement used to increase compliance with such substantive rules without putting people in cages and tearing apart hundreds of thousands of families each year; and the procedural rules governing enforcement, which guarantee a fair system consistent with the norms of due process.

Key recommendations that could be established by the new administration by executive action include implementing a new “Intent to Initiate” protocol, establishing prosecutorial discretion guidance that deprioritizes cases involving lawful permanent residents as well as those involving conduct that occurred long ago without intervening government action, winding down the immigration detention system, and scaling up access to counsel programs.

“Over these past four years, Americans have become painfully aware of the brutality and inhumanity of the mass detention and deportation approach to immigration enforcement. Less well-recognized, however, is how that approach has utterly failed as a law enforcement strategy,” says Peter L. Markowitz, professor of law at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and author of this report. “As the United States has spent increasing and unprecedented billions on overly punitive immigration enforcement in recent decades, compliance with immigration law has gone down, not up. It turns out, detention and deportation are neither the only, nor the most effective ways to enforce our nation’s immigration laws. We can create an enforcement system that is both more humane and more effective.”

“For too long, immigration enforcement has been about anything but trying to promote compliance with our immigration laws,” says Tom Jawetz, vice president of Immigration Policy at CAP. “Whether enforcement has been ramped up to create political space for legislative compromise or to exact the greatest amount of cruelty on the largest number of people, it has done little to make our immigration system work any better or to promote increased faith in the rule of law. It is time to consider a new paradigm for immigration enforcement as one key component to building an overall immigration system that is more fair, humane, and workable.”

Read the report:A New Paradigm for Humane and Effective Immigration Enforcement” by Peter L. Markowitz

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For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, please contact Claudia Montecinos at cmontecinos@americanprogress.org.