International Migration Initiative

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Through empowerment, policy change, and legal action, we target reforms that meaningfully improve the working and living conditions of migrants.
The International Migration Initiative seeks to address systemic exploitation, discrimination, and violence against migrants at every stage of their journey.

International Migration Initiative

The International Migration Initiative’s strategy responds to critical trends that will shape migration over the next generation: the persistent exploitation of migrant workers, the increasingly temporary nature of migration, rising anti-immigrant sentiment, migration’s disproportionate growth in developing countries, and vastly inadequate regulatory and governance frameworks. Specifically, the initiative works towards the following goals:

  1. Ensuring that migrants are employed under just and equitable conditions. This line of work aims to improve conditions for all workers by putting migrants on an equal footing with the local workforce. The assumption is that when migrants are subject to poor conditions, unfair practices, and exploitation, conditions for all workers are diminished. The International Migration Initiative’s aim is to ensure that employers adopt ethical recruitment practices, that migrants have the flexibility to change employers without jeopardizing their legal status, and that migrants get what they are promised.
  2. Promoting access to legal channels and protections throughout the migration process. This line of work addresses problems stemming from policies focused on deterring migration. The assumption is that security-centered policies do not stop migration, and instead put migrants at risk. Policies that maximize options for movement through safe, legal channels will decrease both the human costs of migration and spending on migration control and border enforcement. The International Migration Initiative seeks to ensure that alternative migration channels extend protections to more people, that asylum systems and migration policies respond to the pressure of mixed flows, and that states detain migrants only as a last resort.

To achieve these goals, the International Migration Initiative aims to fill three gaps in the field: 1) it works across borders through a strategic corridor approach, facilitating coordinated action in countries of origin, transit, and destination; 2) it catalyzes policy innovations through high-level engagement with policymakers and support for advocacy; and 3) it strengthens civil society to advance reforms both nationally and across corridors.

We operate by catalyzing policy change through carefully calibrated strategies that respond to the political context and specific obstacles policymakers face. In some instances, change is best achieved by directly equipping high-level officials with practical policy solutions. Elsewhere, we support outside actors who can exert pressure and generate momentum for change, while also building civil society’s capacity to collaborate with government officials.

The International Migration Initiative works in three strategic corridors: Asia/Middle East, Central America/Mexico, and Eurasia. These geographies include countries of origin that rely on migrant remittances and destinations that depend on migrant labor. These corridors have global significance given the scale and severity of the problems, time-delimited opportunities for change, and the potential for work to have a multiplier effect elsewhere.

We also engage in three targeted projects. One seeks to reform the Common European Asylum System, both in the short term—to leverage the current crisis in the Mediterranean—and in the long term. The second engages with businesses to promote responsibility for practices along their hiring chains. A third aims to leverage regional integration systems as a means of enhancing labor mobility and equality among workers.