International Migration

PRM’s Office of International Migration (PIM) works to protect the world’s most vulnerable migrants through targeted programs and cross-cutting efforts to shape international migration policy. Specifically, it seeks to protect and assist vulnerable migrants and to advance effective and humane international migration policies by origin, transit, and destination countries in order to promote safe, orderly, and regular migration. It achieves this mission through engagement in multilateral forums related to migration, in bilateral and regional migration diplomacy, and through strategic and targeted programs implemented by its partner, the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Why is Migration Significant to the United States?

Migrants have made immeasurable contributions to the United States since the nation was established. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 40 million foreign-born persons live in the country, representing nearly 13 percent of the entire U.S. population. More than 40 percent of our high-tech companies were founded by immigrants or their children. First and second-generation immigrants to the United States have won 65 percent of Nobel Prizes awarded for work here, and account for one-third of our physicists, engineers, and doctors. Migrants also make up 60 percent of our construction workers and the majority of our agricultural workers. Over the last decade, over 6.6 million immigrants chose to become citizens of the United States.

PRM and U.S. Government Migration Diplomatic Engagement

To promote effective and humane migration policies and advance U.S. foreign policy, the Bureau participates in a wide variety of international migration forums. These forums provide participating countries regular opportunities to exchange data and best practices relating to migration management. Topics covered include migrant integration and returns to country of origin; protection of asylum-seekers, refugees, and other vulnerable migrants; combating migrant smuggling and trafficking; human rights of migrants; and the links between migration and development.

Among the migration-related multilateral forums in which the Bureau participates, along with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Department of Labor (DOL), and others, are the Regional Conference on Migration (RCM) in the Americas; the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons, and Related Transnational Crime in the Asia-Pacific region; the Intergovernmental Consultations on Migration, Asylum, and Refugees (IGC); and the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD).

The United States supports the UN General Assembly’s September 19 New York Declaration’s establishment of a process to create a global compact for safe, orderly, and regular migration. This compact should improve the treatment of vulnerable migrants, open new paths for legal migration, and maximize migrants’ contributions to sustainable development.

The United States also works with the Department’s regional policy bureaus (for example, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, Bureau of African Affairs, etc.) to support the development of migration policy options to address emerging or current migration-related crises.

Who are the Bureau’s Partners in Advancing U.S. International Migration Policy?

The Bureau works closely with USAID, DHS, DOJ, DOL, IOM, UNHCR, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that address migration vulnerabilities in origin, transit, and destination countries. For example, in December 2016 the Bureau led an interagency delegation, including representatives from USAID and the Department of Homeland Security, to the Global Forum on Migration and Development in Dhaka, Bangladesh

PRM Migration Programs

The Bureau supports a wide range of programs that seek to reduce the inherent vulnerabilities in both irregular and regular migration, including by addressing the needs of the world’s most vulnerable migrants. PRM programs provide technical assistance to help build the migration management and protection capacities of origin, transit, and destination countries. In addition, we support efforts to directly assist the world’s most vulnerable migrants, such as unaccompanied children, persons rescued at sea, and stateless persons.

Examples of the impact of our programs include:

• A young woman in Central America searching for a better life contacts smugglers, who promise to take her North. She soon becomes a victim of human trafficking. Once she is freed, our programs provide assistance for her to return in safety to her home in Central America, and a micro-grant to begin her own small business. This reduces her economic imperative to travel to the United States to provide for her family.

• A young man from the Horn of Africa is kidnapped and taken to the Sinai Peninsula. He is held captive and tortured: electrocuted, burned, and threatened with organ extraction. His captors extract a significant ransom from his family back home. Barely alive, he manages to escape to a nearby hospital where he is detained by local officials. Funds from our program assist with urgent and lifesaving medical assistance, and then assist him in returning home.

• A group of 39 Ethiopian children who were being smuggled to South Africa are imprisoned in Zambia, where they suffer severe overcrowding, poor health conditions, and limited food. After Zambia pardons the children, our programs help to fund the children’s return to Ethiopia.

Where Do We Support Migration Programs?

This map features the locations of PRM’s Office of International Migration’s Fiscal Year 2016 migration programs. PRM’s migration programs address large movements of migrants across borders by: (1) providing direct assistance to vulnerable migrants; (2) building government capacity to identify protection concerns in migrant populations and implement humane migration management practices; (3) supporting regional dialogues on cross-border migration management and cooperation; (4) promoting cooperation between the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); and (5) developing governments’ capacities to manage migration emergencies.

PRM Migration Programs - Map
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Date: 01/20/2017 Description: Map of International Migrants Day - December 18, 2016. Text version is at - State Dept Image

Why do People Migrate?

The world is on the move – with over 244 million migrants, including refugees and internally displaced persons, representing three percent of the world’s population, moving across borders in 2015 to seek out employment opportunities, join their families, study, conduct cutting-edge research and development, and invest in companies and people in all corners of the globe. While recent crises and conflicts continue to focus attention on the plight of refugees and forcibly displaced persons who are among the most vulnerable, human migration is an inexorable process that predates the drawing of current borders and boundaries.

The majority of migrants in the world are migrant workers. By 2050, the world’s developing nations will have 900 million more workers than jobs, and this will constitute one of the top “push” factors for migration. Furthermore, global income inequalities will remain significant – today, annual per-capita income in high-income countries is USD 43,000, while in developing countries it is USD 600 – which serves to draw migrants to higher-wage countries if the cost of living is tolerable. Migrants who move from the poorest countries to developed countries will experience, on average, a 15-fold increase in income, a doubling of school enrollment rates, and a 16-fold reduction in child mortality. Whether through South-North, South-South, intraregional, or circular migration, it is clear that, faced with daunting economic, social, and political challenges, significant migration pressures are likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

Currently, global migration is comprised of fragmented policies, and the lack of harmonized standards and approaches creates a migration system that increases the cost and risk of migration for migrants; for host, transit, and destination countries; and for employers. Too often, existing systems and structures create an incentive for migrants to pursue irregular paths to obtain opportunities unavailable to them in their home countries.

Improving migration management globally can provide additional legal paths to migrants who live and work in the shadows. National immigration systems and processes can be enhanced to safely facilitate the movement of workers to fill shortfalls in labor markets, to enable students to study the technologies that make it possible to create jobs at home, and to allow those who can contribute to a new homeland to be a valued addition, recognizing that diversity can strengthen a nation’s social fabric.

Within the broader context of migration, it is critical to recognize the links between the drivers of migration and development, in order to address the underlying causes that often push people to leave their homes. In addition to supporting host country economies as workers, entrepreneurs, and taxpayers, migrants support development in their home countries through remittances. In 2015, remittance flows to developing countries reached nearly USD 432 billion, more than three times official development assistance. Remittances are primarily spent for consumption; however, these funds are also used for education, health, and business investments, particularly among poorer households. Only through such linkages can the fundamental drivers of migration – persistent income gaps, social and economic inequality, and demographic imbalances – be addressed.

Finally, we must expand our efforts to protect irregular migrants, who face a range of issues, including violations of their human and workplace rights, a lack of access to social and public services, and coercion and threats from human traffickers, human smugglers, and corrupt officials.