“Border enforcement of immigration laws raises the costs of illegal immigration, while interior enforcement also lowers its benefits. Used together, border and interior enforcement therefore reduce the net benefits of illegal immigration and should lower the probability that an individual will decide to illegally migrate. While empirical studies find that border and interior enforcement serve as deterrents to illegal immigration, immigration enforcement is costly and carries unintended consequences, such as a decrease in circular migration, an increase in smuggling, and higher prevalence of off-the-books employment and use of fraudulent and falsified documents.
Authors’ main message
There are many political, security, and economic motivations for limiting illegal immigration. However, enforcement measures should be designed and regularly evaluated to control costs, minimize distortions, limit detrimental impacts on migrant families, safeguard legal migration and commerce, and mitigate other unintended consequences. Enforcement can be more effective and increase the net economic benefits of immigration to the destination country if implemented together with comprehensive reform and legal migration pathways that address the underlying push and pull forces that drive unauthorized migration.”
Summary and policy advice
“Immigration enforcement is necessary—the political and economic motivations for limiting illegal immigration are numerous. However, considering the high costs of implementing enforcement and the considerable human costs of dispensing it, enforcement measures should be carefully designed and regularly evaluated. Immigration policy should also take into account conditions in origin countries. Work-based migration can be accommodated with a temporary visa or guest worker program, while humanitarian migration may require other measures.
Efficient enforcement minimizes distortions, controls costs, limits detrimental impacts on families, shields legal migration and commerce, and mitigates unintended consequences. In many countries, comprehensive immigration reform that combines efforts to create legal pathways for migration with improvements in enforcement methods can ease pressure at the border and in the interior, while increasing the net economic benefits of immigration to the destination country. Governments can aid research in this area by gathering and publicly providing consistent, comprehensive, and timely data on migration and enforcement.”
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Source information: Research at a Glance is designed to inform the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) community and other interested parties about recently published, policy-relevant research from government, academic and NGO sources.