December 2, 2021 – Immigration

Cornell University will research how to reduce barriers to immigration


The public conversation about immigration in the United States is often focused on the false choice between welcoming migrants and securing future economic prosperity and public safety. Cornell University Professor of Immigration Law Stephen Yale-Loehr is challenging this thinking and developing  policy recommendations that will improve the current U.S. immigration system for the benefit of both American workers and immigrants. 

As Yale-Loehr recently told The New York Times, this work is especially important as U.S. employers struggle to fill millions of unfilled jobs. 

A founding faculty member of Cornell Law School’s Migration and Human Rights Program, Yale-Loehr is co-creator of a merit-based immigration framework that, if implemented, could help attract the best job candidates from around the world. Yale-Loehr and Mackenzie Eason detailed the plan for a 10-year pilot program based on a points system and designed to select candidates according to their skills and credentials in a 2020 paper. Applicants with the highest scores would immediately receive visas, reflecting one of the successful features of similar systems used in other countries. The Charles Koch Foundation (CKF) supported that research. 

Founded in 2018, the Migration and Human Rights Program sits at the nexus of practice and research on U.S. immigration law. With a new, two-year $1.6 million grant from CKF, the Program will expand its research team with additional visiting scholars and post-doctoral researchers who will focus on three aspects of immigration law and policy: legal, social, political, and economic factors that shape migration decisions and regulatory barriers that impact these flows; the intersection between migration and health; and immigrants’ rights.

“Virtually everyone agrees that the current U.S. immigration system is broken,” Yale-Loehr said. “Unfortunately, in our polarized political climate, the national conversation over immigration has suffered from an excess of rhetoric and a deficit of thoughtful policy proposals. We hope to change that.”

CKF’s support also will help Yale-Loehr and the Migration and Human Rights Program enhance their efforts to educate the public, media, and policymakers about how immigrants contribute to the American identity and the U.S. economy.  

“This country has seen incredible growth and societal progress because of immigration. New workers and innovators bring ideas and energy that empower everyone,” said CKF Executive Director Ryan Stowers. “This research will deepen our understanding of this critical issue and identify solutions for the future. We are excited to continue this partnership.”