Our Strategy

MacArthur seeks to improve conditions for vulnerable migrants, while laying the groundwork for fundamental improvements in migration policies and practices at the national, regional, and global levels over the longer term.

MacArthur has adopted the new grantmaking approach described below. New funding guidelines will be posted later in 2014.


The objective of the MacArthur Foundation’s Migration Program Area is to improve conditions for vulnerable migrants through near-term changes in policy and practice, while supporting research and analysis that will lay the groundwork for fundamental improvements in migration policies and practices at the national, regional, and global levels over the longer term.


MacArthur has been active in issues related to migrants and refugees for many years. During the 1990s and early 2000s, we supported a range of efforts – work on refugee rights, documentary films, research, and immigrant integration.

In 2006, the Foundation launched the Initiative on Global Migration and Human Mobility. This initiative had two primary goals: improving the governance of international migration, and fostering improved understanding of the relationship between migration and economic development. Through this initiative, MacArthur helped build an international framework for migration cooperation, supported innovative research on migration governance and development issues, and funded interventions aimed at improving the lives of migrants.

The Foundation has been the largest non-governmental donor to the Global Forum on Migration and Development, an annual gathering of national governments and civil society representatives devoted to building a common knowledge base, sharing best practices, and developing new partnerships in the field of international migration. The Foundation has also funded migration policy dialogues between the United States and Mexico.

At the global level, and in the United States, MacArthur has supported efforts to develop voluntary codes of ethical conduct for the international recruitment of healthcare personnel. The Foundation financed a high-level commission to improve the quality and comparability of international data on migration. MacArthur also supported policy analysis and stakeholder gatherings on fostering the contributions of diaspora to the economies and societies of countries of origin.

Our New Approach

As of 2012, MacArthur entered a new phase of migration grantmaking with the launch of two new initiatives: one on U.S. Immigration Policy, and the other addressing the Regional Migration Corridor (consisting of Central America, Mexico, and the United States). These two initiatives, together with a modified Global Migration Initiative, make up the new, cross-foundation Migration Program Area that spans MacArthur’s International, U.S., and Media Programs.

We carry out this work at various scales – in Chicago and the State of Illinois, at the national level in the United States, in our region, and at the global level.

We believe that policy solutions must advance the human rights and dignity of migrants. We seek to contribute to solutions that improve the lives of migrants and increase the economic benefits of migration, while addressing its very real costs. We acknowledge that migration brings costs and benefits, but we believe that, on balance, the freer legal movement of people is a net benefit for countries of origin, countries of destination, and for migrants themselves.

MacArthur supports work on Migration within three initiatives, each with a distinct set of strategies: 

  • U.S. Immigration Policy
  • Regional Migration Corridor (Central America, Mexico and the U.S.)
  • Global Migration

U.S. Immigration Policy

The long-term goal of the U.S. Immigration Policy Initiative is improved immigration policies that better address the economic, fiscal and social implications of migration at the national, state and local levels and improve conditions for migrants. In particular, we believe that a more complete, updated appraisal of the economic impacts of migration is warranted, and that advocates of reform have not paid enough attention to the unequal distribution of the fiscal costs and benefits of immigration at the national, state, and local levels.

MacArthur looks to fund research and policy analysis on the economic and fiscal impacts of immigration. We are interested in examining the overall economic costs and benefits of immigration to the United States, as well as the impact of immigration on governmental expenditures and revenues – with a particular interest in intergovernmental fiscal issues, as federal immigration policy (and its failings) have arguably resulted in unfunded state and local mandates. We support analysis of the impacts of state-level immigration policies, including enforcement, such as those adopted in various states. The Foundation also funds innovations in research, policy analysis, and practice related to future flows of migrants, including temporary worker visa programs, recruitment standards and practices, and other policies that affect how people move in and out of the country. Finally, MacArthur also will focus locally in Chicago and Illinois – with its supportive policy framework and its network of leading activists and advocates – to understand how innovative local models for integrating immigrants into economic and civic life can inform and shape the development of national policies and practices.

The Regional Migration Corridor

For years, the regional migration “corridor” that includes Central America, Mexico and the United States has been the largest in the world as measured in annual flows. Migration increasingly defines relations among these countries, causing their economic, cultural, political and demographic fabric to become more and more interwoven. Emerging patterns of migration in the region, threats to human security, and the deportation of hundreds of thousands of migrants from the United States highlight the need for coordinated policy approaches throughout this corridor. MacArthur’s grantmaking in the Regional Migration Corridor seeks to foster improved policymaking that will benefit migrants, communities and their countries. This Initiative seeks to accomplish these goals through two main objectives: advancing policies on migration through bilateral and regional dialogue and cooperation; and supporting efforts of local civil society organizations to improve access to justice and services for transit, returning, and internal migrants in Mexico and Central America.

Global Migration

The Global Migration initiative has two primary objectives: improving international cooperation on migration, primarily through support for the Global Forum on Migration and Development (as described above); and contributing to better understanding of the relationship between climate change and migration.

Migration is a potentially valuable form of adaptation to climate change, yet migration in turn also has environmental implications. With the right tools – including information, incentives, international standards, and legal protection –population movements related to climate change can be more orderly, effective, and respectful of human rights and human dignity, while reducing some of its potentially negative consequences. The Global Migration Initiative supports work to develop international standards for dealing with crisis-induced migration, including that associated with climate change. We also fund exploratory research on the empirical dimensions of current climate displacement, local legal frameworks and adaptation strategies. The primary geographic emphasis of the Foundation’s work on climate change and migration is the Great Lakes Region of Africa.


As MacArthur implements its new U.S. Immigration Policy and Regional Migration Corridor initiatives, we will refine our theories of change and pursue systematic assessment of the effectiveness our approaches. For the Global Migration Initiative, MacArthur has commissioned an independent assessment of the Global Forum on Migration and Development. This assessment (currently in progress) focuses on the civil society aspects of the GFMD and its role in fostering civil society contributions to national-level migration policies.

Migration Documentary Films thumbnail

Migration Documentary Films

MacArthur’s media grantmaking has supported the production of several documentary films on migration and immigration in the U.S. and around the world. Read More


Portrait of Barry Lowenkron

Barry Lowenkron

Vice President, International Programs
Portrait of John W. Slocum

John W. Slocum

Director, Migration

Sharon Bissell Sotelo

Director, Mexico
Portrait of Kathy K. Im

Kathy K. Im

Director, Media, Culture, and Special Initiatives
Portrait of Valerie Chang

Valerie Chang

Director for Policy Research

Liliane Loya

Program Officer, Mexico
Portrait of Tara Magner

Tara Magner

Program Officer
Portrait of Lauren Pabst

Lauren Pabst

Program Officer
Portrait of S. Quinn Hanzel

S. Quinn Hanzel

Program Assistant
Portrait of Phillis D. Hollice

Phillis D. Hollice

Program Administrator