Area of Concern

Climate Change

Immigration reaches deep into who we are as a society. It cuts across legal frameworks, policies, and strategies. It shapes stories of cultural identity and material survival. It invents—and is reinvented by—global and local institutions. How we treat those who want to be part of our cities, our states, and our country in the future defines who we will become as Americans.

In the future of American immigration, there’s no single standout story, no fated path. Instead, the country faces a complex interplay of future drivers: political economy, technology, demographics, media, culture, and of course, climate. At the same time, a diverse history of precedents belies a single history of American immigration.

In response to this moment—and supported by The John Irvine Foundation and Grantmakers Concerned With Immigrants and Refugees (GCIR)—the Institute for the Future convened dozens of experts from diverse disciplines and perspectives to map possible futures for immigration in the US. The workshop produced four distinct paths for the coming decade and beyond. These are presented as scenarios in The Future of Immigration: Four Paths map.

The map is a guide that offers four different opening lines for a multitude of future stories for Americans. The foundation for the final map is a compilation of data produced by some of the country’s leading policy and social research organizations. IFTF assembled the data in a Briefing Book to support the conversation about the future of immigration in its expert workshop. The book does not promote any single policy or future scenario, but provides a timeline of US immigration legislation as well as on-the-ground data about the demographics and socioeconomic status of immigrants. Together, these assets are an invitation to think beyond today’s questions of walls, quotas, and green cards to stories that will bring 21st century America to life.

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About IFTF's Futures of American Immigration Report
Institute for the Future’s report on The Futures of American Immigration is a project for our time. Caught in a wave a growing nationalist sentiment while confronting the now inevitable impacts of global warming, we face a contentious decade that could shape the future of America and perhaps even humanity itself.

IFTF, in partnership with The James Irvine Foundation and Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees (GCIR)—convened dozens of experts from diverse disciplines and perspectives to create a map of four possible immigration futures for the country, its citizens, and its immigrants, designed to help grantmakers, policy makers, and community leaders think together about this epochal issue.

For more information, please contact Executive Producer Jean Hagan.

About Institute for the Future
Institute for the Future is the world’s leading futures organization. For over 50 years, businesses, governments, and social impact organizations have depended upon IFTF global forecasts, custom research, and foresight training to navigate complex change and develop world-ready strategies. IFTF methodologies and toolsets yield coherent views of transformative possibilities across all sectors that together support a more sustainable future. Institute for the Future is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Palo Alto, California.

About The James Irvine Foundation

The James Irvine Foundation is a private, nonprofit grantmaking foundation dedicated to expanding opportunity for the people of California. The Foundation’s grantmaking is committed to a California where all low-income workers have the power to advance economically. Since 1937 the Foundation has provided more than $1.87billion in grants to nonprofit organizations throughout California.

About Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees (GCIR)

GCIR works with more than 130 member foundations and the broader philanthropic community to inform, connect, and catalyze funders to address pressing issues facing newcomers and the communities in which they live and work. GCIR’s thought leadership and expertise position philanthropy to adapt to demographic trends, respond to policy developments, engage with cross-sector partners, and support timely and innovative efforts to advance equity, inclusion, and justice for immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. With offices in the Bay Area, as well as staff in Washington, D.C., GCIR works with grantmakers across the country in both traditional immigrant destinations and newer gateways.


This map is the product of an expert workshop held August 6-7, 2019. Participants included nearly 40 experts and grantmakers from public and private universities as well as immigration policy organizations and foundations.

Institute for the Future Authors
Marina Gorbis
Rod Falcon
Anmol Chaddha
Georgia Gillan
Ben Hamamoto
Nick Monaco
Sara Skvirsky
Kathi Vian

Irvine Foundation Authors
Virginia Mosqueda
Melina Sanchez

Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees Contributors
Kevin Douglas
Huong Nguyen-Yap
Daranee Petsod