Beth Werlin

Executive Director of the American Immigration Council

Beth Werlin heads the American Immigration Council (AIC), a think tank that “believes that immigrants are part of our national fabric, bringing energy and skills that benefit all Americans.”

Werlin, who earned her J.D. from Boston College, joined AIC’s legal team in 2001. She served in that capacity for 15 years before being named executive director in 2016. Under Werlin’s leadership, AIC has been a prominent player in strategic lawsuits that advance its pro-immigration policy objectives, such as suing the federal government to obtain fast asylum hearings. AIC also sponsors foreign applicants seeking to gain entry into the U.S. for internships or employment, and produces research that, among other things, argues that legal status for undocumented residents would bring economic benefits to the U.S.

One report suggested that if legal status were granted to the undocumented population, it would generate higher personal income and consumer spending in three years — enough to “support 750,000–900,000 jobs in the United States — as well as increased tax revenue of $4.5–$5.4 billion.”

In a roundtable discussion hosted by the Smithsonian Institution, Werlin said, “Our world has changed, technology has changed our world, we’re much more interdependent upon activities going on in other countries. I look at that, particularly in how we approach the laws and policies around bringing in entrepreneurs and new business to our country, people have other options now. Companies can move from country to country in ways that they couldn’t before. To the extent we were a place that people came to bring ideas, there’s other places to bring ideas today too, and that’s an important thing to remember. We want to continue to be competitive. We value that diversity of opinion, the innovation that newcomers bring to our country. I don’t want to see us lose any of that energy. That’s something that in this changing technology-driven world is a potential if we’re not on top of it.”


Werlin’S IDEAS

  • Border Security

    Werlin is critical of several of the Trump administration’s efforts to increase border security, writing in a 2017 statement that the Trump agenda will “strip children of procedural protections, disregard the fact that many new arrivals are seeking protection here, and require DHS officers to detain nearly everyone they apprehend, with very little discretion to release them, even for humanitarian reasons. And for the first time, people throughout the country — not just those at the border — would be subjected to expedited deportation without going before a judge.” She has condemned calling up state national guards to join in roundup efforts.

  • Border Wall

    Werlin does not support the construction of border barriers, calling them “not practical, efficient, nor consistent with our values.”

  • Detention

    Werlin advocates for the right to a bond hearing for undocumented immigrants, emphasizing that reducing detentions would save money for the federal government.

  • Immigration Courts

    Werlin has advocated on behalf of the claimants in J.E.F.M. v. Holder, a class action lawsuit seeking to “ensure that all children in immigration court have legal representation.”

  • Undocumented Population

    Werlin supports a path to citizenship for the undocumented population in the U.S., saying mass deportations are expensive and damaging to the economy. According to AIC, a policy designed to deport approximately 10 million unauthorized immigrants would cost at least $206 billion over five years.

  • ICE

    Werlin has argued against the agency’s removal operations, specifically the expansion of fast-track deportations through “expedited removal,” which allows ICE to deport someone without going before an immigration judge. In a New York Times op-ed Werlin wrote that the practice will “create a ‘show me your papers’ regime nationwide in which people — including citizens — may be forced to quickly prove they should not be deported.”

  • DACA

    Werlin has been on the frontlines of defending DACA in the courts and supports making permanent all of its protections.

  • Asylum

    Werlin has filed multiple lawsuits against the U.S. government alleging that asylum seekers were turned away at ports of entry. She also advocates for reinstating domestic and gang violence as viable reasons for seeking asylum. In 2018, she told the BBC: “Turning our backs on victims of violence and deporting them to grave danger should not be the legacy sought by any administration.”

  • Central America Policy

    Werlin signed off on a January 2016 letter to President Obama, requesting temporary protected status for Central Americans, citing the Northern Triangle’s 2015 violent death rate, which, at the time, was surpassed only by Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. She supported Obama’s request for $1 billion in Central American assistance for 2016.

  • Visas

    Under Werlin’s leadership, AIC works to sponsor foreigners seeking visas to enter the U.S. for employment. She supports increasing the number of worker visas that the U.S. issues annually.