Doris Meissner

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Doris Meissner, former Commissioner of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), is a Senior Fellow at the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), where she directs MPI’s U.S. immigration policy work.

Meissner’s responsibilities focus in particular on the role of immigration in America’s future and on administering the nation’s immigration laws, systems and government agencies. Her work and expertise also include immigration and politics, immigration enforcement, border control, cooperation with other countries, and immigration and national security. She has authored and co-authored numerous reports, articles, and op-eds and is frequently quoted in the media.

From 1993-2000, she served in the Clinton administration as Commissioner of the INS, then a bureau in the U.S. Department of Justice. Her accomplishments included reforming the nation’s asylum system; creating new strategies for managing US borders; improving naturalization and other services for immigrants; shaping new responses to migration and humanitarian emergencies; strengthening cooperation and joint initiatives with Mexico, Canada, and other countries; and managing growth that doubled the agency’s personnel and tripled its budget.

She first joined the Department of Justice in 1973 as a White House Fellow and special assistant to the Attorney General. She served in various senior policy posts until 1981, when she became acting commissioner of INS and then executive associate commissioner, the third ranking post in the agency. In 1986, she joined the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace as a senior associate. Meissner created the Endowment’s Immigration Policy Project, which evolved into the Migration Policy Institute in 2001.

Meissner’s board memberships include CARE-USA and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF). She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Inter-American Dialogue, the Pacific Council on International Diplomacy, the National Academy of Public Administration, and the Constitution Society.

A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she earned both B.A. and M.A. degrees, she began her professional career there as assistant director of student financial aid. She was also the first executive director of the National Women’s Political Caucus (NWPC).


  • Senior Fellow, Migration Policy Institute
  • Senior Fellow and Director, Immigration Policy Program
  • Commissioner (1993-2000), Immigration and Naturalization Service