Dreier Roundtable keynotes focus on bridging immigration divide in Washington

Today, the Dreier Roundtable and Brookings hosted the roundtable’s inaugural conference in Washington, DC, focusing on how to retain foreign graduates of U.S. universities in STEM fields. Following opening remarks by David Dreier, former member of Congress and now a Brookings Distinguished Fellow, and a panel discussion led by Bill Antholis, director and CEO of the Miller Center at the University of Virginia and a former Brookings scholar, closing keynote addresses were delivered by Barry Jackson and Felicia Escobar. Jackson is managing director of The Lindsey Group and is former chief of staff to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) as well as a former adviser to President George W. Bush. Escobar is currently special assistant to the president for immigration policy.

Jackson observed that in the immigration debate, “I think it’s really important that we all recognize we are trapped by parameters that we have been arguing for ten years.” Americans, he said, know the immigration system is broken and needs to be fixed, but “they have a lack of trust and faith and confidence that the institutions of government that are supposed to be implementing the current law can do so. So why would we support adding a whole bunch of new responsibilities and programs when they can’t even manage what they are supposed to be doing now?”

He added that another problem is that “the rhetoric on both sides has gotten to the point where we start our debates with our non-negotiables.” Watch this clip to hear how Jackson thinks the next two years are going to play out:

Escobar reviewed policies that the White House has pursued over the last six years, emphasizing that President Obama has been committed to immigration reform since his time as a U.S. Senator. Despite widespread agreement that the immigration system needs to be fixed, Escobar said that “where we are right now is we’re at gridlock again.” Referring to Jackson’s notion that a significant obstacle to reform is the rhetoric that enters into the debate, she added that:

Even though the ideas underlying the bill I think were largely supported by the American public, by members of Congress, including the House of Representatives, we weren’t able to get there because … the rhetoric kind gets in the way of the ideas and we have to find a way as policymakers to wade through the rhetoric and really try to find common ground and move discussion forward and find solutions.


Get more information about this roundtable, including full video, here

Learn more about the inaugural Dreier Roundtable, held in November 2014 at Claremont McKenna College.

The Dreier Roundtable (DRt) is a new, innovative, multidisciplinary program at Claremont McKenna College. DRt convenes leaders in politics, business, journalism, academia, and policymaking for constructive, substantive discussion of issues that affect the future prosperity of the United States and the world. DRt is inspired by the career of David Dreier, longtime chairman of the House Rules Committee, trustee and alumnus of the College, and a distinguished fellow at the Brookings Institution. DRt continues Chairman Dreier’s commitment to engaged, civil discourse that bridges partisan and ideological divides and seeks creative solutions to difficult policy questions. DRt advances CMC’s distinctive mission to foster leadership in business, government, and the professions, while contributing to the intellectual vitality and understanding of public policy issues.