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Previewing this Week’s Public Forum on Immigration Reform at Claremont McKenna College

William J. Antholis and David Dreier

Today at Claremont McKenna College, a new bipartisan public forum—the Dreier Roundtable—will convene leaders in politics, business, journalism and academia to hold constructive, substantive discussions about immigration reform. Just days after the midterm elections of 2014, the panel of experts will examine the strengths and weaknesses of current immigration policy and debate the economic and political aspects of immigration reform.  Brookings is delighted to co-host this first forum.

We will be looking ahead to the new Congress and the upcoming Presidential election season to assess the momentum for immigration reform.  Will it continue to build and lead to meaningful action?  Or will it stall and fall back to a partisan stand-still?

Most Americans agree on the basic outline of what immigration reform should look like. A recent Pew survey demonstrated that large majorities of Republicans and Democrats want a policy that secures our borders, strengthens America’s human capital and makes our nation more competitive. They also want a policy that brings those here illegally out of the shadows in an appropriate and humane way.

There are security, economic and social benefits of a responsible and effective immigration policy – ones that support America’s core interests and values.

The millions of illegal immigrants currently living and working in the United States have been required to pay no fine, demonstrate no English proficiency, or meet any other precondition that reform might impose. Many spend their entire lives outside the scope of labor, banking, education, and other laws, often paying far less than their full tax burdens. This de facto amnesty in the absence of reform is the real threat to the rule of law.

Our challenge is not whether to impose penalties for breaking immigration laws – that question is settled. It is how effectively and fully we can extend the law’s responsibilities and protections across our entire society. That includes providing a formal way in for the millions of families now here in the shadows, trying to earn a living.

Visa policy is a no less pressing part of immigration reform. This is probably the most globally competitive moment in our history. Our visa policies are failing to facilitate entry for skills that can help propel America’s growth.

Far too many smart, ambitious young students, particularly in the STEM fields, have come to study at our schools, only to be sent home upon graduation to become our competitors. We need to put the development of human capital near the center of our immigration policy. That can help create a workforce with an ever-expanding base of opportunity for all Americans, enhancing our strengths in innovation.

The Dreier Roundtable discussion will feature a range of policy and political experts.  It will include, among others:

  • Mike Murphy—one of the GOP’s most successful political media experts and previous consultant for nationally prominent candidates such as Mitt Romney, John McCain, Jeb Bush and Arnold Schwarzenegger;
  • Jacob Goldstein—NPR journalist and contributor to Planet Money, which explores economics, global finance and business topics, as well as producer of stories for Morning Edition, All Things Considered and This American Life;
  • Peter Skerry—Professor of political science at Boston College and Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, who has researched and written about social policy, racial and ethnic politics, and immigration for over 20 years; and many other experts.

The speakers will discuss the economics and politics of reform – about the millions living outside of the formal economy, as well as the impact on businesses from restrictive visa policy, and the opposition to immigration reforms.

Nothing could be more important to our country’s long-term security and competitiveness.  We hope you can tune in to the live webcast of the roundtable discussion this Friday, November 7 at 11:50 am PT, or tune in for the video afterwards.

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