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SPSSI Policy News RSS Feed - October 12, 2009

Event Recap


Brookings Institution Immigration Policy Event
“Breaking the Immigration Stalemate”

On Tuesday, October 6th, the Brookings Institution hosted a panel discussion of their proposal for immigration reform, including members of their organization who supported it, and those from other organizations who had objections to it. The proposal that was under discussion aims to "combine good policy and good politics”. They wanted to create comprehensive, effective immigration policy that would combine the two different political viewpoints, restrictionist and expansionist.

Featured Speakers
Noah Pickus
Nannerl O. Keohane Director
The Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University
Peter Skerry
Nonresident Senior Fellow, The Brookings Institution
Senior Fellow, The Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University
Professor of Political Science, Boston College

James Gimpel
Professor of Government
University of Maryland, College Park
Angela Kelley
Vice President for Immigration Policy and Advocacy
Center for American Progress
Reihan Salam
Schwartz Fellow
New America Foundation

The policy proposal covered 5 different areas of reform: Enforcement and Legalization, Lawful Admission, a Standing Commission on Immigration, Assimilation and Integration, and Mexico and Regional Engagement. 

Enforcement and Legalization:
The main mechanism for enforcement would be employer-based. What the “policy roundtable” advocated was for a workplace verification system to be implemented, followed by audits by government officials. In addition, there would be a legalization program to legalize undocumented workers who have been in the country five years which requires them to pay a fine, pass a background check, learn U.S. history and government, and show evidence of steady employment, residence, payment of taxes, good moral character

Lawful Admission:
The source of funding for this plan would come from the savings from reducing the number of people eligible for family-sponsored visas. Rather than allowing extended family members to apply, only nuclear family members would be eligible. The plan would also increasing the proportion of skilled worker immigrants and holding the overall numbers of admission constant. Another plan which, in this proposal, would benefit skilled workers rather than unskilled workers is the expansion of temporary worker programs.

Standing Commission on Immigration:
The Brookings-Duke immigration group proposes an independent federal agency whose sole purpose would be to regulate the immigration system. The agency would research, deliberate, and make proposals that would be separate from the political arena. They would then report their recommendations to Congress biennially.

Assimilation and Integration:
A new Federal Office for New Americans (ONA) would help state and local governments and civic groups in their approaches to fostering assimilation and integration. Programs that ONA would help enhance would be welcome centers, referral services, English language instruction and civics education.

Mexico and Regional Engagement:
The proposal emphasizes increased interaction and cooperation between the U.S. and Mexican governments on issues such as drug and weapon smuggling and law enforcement policy.

There was some dispute, from Angela Kelley in particular, about the Brookings-Duke proposal’s policy towards skilled versus non-skilled workers and the decision to limit family-sponsored visas. While conceding that the intention of the proposal was to compromise between conservative and liberal policies, Kelley argued that there were a disproportionate amount of specific proposals that negatively impacted Latino immigrants and favored the restrictionist agenda.

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