As many of you know, I was back and forth to Washington, DC many times over the past year to take part in an unusual gathering of scholars and thinkers on immigration policy. The Brookings-Duke Immigration Policy Roundtable organizers, Noah Pickus, Peter Skerry and Bill Galston convened a group as diverse as possible without members being likely to strangle each other by being in the same room –but they weren’t far off! The idea was to see what this disparate bunch could agree on (or at least agree to disagree on), in hopes that it might provide some guidance to the Obama administration as it tackles long-overdue immigration reform. We made it through somehow with a report that would have been different had I (or any of us) written it ourselves. Nevertheless, it gives a pretty good sense of some of the tradeoffs that might be politically feasible and result in a policy that, while not perfect, would significantly improve upon the mess that we have now.
That report, available in PDF format here, was released October 6. Links to the executive summary, the Spanish version, and the Brookings launch event transcript are available here. I’ll be part of a panel discussing it further at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, DC on October 23.
Here’s more information about the report:
Breaking the Immigration Stalemate
The Obama administration has committed itself to immigration reform. Yet despite all the shortcomings of current policy — threats to the rule of law, exploitation of vulnerable newcomers, real and perceived competition with Americans for jobs and public resources — reasonable compromise on immigration will be exceedingly difficult. The divide between elite and public opinion on this issue remains deep and wide. It is a critical factor in the lack of trust that pervades today’s political culture.
This distrust was readily apparent in November 2008 when the Immigration Policy Roundtable first convened its twenty participants. The Roundtable is a joint undertaking of the Brookings Institution and the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University. The group’s distinctive feature is that its members came to the table with divergent, often conflicting perspectives on immigration. In fact, the range of political and ideological views represented at the Roundtable is unprecedented in recent immigration policymaking.
Some of us were clearly attuned to the opportunities and realities of an increasingly interconnected global economy, which necessarily involves substantial movements of workers and their dependents around the world. Others of us were just as clearly concerned with the domestic costs and strains precipitated by these global forces.
Some empathized with Americans who are outraged that immigration law is not enforced, and is even being flouted. Others held that as currently written, our immigration laws are unworkable and must be reconciled with social and economic realities.
During our deliberations, we came to recognize that we would never resolve our principled disagreements. Nonetheless, progress at the policy level turned out to be possible, and the results fruitful. In the end, we were able to agree on a set of recommendations that address the most vexing and controversial issues stymieing immigration reform.