Penn Arts and Sciences

Getting Comprehensive Immigration Reform Right (Demetrios Papademetriou)

Friday, December 13, 2013 - 12:00pm - 1:30pm

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UNTIL THE RECENT SHOWDOWNS IN WASHINGTON brought other policy initiatives to a standstill, movement on immigration reform was significant, even astounding. It is unusual for a divisive issue to jump from the near oblivion of repeated legislative failures to the center of the political and policy stage as quickly as immigration reform had done since the beginning of the year. And the broad policy prescription on which both a bipartisan group of eight senators and the president appeared to agree was nothing short of audacious. In fact, a mere few months earlier, virtually all congressional Republicans and a fair number of Democrats would have pronounced the plan dead on arrival.  And now, as pressure for legislative accomplishment compels a return to immigration reform, Papademetriou provides a clear and incisive look at the various proposals, their virtues, and their potential pitfalls.

“Although we passed substantial legislation in 1986, focusing on illegal immigration, and 1990, focusing on labor migration, we have been unable to reorient policies since then in ways that reflect and adapt to the vast changes in the U.S. and global economies. . . . Some may see this stasis as standing by the 1965 legislation’s commitment to American families and American workers. Most, however, see it as it is. First, as a system whose commitment to family reunification is a false promise for all but the closest family members of U.S. citizens (spouses, minor children, and parents). Second, as a system that is still struggling with how to protect the jobs of U.S. workers (that is, everyone with the legal right to work in the U.S.) but gives little thought to their broader interests, which include more and better jobs that smart immigration policies can help generate. [And] third, as a system that turned a blind eye to illegal immigration and to the large-scale settlement of illegally resident immigrants and, as a result, vastly expanded low-wage sectors and flattened the wages in such sectors even more.”
– From “The Fundamentals of Immigration Reform,” The American Prospect

Demetrios G. Papademetriou is President and Co-Founder of the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), a Washington-based think tank dedicated exclusively to the study of international migration. He is also President of Migration Policy Institute Europe, a nonprofit, independent research institute in Brussels that aims to promote a better understanding of migration trends and effects within Europe; and serves on MPI Europe’s Administrative Council.

Papademetriou has published more than 250 books, articles, monographs, and research reports on migration topics and advises senior government and political party officials in more than 20 countries. He is co-author and co-editor of Migration and the Great Recession: The Transatlantic Experience (2011), and co-author of Immigration Policy in the Federal Republic of Germany: Negotiating Membership and Remaking the Nation (2010) and Immigration and America's Future: A New Chapter (2006).

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