Dreier Roundtable: Immigration Policy for the 21st Century

In collaboration with the Brookings Institution, Claremont McKenna College’s new Dreier Roundtable hosted its inaugural conference on campus on Friday, November 7. Titled “Immigration Policy for the 21st Century,” the Roundtable brought together renowned policy experts, academics, and journalists to discuss immigration reform in the changing political and economic landscape of the 21st century. Rep. David Dreier, former Chairman of the House Rules Committee and honorary Chairman of the Dreier Roundtable, described the forum as a part of CMC’s greater mission of fostering leadership in business, government, and the professions. Specifically, The Roundtable’s goal is to “address public policy questions and make recommendations to how we will resolve them.”

The conference began with a panel discussion examining the economics of immigration reform. Eric Helland—CMC Professor of Economics, Rose Institute Faculty Fellow, and Co-Director of the Dreier Roundtable, moderated the discussion. Neil Ruiz from the Brookings Institution, Giovanni Peri, Professor of Economics at University of California at Davis, and Timothy Kane from the Hoover Institution all served on the panel. All agreed that the United States must provide an easier path for high-skilled immigrants to work in the United States. This would not only improve the economy through innovation and global trade, but also provide a supply of workers in the STEM fields, addressing a labor supply shortage in the U.S. tech and science industry. In terms of to low-skilled workers, Peri noted the importance of recognizing that immigrants provide demand for the economy, as well as supply. They help grow our economy in the long run rather than just taking jobs from native workers. There was consensus at the end of the panel that the United States should implement simpler policies to lower work barriers between countries.

Ken Miller, CMC Associate Professor of Government, Associate Director of the Rose Institute, and Co-Director of the Dreier Roundtable, moderated the politics panel. It featured panelists Mike Murphy, a renowned Republican political consultant and political media expert, Peter Skerry, Professor of Political Science at Boston College (and former CMC faculty), and Heather Williams, Associate Professor of Politics at Pomona College. The panelists discussed questions of how President Obama should move forward on immigration policy, particularly in light of recent Republican gains in Congress in the 2014 midterm elections. Mike Murphy explained that it would be wise for the President to work with the Republican leaders of Congress rather than issuing an executive order, for an executive order would be “far less legitimate.” The panelists agreed that there must be a political consensus to legalize immigrants, with Murphy and Skerry speaking to the importance of first focusing on legal status rather than a path to citizenship.

The Dreier Roundtable concluded with a luncheon and panel discussion, moderated by William Antholis from the Brookings Institution, at the Athenaeum. Rep. Dreier, Jacob Goldstein from National Public Radio, Mike Murphy, and Peter Skerry discussed issues such as border security, E-Verify, and the positive and negative impacts of immigrants on American workers.

Moving forward, Rep. Dreier’s vision for the Dreier Roundtable is to continue conversations on issues beyond immigration, such as international trade, development of democratic institutions, and flow of information for commercial purposes. He believes the Dreier Roundtable initiative “demonstrates how Claremont McKenna is bringing the full spectrum of insightful opinions to our students’ world.”

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