Immigration Reform: Lessons from the Past, Directions for the Future

April 22, 2004 // 8:00am10:30am

On April 22, the Wilson Center's Mexico Institute and the University of Houston's Center for Immigration Research co-sponsored a seminar in Houston on "Immigration Reform: Lessons from the Past, Directions for the Future." Panelists included Nestor Rodriguez (University of Houston), Rodolfo Cruz (El Colegio de la Frontera Norte), Katharine Donato (Rice University),Hon. Joseph Vail (University of Houston), Karl Eschbach (University of Texas, Galveston), and Andrew Selee (Wilson Center, moderator).

The panelists agreed that many of the reforms of the past have produced unintended consequences, often distorting the goals which they were intended to achieve. President Bush's immigration proposal, while far from complete, offers an important opportunity to engage in a serious debate around the kind of immigration policies the United States should pursue that would regularize undocumented migrants currently in the country and reinstate a more cyclical flow of immigrants to and from the United States. At the same time, there is an important opportunity to coordinate policies with the Mexican government, since Mexico is now the leading source of both legal and undocumented migration. By instituting sensible, well-debated policies and pursuing coordination with Mexico, the United States could achieve greater productivity, ensure a more inclusive society, and avoid the current loss of life associated with undocumented migration.


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