Georgetown Law Co-Sponsors Cutting-Edge Immigration Law and Policy Conference

October 3, 2017

Professor from Practice Andrew I. Schoenholtz speaks at a podium at the 14th Annual Immigration Law and Policy Conference at Georgetown Law on September 25 (photo courtesy Migration Policy Institute)

One day after the Trump Administration issued a new travel ban, experts from government, academia, private practice, think tanks and more came to Georgetown Law for the 14th Annual Immigration Law and Policy Conference. Professor from Practice Andrew I. Schoenholtz and Jeanne M. Atkinson, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc. (CLINIC) welcomed more than 300 attendees in Hart Auditorium on September 25.

Doris Meissner, senior fellow and director of the U.S. Immigration Policy Program at the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), led a panel examining current immigration policy.

“Looking at the state of play on immigration, I think we have to say that this is simply a very different year…” Meissner said, noting that for the first time, immigration was a top-tier issue in the 2016 presidential election. “What we are seeing is something that is very deep, it is powerful, it is bringing forth an anti-immigration undercurrent, not only in the United States but in other countries…so we need to take this seriously.”

Another panel, led by Atkinson, examined humanitarian relief at a time when the fate of dreamers enrolled under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) hangs in the balance.

Schoenholtz moderated a discussion on trends in immigration enforcement and detention; a fourth panel looked at immigration enforcement at the local level by police and sheriffs, including “sanctuary cities.”

“The bottom line, the data suggests, is that it is harder to cross the border than has ever been the case before, and it is almost certainly the case that fewer people succeeded in crossing the border without being apprehended in 2015 and 2016 since about 1970,” said Marc R. Rosenblum, deputy assistant secretary of the Office of Immigration Statistics at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security – examining a new report on DHS efforts to estimate Southwest border security.

Cecellia Wang, deputy legal director for the ACLU, spoke from a constitutional rights lens — and provided a human view. “I saw person after person stand before a U.S. magistrate judge and plead guilty to illegal entry…man after man, and they were all men, said, ‘I understood the criminal penalties…but my whole family was here, my children are U.S. citizens, and I’m just going to keep coming back.’”

Even from a nonpartisan perspective, the country is facing unique and unprecedented challenges, she said. “Current policy…is a dragnet that really imperils our constitutional rights and some of our values.”

The U.S. global brand of openness, Meissner noted, is being changed. “A basic consensus that immigration makes us stronger, that immigration is an important attribute for us and for our strength as a nation…is really in question,” she said. “What we have is immigration is being presented and characterized as a threat, as a danger to our national well being, instead of seeing it as an asset.”

The conference was cosponsored by Georgetown Law, MPI and CLINIC.