June 26, 2014

Talking Common Sense Immigration Reform  
with Maria Hinojosa

For Maria Hinojosa, reforming our immigration system is a matter of both common sense and mutual benefit.


"Immigration reform has an effect on all of us, in terms of the economy, in terms of lost opportunities," Hinojosa said, in an interview with Robert Siegel during the most recent Public Agenda / CUNY Graduate Center Policy Breakfast.


Hinojosa spoke from her experiences as a Latina born in Mexico City and raised in Chicago who chose to become an American citizen after holding a Green Card for many years. Hinojosa, an award-winning journalist with NPR and PBS, also spends her days exploring the stories of native-born and immigrant Latinos around the country.


Hinojosa was both pragmatic and empathetic in expressing her view of immigration reform, pointing to the active recruitment of immigrant labor that existed historically and continues to this day. "The reality is that the actual history of this country has always depended on that cheap immigrant labor."


Before 2001, laborers - recruited or not - were able to pass back and forth between the border. The secure post-9/11 border, however, has forced an either/or choice on many and, Hinojosa said, "created this problem of having 11 million undocumented people... Not everyone wants to stay here; some people want to go home."


Many argue that a pathway to citizenship would effectively mean 11 million people get to cut the line. On this point, Hinojosa refers again to the active recruitment of immigrant labor, as well as her everyday experiences interviewing undocumented immigrants. "People don't want to live undocumented," Hinojosa said. "Every immigrant I know would be so happy if there was a line and a way to do this properly... It would be an enormously long line... but [at least] then we're resolving a problem."


Any solution for our broken immigration system will require an honest reckoning of both our country's future economic necessities and the persistent need for flexible flows of immigrant labor, Hinojosa said. "It behooves us as a country to have a conversation about who we are... how do we manage future flows, how do we deal with an American economy in which the only way it can grow is by opening up as opposed to closing down? What are the smart ways that we can talk about labor moving back and forth?"


You can watch the entire discussion between Maria Hinojosa and Robert Siegel here. Interested in attending a future Policy Breakfast? Let us know and we'll be sure to get you an invite. And if you'd like to learn more about immigration reform and some of the choices we face and should (hopefully sooner rather than later) work together to resolve, check out our Citizens' Solutions Guide on the topic.

A Divided Nation?


New data from the Pew Research Center on political polarization has been making the media rounds. The main narrative has been this: Americans are growing increasingly polarized in their political ideology, and partisan hostility is stronger than it has been in decades. 

We believe this narrative is missing an important part of the story: Our nation's people are not as politically divided as they often appear.


Public Agenda President Will Friedman shared this sentiment in the New York Times earlier this week. He writes:


While the uptick in partisanship documented by the Pew Research Center is significant, so is the fact that the vast majority of Americans (almost 8 in every 10) are not ideologically divided.


People become much more willing to compromise when thinking about how to solve real problems in their own communities. There is no reason to panic over an ideological rupture; the sky isn't falling - yet. Even among Americans who do hold consistently liberal or conservative views, this adherence often falls away quickly.


Conflict and negativity sell. In coverage of the Pew data, there has been too much emphasis on an increase in partisanship. While the idea is certainly important to understand, it should not be taken as an accurate picture of the broader, pragmatic public. This negativity isn't just inaccurate; it's also potentially damaging. As Will writes:


If our national leaders and the news media continue to emphasize partisan bickering, the upward trend in partisanship could accelerate and harden. This would mean that addressing issues in our communities could become just as difficult as on Capitol Hill.


Those who are working to build common ground among people with political differences should not be dissuaded by this new research. Rather, now more than ever, they should get to work.


The Value of Higher Education


On September 18, Carolin Hagelskamp, our director of research, will speak at a conference hosted by the Center for Analysis of Postsecondary Education and Employment (CAPSEE): "The Value of Higher Education-And How to Further Strengthen It" at the Dupont Circle Hotel in Washington, D.C. She will be discussing Public Agenda's recent research on how students and employers perceive online education as well as degrees and credentials from for-profit colleges.

The conference will showcase recent state-level research on employment and earning potential for a broad range of postsecondary credentials. It will also explore how that research can be used to inform higher education policy focused on performance-based accountability, college affordability, and aligning higher education and workforce needs. Click here for more information and to register

Engaging Ideas

A collection of stories and reports from the past couple weeks that caught our attention and sparked consideration on ways to make progress on divisive issues.  
(The Economist) 
This review of "The Rule of Nobody: Saving America from Dead Laws and Broken Government" by Philip Howard, Public Agenda Board Member and chairman of Common Good, calls it "even handed in its politics, noting that right and left have saddled America with overly detailed regulations, under pressure from special-interest lobbies." 

(The Washington Post) 
A collaboration between teacher union leaders and school administrators is giving struggling teachers a chance to improve with expert guidance, but makes certain they will be dismissed if they do not.  
Decision making without collaboration can not only lead to bad policy, it's also quite costly. This article explains a study from Harvard Kennedy School, which found that relationships with local communities would receive greater priority if companies in the extractive industry understood the costs of conflict.

Starbucks' plan to reimburse employees' tuition for online classes at Arizona State University has been making headlines. It's especially good news for those who had to pause their education, as employees who already have two years of college credit will get a full refund.