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Current, Former Congress Members Debate Immigration at Symposium

Chris Van Hollen and Tom Davis

From left, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Heather Reilly, a principal at Deloitte, and former Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) explore the state of immigration reform in Congress.

September 25, 2013 – Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) told an audience at a Georgetown symposium today that he is confident the immigration bill the Senate passed in June has enough bipartisan support in the House of Representatives.

“In the House, in my judgment, that bill would actually pass today if you put it up for a vote,” he said. “In fact, I don’t think there is much dispute over that fact.”

Van Hollen and former Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) were part of the “Implementing Immigration Reform: Imagining the Possibilities” symposium, co-hosted by Georgetown’s Institute for the Study of International Migration (ISIM) and Deloitte.

While Van Hollen was optimistic, Davis said if Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) can’t get the U.S. House Republicans to approve the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 – if it is even brought to a vote – he might lose his role as Speaker of the House.

Broken System

The former representative, who served in the House of Representatives from 1995 to 2008, said that the House isn’t “ignoring the situation,” but that “we’ve got a broken system, I don’t think there’s any disagreement about that…”

The symposium was part of ISIM’s 15th anniversary celebration.

Susan Martin, ISIM executive director and the Donald G. Herzberg professor of international migration in the School of Foreign Service (SFS), welcomed symposium attendees, and the White House’s domestic policy council senior policy advisor on immigration, Felicia Escobar, delivered the opening keynote address.

Finding Solutions

Susan Martin  Susan Martin, ISIM executive director and the Donald G. Herzberg professor of international migration in the School of Foreign Service, addresses the "Implementing Immigration Reform: Imagining the Possibilities” symposium audience.

Other symposium panels explored implementing border security, public-private partnerships on immigrant integration and the impact of the expansion of employment-based visas in meeting future labor demands.

Martin said today’s symposium is the first in a three-part fall series dedicated to the discussion of immigration reform and its potential consequences.

ISIM is also hosting private roundtable forums through 2014 focused on immigration reform and implementation, thanks to support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

“What we’re saying is that if there is legislation there will be huge implementation challenges,” said Martin, the former executive director of the United States Commission on Immigration Reform. “But if the unfortunate happens and we don’t end up with legislation, the problems don’t go away … we’re still going to be finding solutions to them.”

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