tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN November 15, 2014 1:00am-3:01am EST
costs of higher education and later a look at the role candidate debates play in elections. and act on immigration through executive order if congress fails to pass a comprehensive immigration bill. pete sessions spoke to reporters about the issue and asked the president to work with republicans on immigration policy.
we would like to see the president not do whatever he's planning on doing, but we would like to work together with him. but the american people deserve to have competence in the actions that the house and the senate take and the president and the president unilaterally goes and does this, he is risking once again a false hope for people who are in this country what would like to have a say and an understanding of what's going to happen, it will cause chaos, it will cause another rush to the boarder, that we have already been through, that is very dangerous for people. it creates uncertainty. we will -- is going to come up with a great bill in the new
term where we are going to work carefully with groups and the american people to understand why we need to have an immigration bill that will be a guest worker plan that would involve the american people understanding and having confidence in what we're doing. >> but don't you have people in your conference who want to over -- go to the mat and take us right back where we were? >> will be very thoughtful and careful about what he does, we can avoid that. >> there's an equal chance that the president can understand that the ramifications of these unilateral actions will have significant impact on this country, and we have got to work together. >> can't necessarily control some of these factions that want to work with -- >> we're not here to control anybody, what we're here to do is work through thoughtful ideas
that will make circumstances better for employers and people that are here. and that's what we're going to do. >> isn't the reality that you know exactly what the president wants, it isn't a secret what he wants both politically and legally. >> should challenge us within the first six months to produce a plan of the new year, that's what i said, if the president wants to get engaged in this, he should challenge us to that the president can be thoughtful about and understand. >> just so i'm clear, you think that republicans in the house are able to get something done that could become law, that the president would sign into law within the first six months of
congress? >> what i will tell you is that we will work on a guest worker plan that will allow people in this country to understand their responsibilities which will not cause a rush at the border, that we can thoughtfully, carefully plan what we're doing and the american people can have a voice in it and can be able to be in support of that. yes, i do believe that it's possible. he cannot go and unilaterally do something, whether he threatens iter not, the american people resoundingly said to barack obama and democrat this last election they do not have confidence. that's why we have a governor in maryland that's a republican and a governor in illinois. the president should -- what kind of leader he is that will cause these factions to want to revolt in kind.
what happens is for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. if the president -- unfortunately he will get that back from some who we're trying to say, let's stick together. the president needs to help us to help the country to work through a process that is well understood, that is logical and makes sense, and then he will do honor to his service as president to this great nation. and that's how america works. america works when we work together. and the republican conference is up to the task. thank you very much. now more on immigration with a conference hosted by
georgetown university law center. he's followed by a discussion about what local governments are doing to integrate immigrants into their communities. >> let me introduce director rodriguez now. i'm really delighted to have him with us. he was confirmed by the senate in june of 2014. and sworn in july 9th this summer. he previously served as the director for the office of civil rights at the department of health and human services and he held that position from 2011 to 2014. from 2010 to 2011, suffered as the chief of staff and the deputy assistant ag at the department of justice. his other federal service, of course, he was -- done more than this in private practice and worked at montgomery county as well, his other federal service includes work at the u.s. attorney's office for the western district of pennsylvania from 1997 to 2001 and he was a
trial attorney at the civil rights division at the department of justice from 1994 to 1997. and in that capacity, he was heavily involved in prosecuting human trafficking cases, which is a little nope fact, i think. he was actually the lead prosecutor in u.s. v florez. his co-counsel in that i believe, was ambassador lucy b z debacca and that case involved the enslavement of mexican and guatemalan farm workers in south carolina and florida and it resulted in a 15-year prison sentence for the person who was behind that. he was also a number of you would be interested to know, a board member of casa of maryland
for many years. he has a remarkable family immigration history. he was born in brooklyn, the son of cuban immigrants, but his grand parents actually migrated to cuba from turkey into pole land to escape anti-semitism and oppression. so, director rodriguez is going to talk, he is going to walk around and talk about 2025 minutes and then take questions. we are going to ask you at that time to line up and he will call on you and he has to leave here promptly at 9:45. i would like to have you join me in welcoming director rodriguez here today. thank you. [ applause ] >> so i'd like to begin this morning, can everybody hear me okay? with a little bit of a confession. how many of you here are george up to law students? actually nobody. a couple there in the badge you will appreciate the following anecdote. i have -- this is actually my second opportunity to speak in this room in the last few years.
prior to that, the last time i was in this building was roughly 28 years ago when i was waitlisted at george up to university law center and i came here to meet the deep of admission and pry to persuade him to actually let me in and he looked at my undergraduate transcript, he looked at the rest of my file. and he said, it's actually miracle that your even on the waitlist. so, forget about actually getting admitted. i wanted to come back azle director of a federal agency and i wanted to tell this story, i'm thinking to myself what is the relevance of this story, why does it matter to the discussion that we're going to be having this morning and the discussion that you're going to be having?
and i realized that it actually is a great metaphor for immigration. because what we do in immigration policy is decide who we want to admit to the united states and who we don't. and it's based on a whole set of factors that i want to talk about a little bit this morning but the basic idea is that we are predicting that this individual who we admit to the united states will be good for america. that in some way, they will promote our values, they will promote our objectives. i now pose the rhetorical question, looking back, george up to, would you have admitted me, had you known this information? would you have had different policies if you would have known whatted outcome was? i really just wanted to tell that you story. [ laughter ] the you can stance of my speech, thank the center for migration studies, the migration policy
institute clinic and georgetown itself for putting together and hosting this conference. this has been going on a decade and has become one of the key for rah for discussion for discussion and exchange on immigration policies. i really thank you all for creating this sort of forum for us. i also want to recognize doris meissner, who was the director of immigration and naturalization services back during the clinton administration. now with the migration policy institute. if you come to my agency, and i know i have a couple of examples here with phyllis coben and
chris bentley. phyllis coben is the director of the new york field office, chris is our bent prest secretary, one thing that people speak of with plied is that they are "legacyism ns" that they were in the agency back in the ins days and i think that really owes energy great part, to the kind of leadership that you provided during those years. and we not only have federal officials former federal officials part of this dialogue. we have someone from the new york city mayor's office, engaged with an ambassador in el salvador, opened an office in texas. gives you a flavor for the broad spectrum of individuals, of organizations, that really play a role in this critical, critical issue. i have three personal experiences that really inform my vision of being the director of uscis. first of all, you heard as part of my bio that i'm son of cuban immigrants, the grandson of turkey and poe la fleeing
anti-semitism. because of those experiences, i understand the aspect of immigration based on seeking refuge. fleeing a situation that has become in some way no longer tolerable and coming to where the situation can be better. miami i grew up, although born in brooklyn, i actually grew up in miami, the miami of my childhood really provides a case study, not just in what it means to be seeking refuge, but also in what immigrants do for america, this point i was talking about immigrants are good for america. and the miami of my childhood was really this amazing cauldron
of energy. it wasn't just people from cuba where my parents were from but people from all over, jewish immigrants or children of jewish immigrants from eastern europe, people from all over the caribbean and what it made even then and it's only continued until now, miami, with all its chaos with all its craziness, was also one of the most economically vibrant cities in the united states. so i'm actually a real believer in the notion that immigrants are really what energize our economy, what actually make us the kind of powerful economy that we are and it's not just the software engineers, although we love them and we want as many of them as we can get. but it's also guys that laid the railroad tracks, the welders, the agriculturals, the broad spectrum of individuals who really have created and then really energized our economy. there's a second experience that informs my work as well.
as a law student at boston college law school, i was the coordinator of something called the holocaust human rights research project and what we did in this project was to analyze the precedence of nazi war crimes law, litigation, to other situation of human rights abuse. and a big part of the discussion that we would have about nazi war criminals was the role of the immigration process here in the united states and the denaturalization and deportation proceedings of those individuals. and they were really a very early lesson before we were really talking about september 11th and talking about all these
examples of terrorists abusing our immigration system of the fact that our immigration system could be abused by bad people, by people who in this case, had engaged in harm in the past, or as we have learned all too tragically, individuals who could abuse our immigration system to come and in some way harm the american people. and that it means that as we offer refuge, as we look to energize our economy, we always have to worry about the fact that there are people who can abuse our immigration system and come to do us harm. and there is a third experience, in fact, that professor showen holtz underscored. and that is comes from the -- my prosecution of human trafficking. and you there the florez case, i spent a lot of time with a
number of individuals who originally came here undocumented from guatemala and mexico to work in the tomato and cucumber fields of south carolina and also the citrus groves in florida. and as people talk about individuals, like the victims in this case, there are two dominant far this rat it was and i want to offer a third one about those individuals. the first narrative is what i would call the law enforcement bureaucratic narrative. these are individuals who have broken the law, and they have. they have come to the united states illegally. we have a responsibility to enforce that law. there is a second narrative, which is a social justice
narrative, also really important, which is that these individuals have fled circumstances in the countries from which they come that are intolerable, both politically and economically. and frequently saw themselves as having no choice but to come here to the united states, where many would argue, they continue in many respects to be victims where they are abused by abusive employers, where because of their undocumented status, they live in the shadows. again, all things that are true. but as i got to know these individuals, i saw a third thing. i actually saw potential americans. because these individuals will two core val news their life that seemed very, very familiar to me. the first was work, typically, these individuals would engage in back-breaking labor for 14 hours a day. as i met them they did not impress me as victims, but they
impressed me as people just like my parents whose lives were really built around the same exact values as those of my parents. so as i leave the agency that is responsible for adjudicating immigration benefits as they play a role and give my voice to the development of immigration policy, these three experiences are frequently ones that i see in my mind as we engage in this discussion.
many of those abroad and really i have to say, having now been in the agency for about 100 days, a really fantastic, passionate, very professional group of workers, people that we really can be proud of as americans. and i view my role to ensure that we apply the laws fairly, that we do our work professionally, that my folks have what they need to do their job well. but at the same time that we do it with a sense of justice and a sense of customer service. you heard that i used to work for montgomery county and i was
actually the county attorney in montgomery county, more or less the general counsel for montgomery county, and before i came to that job, really, my entire profession had really been in some version of the criminal justice arena, i had been a prosecutor, i had been a white collar defense lawyer, so now the largest part of my job was actually zoning. and i will tell you that i love zoning, i thoughts zoning was extremely interesting. and in fact when i interviewed with janet napolitano, i said i can make you love zoning, i think i can make it extremely interesting to you, and she looked at me of course like i was crazy, but here is the reason and there's and an log to immigration that i want to share.
zoning when you think about it implicates every single value that we have as a society. zoning requires us to think about economics, how we want to develop our local economies, it requires us to think about economic justice, do we want to have zoning that provides opportunities to low and middle income people, it's about the environment, we have to think about how the zoning affects the environment in which people are going to live, it requires us to think about how we want to talk about families. one of the big debates that we would be having in montgomery county was how many people could live in a dwelling, because most of us in the county had this traditional suburban view, that there should be moms and dads and a traditional household.
but there could be an uncle or a grandparent that comes from another country to be with the family. and i would say that immigration is exactly the same way, the reason there's scotch to talk about, about immigration, the reason we have such a -- an intense debate about immigration, although i would suggest there is more consensus people think about immigration is exactly because just about everything that people think and feel about our civic society is i implicated in immigration, so it begins with humanitarian notions, to whom do we want to provide refuge, that is a core american value that we provide refuge. the challenge comes that we don't necessarily agree on refuge from what?
so typically, the sort of vision of what we are providing refuge from is refuge from torture. good old-fashioned government sponsored in jail torture. that's something that everybody can visualize, everybody agrees upon, we all agree that we can provide refuge from that. but then it starts getting a little bit more complicated from that. how about intolerable economic conditions, conditions that none of us would ever follow rate for our own children, should we provide refuge from that. then the debate gets more intense. how about situations where what the government has done is failed? what the government has done is failed to protect its people from the kind of harms where we here in the united states would ordinarily expect that our government would protect us. is that a situation from which we provide refuge?
so that ee's one value. another is economic development. the one thing that i think most americans agree upon is we want a vibrant economy, everyone agrees that the more vibrant economy, the more everybody benefits, the problem is we don't necessarily agree on what fuels a vibrant economy, right now as you picture and you talk to university presidents, they rightfully say, one thing we don't want to be doing is educating people in our university and having them go back where they came from and not benefiting our economy. so we agree that people are a high level of technical expertise benefit our economy, but how about small business people? how about going out to bladensberg, maryland, where if you drive down kennel worth avenue, you will see this
amazing level of economic vibrant shops. but what -- another issue. family, obviously, another big thing we look at, educational, national security, all of these are different values so when we talk about what it means to be a nation of immigrants is that what we actually mean is that the in the eye of the beholder. one of my favorite documents that i got to look at during the confirmation process, was the
annual statistical tables from the bureau of immigration statistics, fascinating document, because one of the things that you learn is that in fact most migration actually occurs in the southern hemisphere. so while we picture that these sort of primary vector migrations people really moving east so west, either coming here to the united states from western europe, most people are moving around in the southern hemisphere in the world. but the single place per capita that most people migrate is the united states, legally and illegally is the united states and so we ask ourselves, why is that? and that really go ---there's nothing like the values of
america. my time is going faster than i thought it would. so i want to get to a couple of things. so i want to talk about deferred action for childhood arrivals. i had an experience shortly after i got here, where i was introduced to 20 kids, all of them from los angeles, they were all students, and they were all docca recipients, many of them a classic case from docca recipients spent a great part of their life not knowing they were in this country illegally. they came here that young. this was an amazing group of young people. there was a young woman who had graduated from high school. there was a young whoman who ha started medical school and was trying to decide what field she
should go into. she was considering becoming an obstetrician/gynecologist, i am married to an obstetrician/gynecologist who told her that she should go into determine kolg. in query, if there is not a fundamental problem in the structure immigration system, if there is not a path for this society to take advantage of what these young people have to offer, but they're not the only part of the picture. because for as many kids like that as there are, there are kids willing to break their back and work hard in a number of fields. kids who want to be really good plumbers, really entrepreneurial plumbers, opening businesses
businesses--potential to energize their economy. but what that experience really reaffirmed for me is that we have to approach immigration in a way that gives individuals like this a chance. the president has made clear in the absence in the swak of the failure of congress to really give him a credible comprehensive immigration reform package, that he will act on hiss own sometime between the election and the end of the year. and i'm sure that everybody's here to affirm the details of that program. what i will tell you is that. we're going to be ready.
our agency will be shouldering the primary responsibility for executing whatever it is that the president and then in turn secretary johnson orders, and we have been busy making sure that however this is done, we do it in a way that actually works. so that's the one commit mngtd that i can make to you, the other thing that i would point out is that as we think about a broken immigration system and as we think about the failure to actually pass a comprehensivie i immigration reform, it's important to remember that this discussion is about much more than individuals who are in the united states in an undocumented status. so not only is it a symptom of a broken immigration system that
we have 11 million people in the united states in an undocumented status, many of them by the way, i know we have migration policy institute has done a lot of work on this, many of them now in the united states for a long time, i know we're talking a lot about what's going on on the southern border right now, but many of these folks in fact have been here for ten plus years, 15 plus years, 25 plus years, they are now part of our society, whether it is-that is recognized or not, they are now part of our society. so that's one issue. but that's not the only issue. the fact that we have a basic immigration structure that is out of line with the needs of our economy is another issue. the fact that you're very often your access to different kinds of immigration benefits can take years is another symptom of a broken system.
a lot of people talking about this negotiation of waiting in line. but there is no line. so all of that, all of those kinds of questions are a simple tom of a broken immigration system. i also want to talk about the situation that we have on our border. and i want to talk about it as a situation on our border as opposed to the situation of the uacs and this is part of it but not really understood by the general public. the general public is focussed on this negotiation that children, who they would like to not admit are children are coming to the united states and sort of finding some path to
staying here, in fact the migration of migration of people of all ages coming over. our agency plays a significant role in all of these scenarios, more and more the adults coming over are making different kinds of claims of persecution, and we have done what we needed to do and more and more kids once they're settled here in foster families, or otherwise with the auspices of hhs, presenting asigh colu asylum claims of different kinds.
and the complaint is that the somehow we are recognizing these claims where we should not. and the one assurance i want to provide in this area is that we are doing our job. one of the first things i did when i became a director was to sit in on an asylum interview. i have made people confess. and so i was able to watch the quality of this interview. and i was really struck by two aspects of this interview, one it was a thorough interview, and everywhere where i thought the young man was conducting interviews was following up, he asked those second and third questions to really probe the validity of the claim being made. but at the same time, it is part of our responsibility to make sure that these individuals are
afforded due process. and we will uphold that responsibility. because as much as anything else, given our history, where i started this conversation as a country that offers refuge, the one thing that would certainly be a tragedy is to not provide due process and then finding that somebody who really should have been afforded asylum was not provided asigh wlum. so we're going to continue doing our job, we're going to ask those hard questions, we're going to do good interviews, we're going to deploy so that this process can go on as efficiently as possible, but we're going to safeguard due process at the same time. i'm really excited about the conference that you guys are going to be having here this morning. i unfortunately will not be able to be here for all of us, but
i'm really excited to see the readout because so many of you have been working so hard in this field that i believe a lot of really, really important insights are going to flow from this, so i'm interested in hearing the readout and getting to work with you in the months and years to come. so with that i think i'm going to open it up to questions. and i believe the -- yeah, there we go. >> yeah, if you could introduce yourselves first and just line up at the mikes here. hi, my name is penny starne with cbs news, i know you have mentioned that there are people that are coming across the borders, not just from central and south america, but indeed all over the world, and i wonder if you would address please, what health screenings, how are
they a part of how people are interviewed and checked, you know, where does health come in in the screening process for people, especially given ebola now? >> yes, and i know there are health screenings, specifically there are screenings for tuberculosis, those would be great questions to direct to hhs who actually conduct the screenings. >> julia preston from the "new york times," i wonder if you would give us more -- how many people are you anticipating, what are you doing in terms of hiring in a situation where i'm sure you have a fee based agency and to a certain extent your hiring is based on the applications that are coming in, just what is the dimension of the program that you are
anticipating? >> those are great questions. and what i can tell you right now is that we are doing our job. >> i tried. >> i'll let the editors know. >> i wonder if you could talk as we hopefully move forward, whether it be through these rules or maybe one day congressional action, and we reform our immigration system to be one that is more forward looking, more along the lines of what you talked about, what it brings value into our country and into our economy. how do you plan to use local government in the integration process. a lot of us who deal after the federal issues adjudicated. a lot of these issues play out at the local level with schools, with municipal governments, with
local economies, have you thought much about how to include local perspectives in the immigration process? >> that's a kblaet, great question. >> there is no substitute for actual comprehensive immigration reform, so whatever we do, and the president himself has said this will direct us to do, will not be anywhere near what we could accomplish with actually legislative reform. the potential of local governments to play a positive role in this space is immense. as it stands, even now, we collaborate extensively with local governments throughout the united states in promoting access to citizenship. one thing -- one of my favorite aspects of my job is going to naturalization ceremonies and seeing folks become new americans.
the kind of collaborations we have had with new york city, municipal governments are actually models that we can do in other areas as well or things we can expand in the future. so there is very definitely a role for that. >> yes? >> good morning. >> when we talk about unaccompanied children and mothers and family, and now we're talking about a facility with 140 new beds. how are you making the decision as to who is placed in detention and who is sent out to sponsor. >> that's a question to direct to customs and border control and ice. children, these unaccompanies children just to be very clear, they are not permitted under law to be in detention for any sort of extended period of time.
there are a number of family units, kids who are here with their parents who could be in some sort of secure setting and also adults who are expected to be in their parole in some way in a secure setting. those are really ice and customs and border patrol. customs and border patrol in particular, so i recommend directing that question to them. >> i think we're going to take two more questions here, but i actually wanted to interject one, not the follow-up on julie, but to ask you on implementation, if you can talk about is displacement of other resources, because i know that citizenship is a major priority of yours as well. and if we're talking about a major executive action program covering millions of people, that obviously takes a lot of people. it also takes huge amounts of coordination within dhs, the
department of justice, eor and others, could you talk about the implementation from a broader perspective. >> sure. i think one of the really important lessons we learn from docca, we did experience some impact on our other lines of business, family bees has experienced some longer processing times, as we really learn how to surge in a way that we really never had before. and so as we prepare for another potential surge, i think wire going to be leaning very heavily on the docca experience, modeling based on the docca experience in order to minimize impact on the existing lines of business with ncis. >> could you address a claim that children coming from south america could be refugees in a
similar way as whole populations and moving from one place to another are considered refugees in other parts of the world and what is the imp indication of this? >> sure, i have heard that and certainly there are situations where we have made positive credible fear findingings, which essentially means there is a claim for some kind of refuge and where we are finding that some of the unaccompanied children do appear to qualify for asylum. what i'm really not ready to do and the record has not sustained this notion, that as an entire class, that as a matter of law, there's sort of a normal understanding of what it is to seek refuge, but as a matter of law, absolutely everybody crossing the border is a refugee. i'm not prepared to say anything
like that. do some of them state very solid climbs for asylum status and the answer i would say is very clearly yes. >> i was interested in what you were sayings about matching the immigration system with the economic needs of the country. i was wondering how you see government working with private sector agencies like this to best achieve that goal. >> i said economics among many factors, i think that's why i was making the abnalogy to zoning. even now there are particular visa categories that actually require the sponsorship of a company or involve the transfer
of the individual within a company from one role to another. >> would you michkd one more question? >> yes, you'll take it. >> i'm a student at virginia commonwealth university and my question is in regard to the back lock in the informative asigh wlum process and i was just wondering what strategies usas is going to be using to address some of these major backlog issues. >> no and those are great questions because in fact the overall asylum case load as green dramatically related to the circumstances we're discussing. a and in order to process individuals more efficiently at the border, the unact companied children making the claims, we have had to redeploy, we're also
hiring more asylum officers in order to meet this additional case load. we do have a workload to catch up so i don't want to minimize -- we are moving affirmatively forward to deal with what is a significant impact in our asylum case load. thank you for your question. >> thank you very much director rodriguez, we really appreciate you being with us. >> thank you. >> we're going to go ahead and get started, we're a little bit behind schedule and i want to get us back on track. >> i'm delighted to follow director rodriguez because he really set up this partial that i will be moderating this morning.
he also mentioned how the federal government, how the administration is looking at stepping into the void created by the lack of congressional action and that is essentially what we're going to be speaking about this morning. since 2007, state legislatures have introduced absolutely 1,3 hung lawings and resolutions relating to immigration each year wide range of issues including higher education, enforcement and my grant and refugee programs. at the same time civic organizations are focusing attention on immigration, on the economic, cultural and social values that -- distinguished panelists who will speak about how states, cities and local entities have filled the void of
congressional action. they represent three different sectors engaging in immigration issues outside the purview of the federal government. in the interest of time, i'm not going to read your bios, you have them in your program and i encourage you to look at them because they have very expensive experience that i would like you to read got. i would like to introduce nisha to my immediate right, she is the commissioner of the new york city may year's office. the 323rd district in the california state senate and steve is the director of global detroit leading the economic -- the city's economic revitalization. i'm going to stand because we're going to do this in kind of a question and answer format so that we can look at some issues from these different sectors, and i will save time at the end for you all to have questions. misha i would like to start with you, can your commission plays in helping
to fill the gap in benefits and gaps in new york city? >> sure. so first of all, thank you so much for having me and for the conference organizers for having new york city represented here today on this panel. i guess one thing i'll say to start is some context, which is that in new york city one out of three individuals is foreign-born or an immigrant. that's more people than the city of chicago. when you add their kids, it's 60% of new york city. there's not an aspect of life in the city that isn't impacting immigrant families and vice versa. so it's really something that's been front and center for city government for a long time. my office is essentially the bridge between city hall and new york city's many immigrant cities. we have a very simple mission which is to promote programs and policies that improve the well being of immigrant communities. we have three broad goals by which we sort of fulfill that mission. the first is really to think about how to embed immigrant inclusion throughout the city's
dna in a way. so it's not just the mayor's office affairs but it's a part of the code of the city overall. and i think one good example of this that the mayor announced in january when he first took office is the city's municipal id card program. this is creating a government-issued local identification that's available to all regardless of immigration status and is meant to focus as a key to the city to open doors that were closed before to equalize access to many of the services and amenities in new york city and i'm happy to talk more about that later. another broad goal of ours is access to justice whether it's on one end of the spectrum of individuals facing deportation and needing adequate representation to defend themselves in those cases all the way to naturalization and citizenship, the city has invested a lot of resources and has a number of different programs available to help people move down that continuum
and how to prepare for that at the local area. that's the goal. the third is where my background comes in which is advocacy. how does the city of new york serving at the state level and how do we function as an advocate at the federal level for eventually immigration reform and certainly to support the president when he announces executive action. so that's really how we think about our role and happy to talk about any of those initiatives in more detail. >> that's great. senator, can you tell me what the california legislature has been working and how do you see l.a. and san francisco working on this? >> it's great to be here. buenos-diaz. congress's complete failure to enact any comprehensive immigration reform, california
has to lead. given the fact that we are the most diverse, most populace state in the country. we need to serve as that role model in terms of how do we effect positive change and ensure that we incorporate all of our immigrant communities into our society. so in california, we've continued a path legislation after legislation with the hope that one day we get comprehensive immigration reform. but until then, there's families in california that continue to be torn apart. we see it on a daily basis when we go back to our districts, when we're in our community, when we're in our churches, we see the struggle that people are going through right now with the fact that we can't come up with some sort of comprehensive immigration reform. and so the the responsibility fams on the different states and city governments and local organizations. and so what we've done in california is continued to lead where congress has continued to
fail. and when it comes to the driver's license bill, we finally got that passed, but we got that passed with the safeguards to ensure that we protect the individual's identity and protect their human and civil rights to ensure that they're not victims of any discrimination. and like wise, we've seen case after case and i'm sure you guys are aware of how professional students that are now graduating and are dream act students are graduating, finishing law school, finishing their professional studies yet lack the opportunity to actually pursue their career. and so this year instead of doing it by piecemeal like we were doing it in the legislature we decided to do a blanket bill to cover all the different 40 professions that require a professional license and no longer receive a social security number to qualify.
and allow them to pursue their career and act as an independent contractor or open their own business. understanding that more folks have an opportunity to economic prosperity the better our state is in. california being a nation state and being the eighth largest economy in the world, continuing to promote that amongst all our residents remains a priority. we've just surpassed russia and italy's economy. we're on schedule to surpass france and the uk putting us back as a sixth largest economy, so our legislature wholeheartedly believes that we need to ensure that everybody has that opportunity for that economic prosperity and that includes our undocumented community. >> thank you. steve, i will mention that steve was a former michigan state legislature. as we talk about the interaction in these, he brings a second layer to the conversation. can you tell us a little bit about global detroit and what your role is in interacting with the city of detroit as well as the state of michigan? >> sure. so, again, also i want to thank
the sponsors for inviting us and having a voice from the midwest, the heartland. we have a very different demographic makeup than either of our coasts. but a critical and important place where i think we're trail blazing new concepts and new ideas about imbrags and what it means for our communities. in the heartland. global detroit are not an immigration per se initiative, certainly not an immigrant rights or advocacy organization. we came together in the height of michigan and detroit's economic crisis in 2009. i could get into some really woeful statistics. really no state has ever had a decade as bad relative to the other states in the country as what michigan had in the 2000s. at the height of this economic
depression in michigan, the detroit regional chamber of commerce foundations in other community leaders began to ask a number of questions about what does the future look like? one of those questions was what role do immigrants play in the economy? what are the opportunities and what are the challenges? and so out of that we found a number of really powerful statistics that are shared all across the rust belt and the industrial heartland of this country where immigration and immigrants really make jobs and power the economy in largely untold ways here in either national media or federal congressional debates. so just briefly i'll just try to throw two of, boy, 30-some factoids or statistics that we commonly use at global detroit. from 1995 through 2005, according to research at duke university and uk berkley,
32.8%, about a third, of michigan ice high-tech firms had a immigrant founder or co-founder. there's only 5 to 6% foreign born. you're six times as likely to start a high-tech firm than those born in the u.s. who live in our state. and it's -- i could get into all kinds of statistics on we happen to skr an immigrant population that's more educated than our native born population and frankly educated in the right fields, international students may a really powerful role in our universities and colleges. but it's not just high-tech immigrants and not just the stem and the h1bs. frankly, we are the only state that lost population. and our city, the city of detroit, you know, you read lots of headlines largest municipal bankruptry in the history of america. there's lots of reasons for
that. and there's been a lot. but one that i don't think gets published often enough or very rarely is that we are still the 18th largest city in the country with about $700,000 people in the 2010 census, we have the 135th largest foreign-born population. the region, metro detroit has 400,000 immigrants and compares fairly well across the midwest, but the city really struggles. in fact, there's no other of the top 25 largest cities in the country that fall outside the top 100 and only one other that falls outside the top 50. so in a state that's rapidly ageing like much of the midwest, like pennsylvania and ohio, frankly immigrants across the board from working class immigrants who work in our agriculture industry which is our second largest industry after manufacturing to powering our research universities and
medical complexes and tech firms and automotive design, information technology, are really probably the most powerful economic development strategy we have going for us. and so i lead an initiative that seeks to capitalize on that that has launched between six and ten depending on how you want to count independent initiatives like the first international student retention program and i'll conclude with this. as i mentioned, we are part of a growing movement in the midwest that has come to this reality. so, in just the last four years, st. louis moe say yak initiative was launched, welcome dayton was launched. the chicago office of new americans, vibrant pittsburgh, global cleveland and similar initiatives are being formed in cincinnati, toledo, buffalo, and all across the midwest. there are literally almost a dozen. it's exciting work and it's