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Immigration Workshop Luis Torres - University of Houston

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Abstract

The goal of the immigration workshop is to identify knowledge and capability gaps regarding deterrence of unauthorized immigration and the processing of individuals apprehended attempting to cross the border without authorization. This workshop also explored the best ways to approach unauthorized immigrants already living in the U.S. and the best practices to assist immigrants in general to integrate into the fabric of U.S. society and avoid radicalization. Consisting of a survey of the current research, a two-day workshop stage and a comprehensive reporting stage, this workshop sought to develop questions that need to be addressed in immigration.

 

Immigration Workshop

In October 2016, the Borders, Trade and Immigration Institute (BTI) hosted a two-day workshop titled “Immigration and Border Security in the Twenty-First Century: Enhancing Homeland Security through Evidence-Based Approaches for Managing Flows of People.” This event brought together a broad range of stakeholders to engage in extensive discussions about best practices in addressing unauthorized immigration from the Northern Triangle (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras), with a particular focus on unaccompanied immigrant children and young adults.

As a DHS Center of Excellence and a non-partisan research center, BTI was able to bring together researchers, advocates, frontline legal and social services providers, and policy makers, to engage in very challenging conversations, assess the current body of research, and determine knowledge and capability gaps.

Discussions focused on three central issues identified in coordination with DHS stakeholders in the Office of University Programs, Office of Policy, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and U.S. Border Patrol. These three central issues are:

  1. Deterrence of unauthorized immigration, both in terms of how we can better secure our borders and what can be done in countries of origin to discourage unauthorized migration; 
  2. Processing of individuals apprehended while attempting to cross the border without authorization, including best practices for detaining and processing adults, children, and families, ways to expedite the process, and use of trauma-informed approaches; and
  3. Dealing with unauthorized and legal immigrants already in the U.S., including approaches to more accurately estimating the number of unauthorized immigrants in the country, diverse approaches to dealing with unauthorized immigrants (e.g., mass deportations vs. DACA/DAPA vs. path to legalization), and best practices to help immigrants in general integrate into the fabric of U.S. society to avoid potential radicalization. 

The workshop was planned and executed as a “working workshop,” with the goal of bringing together a small group of stakeholders to engage in meaningful dialogue and produce actionable recommendations in the form of research questions. No media was allowed, and participants were encouraged to stay off social media to ensure that honest and candid conversations could take place without fear of being quoted or misquoted.

Speakers and participants were selected based on their published scholarship and/or recognized work in the area of Central American immigration.

In addition to scholarly presentations, workshop participants engaged in four intensive small group discussions over the two days:

  • Strategies to Prevent Unauthorized Flows of People;
  • Rethinking the Removal and Repatriation Process—Examining Approaches that Balance Removal Procedures, Re-Integration into Countries of Origin, and Family Integrity in the US;
  • Disconnected Immigrant Youth and the Risk of Radicalization; and
  • Rethinking Immigration Policies and National Security—The Balance of Politics and Economics.

These small group discussions identified key research questions that can inform future Requests for Proposals to conduct cutting-edge, actionable research that can help us safeguard homeland security and manage unauthorized migration more effectively and humanely. The full report will be released in the coming months.