Campus & Community

DU Strategic Issues Program tackles contentious immigration issue

The University of Denver’s Strategic Issues Programhasn’t been shy in the past about tackling big, tough issues: Colorado’s economy, the future of the state’s water supply and the state constitution.

The tradition continues with an issue so broad and controversial it could be the panel’s most ambitious project to date. At a state Capitol news conference Nov. 14, DU Chancellor Robert Coombe announced the blue-ribbon panel will take on immigration — a topic that has sparked years of debate, massive demonstrations and touches everything from the country’s economy to national security.

Coombe said that the assembled panel of 19 scholars, business professionals and civic leaders understands the work won’t be easy, but said the state and the nation must work toward a resolution, and DU is committed to lending its voice and expertise.

“As an institution of higher education in the state, it is really our responsibility, our obligation,” Coombe said. “Our hope is that the Strategic Issues Program on immigration will be able not so much to come forward with a solution, but perhaps come forward with a framework for a solution.”

Jim Griesemer, director of the program and dean emeritus of DU’s Daniels College of Business, said the non-partisan panel will hear from some leading political figures, including former Colorado Governors Dick Lamm and Bill Owens, state Attorney General John Suthers and Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper.

But he said guest speakers at public meetings starting in January would also include people who work with social service agencies and others who understand the impact of immigration — both legal and illegal — on the economy, health care, schools and other areas of government and society.

“It’s certainly one of the most important, complex and contentious issues of the day,” Griesemer said.

The goal, he said, is to raise awareness and provide information and input for what leaders hope will evolve into “a discourse based on facts, not on opinion.”

“It is a problem that has to be solved,” Griesemer said. “It touches virtually every aspect of our lives.”

The panel, in its fourth year, was founded in 2005. The most recent effort studied the future of Colorado’s constitution and made recommendations for improving the constitutional process, some of which were adopted by the Colorado General Assembly. The work of each panel has received widespread recognition and helped shape the state’s public policy dialogue.

The immigration panel’s final report — due in fall 2009 — will be widely shared with the public, the media, public officials, business and community leaders and other interested parties. Follow the progress online

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