Campus & Community

Immigration issue is subject of DU panel probe

As a University of Denver panel began its yearlong study of immigration, experts warned panel members of the difficulty they face crafting immigration policies that are more practical than political.

“I think the dishonesty about this issue is killing us,” said U.S. Attorney Troy Eid. “Let’s just grow up on this issue.”

The panel, part of the University’s Strategic Issues Program (SIP), heard Jan. 7 from immigration author and Yale law Professor Peter Schuck. On Jan. 8, panel members heard presentations by Colorado Attorney John Suthers, Eid and local immigration attorney Ann Allott.

The panel will hear from more than 30 local and national immigration experts this spring before deliberating this summer to form a consensus on immigration policy reform. A final report is expected before the end of the year.

“Our role is not to advocate, but inform,” said SIP Director Jim Griesemer. “As a great University dedicated to the public good, our goal is to raise awareness and promote thoughtful discussion on this important issue.”

There are at least 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. and more than 200,000 entering each year, said Schuck, a nationally recognized immigration expert. He told panel members that there was no way to stop the influx of people entering the country illegally and that efforts to enforce immigration laws have been sporadic and ineffective.

“We are never going to secure the border,” Schuck said.

Suthers said immigration is a federal issue with serious impacts on state and local government. Colorado’s state and county criminal justice systems spend about $80 million a year prosecuting and jailing criminals from outside the U.S., he said. The majority of cases, he said, come from Mexican drug cartels and criminals reentering the U.S. multiple times. He called for greater border security, a reasonable guest worker program and implementation of a national identification card to track illegal aliens.

“There’s a lot of political opposition to a national ID card, but it’s actually a modest step,” Suthers said. “The government already knows a lot about you.”

Eid, who had just announced his resignation as U.S. Attorney in order to run for state attorney general, told panel members of his father’s legal immigration to the U.S. from Egypt. His father, he said, believed strongly in the rights, but also in the responsibilities, of becoming a U.S. citizen. Because illegal aliens live in the “shadows of society,” he said, they can’t take on the responsibilities of citizenship and are often preyed upon by criminals from both inside and outside the U.S. He also recommended a guest worker program and greater efforts to identify those in the U.S. illegally.

“We’ve got to stop acting like they’re not part of our society,” Eid said.

Allott, who has been practicing immigration law since the 1970s, described an immigration system out of sync with reality. While the path to citizenship is easy and effective, she said, the system for issuing temporary visas or work permits is complicated and ineffective. Allott called for a federal agency to set immigrant worker quotas and a state identification system to track them. The United States, she said, will always need foreign workers.

“There is no American worker who is going to pick lettuce in 105 degree heat,” she said. “That people are arrested for working just breaks my soul.”

Follow the progress of the DU Immigration Panel at

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