Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Strategic Issues Panel to release recommendations

A University of Denver panel of experts will cap a year of listening, study, discussion and debate Dec. 9 when it unveils 25 recommendations for overhauling the nation’s fractured and flawed immigration policy.

Led by Chair Jim Griesemer, the nonpartisan Strategic Issues Panel consists of 20 leaders in politics, academics and business who sought input from all perspectives as they dug for the root issues plaguing immigration policies. Throughout 2009, the panel heard from more than 30 experts in all aspects of society, from immigrant rights advocates to high ranking law enforcement officials.

“Only then, after listening to many perspectives and reviewing an extensive list of readings, did the panel begin its own deliberations,” Griesemer says. “The panel sought practical solutions rather than ideologically oriented outcomes and used a consensus process to identify underlying issues and develop recommendations.”

The recommendations come on the cusp of what may be a big year for immigration reform. In November, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said her department is already providing technical assistance to members of Congress working on an immigration plan and said she is looking to 2010 for a major congressional push to reform immigration policies.

In a Federal News Service transcript of a Nov. 13 speech before the Center for American Progress, Napolitano is quoted as saying: “When it comes to immigration, we’re addressing a status quo that is simply unacceptable.”

Among the speakers presenting to the SIP panelists in 2009 were Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter and former governors Dick Lamm and Bill Owens. In addition, the panel heard from Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, Colorado Department of Public Safety Executive Director Peter Weir and local police officials. For a national and international perspective, the panel sought input from the president of the National Venture Capital Association, Canada’s immigration consul, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

In each discussion, panelists heard a different perspective, from the plight of immigrant laborers stuffed into dangerous transport vehicles to huge corporations stymied in their efforts to lure the best and brightest scientists from overseas.

Along the way, panelists weighed human rights with national security and other issues such as how to help businesses hire workers they need while making sure workers are legally entitled to work and how to cope with the numbers of immigrants in this country, legal or not. It’s estimated some 12 million or more people in the U.S. do not have legal status.

At a panel meeting in March, Ralph Christie, chairman and CEO of Aurora-based Merrick & Co., said strict legal immigration allotments are keeping his company from hiring qualified engineers and scientists for his business, and the U.S. is facing a dangerous gap in skilled professionals.

But at that same meeting, Lamm, a DU professor and co-director of DU’s Institute for Public Policy Studies, said immigration — legal and illegal — is burying this country and is unsustainable.

“It’s not 1900 anymore. This isn’t the America of our grandfathers. We shouldn’t look at this with misty, nostalgic eyes,” he said. “The world has changed … I don’t see a reason for mass immigration anymore.”

A full list of panel members and videos of presentations made throughout the year is available A news conference announcing the panel’s recommendations will be live streamed at 9:30 a.m. MST at

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