Home and Abroad Series Public Forum: U.S. Immigration Policy

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Managing Director, Immigration and Cross-Border Policy, Bipartisan Policy Center

Partner, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP; Former Secretary of Homeland Security, U.S. Department of Homeland Security (2013–2017)

Vice President, Deputy Director of Studies, and Nelson and David Rockefeller Senior Fellow for Latin America Studies, Council on Foreign Relations


President, Council on Foreign Relations

CFR’s Home and Abroad Series Public Forum explores migration trends and the many questions confronting U.S. immigration policy, including but not limited to our southern border.


HAASS: Well, thank you, and I want to welcome one and all, near and far, to today’s meeting. For the next seventy-five minutes, we are going to be discussing many aspects of this country’s immigration policy. Today’s meeting is part of a series, the Home and Abroad Series, hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations.

I’m Richard Haass. I’m president of the Council, and I’ll be acting as the presider of today’s meeting.

Let me say one thing about the Council. We are an independent membership organization. We are a think tank, a publisher, and also an educator, and what we do is we try to live up to our mission of serving as a nonpartisan source of information and analysis to advance understanding of what is going on in the world as well as the foreign policy choices facing the United States and other countries.

This series, this Home and Abroad Series, explores issues at the nexus of U.S. domestic and foreign policies and how they affect America’s role in the world. These are public, they are held on a quarterly basis, and then they are posted on our website,

As I said, today’s conversation will focus on immigration policy, including but not limited to questions of the southern border. I will ask some questions for the first part of the meeting, and then we will turn it over to you to ask questions for the duration. Everything here will be on the record.

Now in a minute, I’m going to introduce our three experts, our three panelists. But before that, before we get into our conversation, we want to give you a chance to express your views on the topic today on U.S. immigration policy. And what you’re going to see are three questions appearing on your screen, and it is clear what you need to do to let us know your thoughts on each.

So the first question: Which immigrant group should make up the largest percentage of new admissions to the United States? High-skilled workers, family members of U.S. citizens or permanent residents, refugees and/or asylum seekers, and fourth, temporary migrants including students and seasonal workers. So please select which group you think should make up the largest percentage of new admissions to this country.

And at some point, as soon as I can figure out the technology, we’ll go to the next question. Well, since no one told me I can’t and it’s not happening electronically, I will just do it.

Second question: How should the United States handle the current undocumented population, moving forward? Should we create a path to citizenship? Should we create a pathway to a legal status? Should we allow people to remain in the United States undocumented, essentially, without legal status? Or should the people be forced to return to their home countries?

And then, third and last, how should the United States approach security along its southern border? Should we, one, build a physical barrier along the full border? Allocate greater resources to border surveillance, be it technical or human? Should we address the root causes of migration from Latin America through such programs as aid and diplomacy? All of the above, fourth, or fifth, none of the above?

And once you’ve voted on all the questions, please click on submit and that way we will actually get the results of your—of these—your answers to these questions.

And just so you know—spoiler alert—we’re going to disclose those before we get into the conversation. We’re then going to have the conversation, and at the end, we’re going to give you a chance to revisit these questions to see whether the conversation today has in any way affected your thinking on these—on these three issues.

But since you’re done voting and now that I’ve demonstrated all my technological limits, let me just introduce the three members of our panel.

Theresa Cardinal Brown is the managing director of immigration and cross-border policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center, also known as the BPC to its friends. She directed immigration and border policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and she also worked as a policy advisor in the Office of the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. She’s done any number of other things, but I wanted to highlight those aspects of her resume most related to today’s topic.

Similarly, Jeh Johnson is a partner with the law firm Paul Weiss. He’s a member, I should say in full disclosure, of the board of directors of the Council on Foreign Relations, which is his highest achievement and is—in an otherwise distinguished career. He has been the secretary of homeland security and he’s also been the general counsel of the Department of Defense, general counsel of Department of the Air Force, and an assistant U.S. attorney.

Last but not least, Shannon O’Neil. Shannon is vice president and director of studies here at the Council on Foreign Relations, where she’s also the Nelson and David Rockefeller Senior Fellow for Latin American Studies. She has written any number of books on Latin America and Mexico.

So, again, I want to thank the three of you for joining us. Have the poll results been shown? They have. So the answers to the first question—this is called an even distribution—which immigrant groups should make up the largest percentage of new admissions to the United States, essentially, the same vote for high-skilled workers, family members of those already here, and refugees or asylum seekers, essentially, just between a quarter and a third each, and only 14 percent for temporary migrants.

How should the United States handle the current “undocumented population,” quote/unquote, moving forward, create the pathway to citizenship nearly half, create a pathway to legal status nearly half, allow them to remain in the U.S. without legal status just 2 percent, return them home just 4 percent.

Last but not least, how should the U.S. approach security along the U.S.-Mexican border? Just 2 percent support building a physical barrier, just 12 percent support greater surveillance, 55 percent say address the root causes, and 28 percent all of the above, 2 percent none of the above.

OK. So we have a pretty good indication of what you are thinking before we start, but let’s start. And the goal is not, per se, to change your thinking. It may simply reinforce your thinking. But, hopefully, wherever you come out, you will be—will be more informed.

Let me say, I know there’s a lot of interest in the question of the southern border. That’s captured most of the headlines. But that is, if I may say, just one basket of the immigration problem, one dimension of it, and we’ll get to that. We may even spend the lion’s share of our time on it.

But I want to address two other dimensions of the immigration situation first, if I may, and I want to begin with a large question, which is—and give all three of you a chance to speak on—to speak to it, which is how should Americans think about immigration? Do we think about it as a problem? Do we think about it as a benefit? Both? Other things? As an economic booster, as an economic drag, as a source of crime, a source of domestic demographic renewal? How should we think of immigration? Some of these, all of these, other things?

Why don’t we start with Theresa Cardinal Brown?

BROWN: Thank you, Dr. Haass. Thank you to the Council on Foreign Relations for inviting me.

You know, it’s interesting you start out with that kind of a question because I think that, you know, for the American public watching the discourse around immigration or having its own conversations, at some time or another immigration is seen as every one of those things that you just described.

I do believe that the preponderance of data and evidence is that immigration overall has been good for our country. Both historical immigration and current immigration, immigrants bring economic vitality, they bring innovation, they bring diversity and culture, and we are better for it in many ways.

The vast majority of migrants who come to the United States want to come and become part of America and take advantage of our opportunities and do better for themselves and their children. They’re not coming to commit crimes or terrorists. And I think that, you know, the conversation about how they fit in our workforce, you know, there’s a lot of debate about that.

But the reality is that we’ve had some of the greatest expansion of economic prosperity in the United States at the same time as we’ve had some very large immigration to the country. So, overall, I think immigration is a good thing for our country.

That having been said, it does touch on every one of those issues, right. The Department of Homeland Security was formed after 9/11 because our immigration system allowed terrorists to come in and hurt our country.

There are, certainly, people who tried to come to the United States and who, after coming to the United States, commit criminal acts, and those are cases that need to be dealt with. But I think, overall, we see immigration as a positive aspect for the United States.

HAASS: Secretary Johnson, do you agree with that general assessment?

JOHNSON: I do, actually. There’s no one single way to view the issue of immigration from a policy perspective. As Theresa said, it has aspects of all of the things you listed. The preponderance of the fact-based economic evidence is that immigration does contribute and support our economy.

It is also the case that immigration of whatever form is part of this nation’s heritage, and Ronald Reagan said that you can be—you can go to France but never be French. You can go to Germany and never be German. But you can come to America and be an American. And with the exception of the indigenous population here and, I suppose, my slave ancestors, who were brought here against their will, virtually everyone is an immigrant to this country. It’s part of our heritage. We need reminders of that on occasion. But the lady in the harbor is the reminder. So it’s part of our heritage.

Yes, there are—there are problematic aspects to immigration. First and foremost, virtually everyone in the political debate agrees that our current system is broken. We can disagree about how it’s broken, but virtually everyone agrees that it is broken in numerous ways with backlogs and the like.

Very clearly, we have a problem at the southern border. One hundred and eighty thousand apprehensions in one month is a crisis. Two years ago, publicly, I said during the Trump administration that a hundred thousand a month was a crisis. It’s a crisis because it overwhelms the infrastructure, it overwhelms the Border Patrol, it overwhelms the communities on the southern border, and it makes it very difficult for us to track who is coming into the country.

And I’m sure we’ll get into this, but there are solutions to that problem. They’re not easy, but there are solutions to that problem. And so there is no one way to look at this vast, vast issue and, unfortunately, it has, as everyone knows, become very much a red meat issue politically such that a whole lot of Americans tend to view immigration unidimensionally as bad in some way, and it is a much more nuanced situation.

HAASS: Thank you.

So, Shannon, I’m going to give you the—excuse me, Dr. O’Neil—the—you can’t say clean up because there’s only three of you speaking. But what’s your—I mean, again, what I’ve heard from your two colleagues is much more good than not. The upside outweighs the downside, which is not to deny there’s a downside, but the upside, clearly, has it. Would you—do you support that notion?

O’NEIL: I do, and let me just add a little color of why.

You know, you look around the world and, you know, U.S. demography is fairly enviable. Our demography is much better in terms of our age pyramid than Europe is. It’s much better than China is. It’s much better than Russia is or Japan or many of the other people—

HAASS: Just to—I’m going to interrupt you for a second.

O’NEIL: Yes.

HAASS: When you talk about our demography pyramid, why don’t you just explain?

O’NEIL: So we have—yeah. Yeah. So we have more working-age and young people than the Europeans do, than the Chinese do, than Japan does, and we also have more people being born each year. We have more people—babies coming into the system, and we’re not quite at the replacement rate so, you know, where we have the same number of two or 2.1 kids being born for every family. But we’re pretty close, and the reason we’re pretty close is because of migration. One, migrants bring people in, but also migrants are more likely to have more kids than Americans who have been here for several generations.

So, you know, and that has all kinds of good effects for our workforce, for innovation, for, you know, our GDP growth, consumption, all these sorts of things. And migration has been a big fuel there, and some of the countries that really struggle with that don’t have migrants.

So, I think, on one side, demographically, migration has been a huge help to the United States and continues—will continue to be so if we have it.

You know, the other thing I would say is what’s interesting is the migration that comes to the United States is usually on the high-skill end and the low-skill end, and when you look at the overall skill set of Americans, we tend to bulge in the middle. We have sort of a middle set of skills.

And so we bring in lots of STEM Ph.D.s, you know, very technically science-oriented people, and then we also tend to bring in people that, you know, have a high school degree or less sometimes that do other kinds of parts of the workforce. And so that really fills in the types of skill sets that make economies run and make them blossom. So I think there is a real strength to that.

And then there have also been a lot of studies that when migrants come into town, they—especially smaller towns in the Midwest or other places, you know, they tend to increase real estate prices, tax intakes, they open small shops and they, you know, frequent restaurants or Laundromats. You know, they go shopping, a lot of things. They really bring back some dynamism to places that had lost population, that had lost some of the dynamism.

So I think there’s a lot of great things there and, particularly, overall, and as we look at the United States, going forward. But—as you know, as my fellow panelists have already said, our immigration system was formed decades ago and it’s not set up for the twenty-first century United States. So, you know, we—I would just say a couple things here we can talk more about. But, you know, it’s quite tight on students. So we have students come here and we train them and they take part of our universities and get settled in, and then for many of them it’s hard for them to stay. There’s very few legal pathways for Latin Americans, Mexicans, and Central Americans and others to come in a legal way. So it’s hard there, even though that is one of the biggest groups of people that have been coming or nationalities that have been coming.

And then, you know, obviously, one of the issues we’re dealing with on the southern border is that our asylum system no longer works, not for the kinds of things people are fleeing from, but also just the way it functions in the United States as we’re not able to process those people.

HAASS: So you’re all making it difficult on me. I want to take it one basket at a time. So let me—let me slow it down and talk about the first basket, which is legal immigration. Now, things have been a little bit different the last year and a half, not simply because of the previous administration’s policy but because of COVID.

So but pre-COVID we were averaging in the ZIP code of, what, one million or so immigrants a year, and the question I have, as we can go back to this as COVID, fortunately, fades, to some extent, in this country and around the world, should we? Or should we—right, I’d be curious your views, because several of you pointed out that the system is broken.

Is one million, plus or minus, the right number? Do we have the mix right? Should family unification and, quote/unquote, “humanitarian considerations” dominate? Or what, really, skill levels dominate? Should we, basically, be more like the Canadians and the Australians and New Zealands and, essentially, assign points to people based upon what skill set they bring to the country? See it as, really, much more strategically?

What is your sense about this first basket, how big it ought to be and who ought to be in it? We can—we can go with the same order if you’d like.


BROWN: Sure. So when it comes to the number of immigrants that we allowed in, one million is the number of green cards issued each year. We also issue several hundred thousand temporary work visas, for example, every year and that doesn’t count people who just come for visits.

So, you know, in terms of the number of foreign people in the United States, we have a lot. One million sounds like a lot and, in absolute terms, we admit more legal immigrants each year than any other country. That is absolute true. But as a percentage of our population that is in the middle of the pack or the low end of the pack.

There are many, many other countries, Canada included, who, as a percentage of their population admit many more immigrants or whose overall population has a much higher percentage of foreign-born residents. So right now, the percentage of foreign-born people living in the United States, and these are foreign-born who also may have naturalized or not, is around 14 percent. Again, that puts us kind of in the middle to the lower end of the pack of countries nationwide.

So while it’s true that we admit a lot of immigrants, we’re not as big an immigrant-receiving country as some of these other countries are. So it’s worth kind of understanding that context.

Could we take in more immigrants? Yes, we absolutely could take in many, many more immigrants and it would help with all of those things that Dr. O’Neil talked about: offsetting our aging population, our declining workforce, our lowering birthrates. It won’t solve all of those problems but it would help as it has sort of reduced the severity of those issues for the United States compared to other countries.

HAASS: Let me take—can I just interrupt you there and raise—

BROWN: Certainly.

HAASS: —sort of two critiques of what you’re advocating?

BROWN: Yeah.

HAASS: One is those who would say it’s taking jobs from Americans and the other is that there—that it somehow, quote/unquote, “dilutes” American culture, you know, which is a lot of, say, the European resistance to large-scale immigration. How do you respond to those two challenges?

BROWN: So the first question about immigrants taking jobs, again, the evidence is not there to support that. As a whole, immigrants are not reducing employment among native-born immigrants—native-born Americans. We did a study a couple of years ago where we looked at county-level census data and what we found is that counties that had a higher percentage of immigrants actually had more native employment.

Now, does that mean that there’s not an instance somewhere where a company hired a foreign person and laid off an American person? Of course. That’s going to happen someplace. But it is not the majority. It is not the preponderance.

The other thing I would say is that that perception relies on a fallacy that we have only a set number of jobs in the country, and the fact of the matter is that when you have more people they actually create incentives to create more jobs. There’s lots of studies that show that when companies are able to hire immigrants they may also have been able to hire three or four other Americans because they were able to hire that immigrant.

So it’s not true that there’s only a fixed number of jobs and that for every immigrant that comes in it must mean an American out of work. That’s simply not how the economy works.

The cultural questions have always been a challenge as long as we have been a country, and I would say that it’s one of the persistent arguments against immigration. And yet, historically, what we have found is that America changes immigrants as much or more than immigrants change America, and that has come true for every group of immigrants who we were absolutely sure would never integrate well into the United States.

Benjamin Franklin was worried about the Germans in Pennsylvania in the 1700s. We worried about the Irish and the Italians and the Poles and the Jews and the Germans and every other group, and they have all become American and there’s no reason to think that the newest immigrants would not either.

That is what makes America great. And so I think that, as I said, compared to many other countries in the world that actually have a harder time with integration, we don’t admit as many per our population. So in terms of dilution, if that’s what you want to call it, per capita we’re not admitting as many as other countries are and they still have cultures that are dominant.

So, again, I think that sometimes those things are put forward as concerns, but the evidence is not there to show that that’s actually happening in any way, shape, or form.

HAASS: That’s why we’re having this meeting to look at the—if there’s any gap between the public debate and the evidence or the facts as best we can tell them.

Jeh, one thing you had to work with, obviously, is the question—have we got—I don’t know the latest statistics; twelve million, thirteen million people in this country, plus or minus, who are, quote/unquote, “undocumented.” What is your sense about how to think about this group? Is it a problem? Is it a situation? Is it a problem for them as opposed to a problem for the society? Should we provide—if people came here outside legal channels, is there anything—is there a moral hazard in allowing them a path to citizenship subsequently? What’s your—how should we think about this?

JOHNSON: The most interesting statistic, to me, about that group of eleven (million), twelve (million), 1,300—thirteen million undocumented is a statistic I heard when I was in office six years ago, that over half of them have been here more than ten years and many of those are young people. They have become de facto Americans.

With respect to those who are—who are undocumented, who have been living here for years, I think it is in everyone’s interest—the individual, society, the economy—that we give those people an opportunity to get on the books, so to speak—to be accountable, to pay taxes, to be authorized to work, to come out of the shadows.

And as many of you know, I’m sure, during the Obama administration we created DACA, but in 2014 we also created DAPA—Deferred Action for Parenthood Arrivals, those who are the parents of citizens or lawful permanent residents. Unfortunately, it went all the way to the Supreme Court. We lost four to four, a tie.

So DAPA did not stand. But it was in recognition that we have over ten million people in this country who are not going away. They have become embedded in our society and our culture, and we have to deal with that population. And you can deal with that population by insisting that they live in the shadows or you can give them a chance, do a background check and otherwise, to become accountable. That’s not a matter of politics or political preference. To me that’s simply a matter of common sense, from a business perspective and from a law enforcement, public safety perspective.

And so that’s how I thought about that population when I was in office. I think the most sympathetic subgroup of that population are obviously the DREAMers, those that came here as children. Why our Congress cannot codify the DACA program into law is beyond me. I know a number of Republicans and Democrats support doing that. But this is a population that, in my judgment, we have to contend with and it serves no one’s interest if we just insist that they remain in the shadows, off the books, so to speak.

HAASS: Let me give you all a chance to revisit some of these questions, and I’m sure they’ll come up when those participating get a chance. But I want to just get everything on the table, so I want to turn a little bit now to the South.

Shannon, what explains right now the surge that we’re seeing in numbers along the southern border? As we used to say when I grew up in New York, how come, or, in this case—that’s a good pun, actually—why come? Why are all these people showing up in such numbers, and we’ll talk more about root causes. It’s not as though that suddenly changed. The problems in the countries from which these people are fleeing, many of those preexist in not all of them, and maybe part of the answer is COVID has worsened things. But I’d be curious, in your sense, of what explains the fact that this issue is back in the news, in the way it is back in the news.

O’NEIL: So part of it is that we have seen increases, particularly in Central America, in migration over the last decade. And there was a, you know, a surge or an increase in 2014, 2015. We saw an increase in 2019. We’re seeing now an increase in 2021. So it isn’t something that’s just hit now. It’s been happening over the last decade. And a lot of that are these root causes. Right? There are violence that people are fleeing, all kinds of violence from their home—you know, where they live in Central America or Mexico. They’re fleeing—you know, lack of economic opportunity. That is a big part of it. You know, there’s other factors in terms of the ability that they have to feed their families, to live down there. Some of those things have just turned away—the amount of corruption in these countries. Now, a lot of those are longer-term factors, but I would also say there are some acute factors, which is why we saw a spike in 2019 and then also why we’re seeing a spike today. So one of those is COVID and the aftermath of COVID and just the economics, the economy shutting down down there. There’s no safety nets. You’ve seen a big spike in malnutrition among kids and so people are leaving because they need to feed themselves or their families. That’s one reason.

Another reason is, particularly in Honduras and Guatemala, they were hit last November by two hurricanes within two weeks of each other. These were storms of the century, but they both happened almost in the same part, and so almost a million-plus people were displaced from their homes and from their communities, so they left.

Another chronic factor but also immediate factor has been—the chronic factor is climate change and a drought that’s been going on in Central America for a decade or so. But that has become much more acute with coffee rust that’s really just wiped out the coffee crops in Honduras, so almost another million farmers just pushed off their land, losing their livelihood, and so they either go to the cities in Honduras or they go somewhere else, so a lot of that push out of Honduras comes from that.

So there’s a whole bunch of push factors and there’s also a pull factor. So many of these especially Central American countries, huge parts of their population live here in the United States, so from El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and they have a huge amount of relatives or friends or community members, so they have somewhere to come; they have a network to come. And then also, particularly in the last number of months, the U.S. economy is starting to pick up and there are a lot of jobs available for people who are willing to step in, particularly at the lower end of the job ladder, sort of skill ladder. So there’s a pull that’s happening, as well.

One of the reasons that we have a challenge at the border, and then I’ll turn it over to Jeh, is that there really isn’t a path for these people to come. They can’t come here legally. There really aren’t, you know, agrarian work visas or seasonal work visas for them to apply to. The asylum system isn’t working, so a lot of people need to present themselves at the border before they can get into any sort of process here in the United States, rather than, say, applying from home and then coming in a more regular order, a more, you know, orderly path.

HAASS: Well, to what extent does the administration, either through the campaign or subsequently, shoulder some of the responsibility, the so-called messaging issue, that some took it that a welcome mat of sorts was put out? And subsequently, the administration changed its rhetorical message but, by then, some of the, quote/unquote, “damage” had been done.

O’NEIL: You know, I do hear that a lot.

Go ahead, Jeh. Go ahead.

JOHNSON: No, no. Go ahead, Shannon. I’m agreeing with everything you’re saying, but I do have my own perspective, so.

O’NEIL: Oh, good.

I will say you hear that a lot, though, if you look at the number, the number of people coming to the southern border started to increase July a year ago. So this wasn’t—you know, it was increasing under the Trump administration, which had a decidedly different method, so I’m not quite as convinced that it was really messaging. And then I do think, when you have these acute tragedies happen to you—you can no longer feed your family because of COVID, the hurricane has destroyed your home—no amount of someone in the United States telling you not to come on Spanish-language radio is really going to change your mind. So I’m less convinced that that has been the driver.

And maybe, Jeh, you have a different view.

HAASS: Jeh, you wanted to weigh in?

JOHNSON: So I’ll give you my perspective, three years of owning this issue as secretary, and just, first, a little perspective.

In my three years in office, typically the annual number of apprehensions was around three hundred fifty, four hundred fifty thousand. FY ’15 we had the second lowest number in apprehensions since 1972; it was 315,000. Two years ago, during Trump, even though this was his signature issue, they had over a million apprehensions, and there were a lot of theories about why that happened, why such a high number during the Trump administration. The most intelligent explanation I’ve heard is that actually ending family separation had a boomerang effect on people and they decided—plus, he’s saying—he’s threatening to close the border; OK, this is the time to go.

The lesson I learned, actually from my Republican predecessor, Mike Chertoff, is that illegal immigration is a very market-sensitive phenomenon; it reacts sharply to information in the marketplace in Mexico, Central America, to perceived changes in enforcement policy. But those changes will only be short term in nature, of a season or two, and as long as the underlying conditions in Central America exist—and Shannon has described them and described how they’ve become worse lately—the numbers are always going to return to their longer-term patterns and trendlines. And that was brought home to me in a micro-sense over and over again. Every time I’d go to the southern border, I would always make a point of talking to the families, talking to the kids, through a translator, why did you come here? And yes, there are certain pull factors. There’s the delay in our ability to adjudicate asylum claims. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the Biden administration put out a welcome mat, but you had such a harsh approach over four years to this issue and they kept people in Mexico that the new administration was almost inevitably going to see this new wave. But, as long as the underlying conditions exist, what you hear over and over again from the actual migrants is, the reason I left is the gangs were going to kill me; my mother sent me here because the gangs are going to kill me, the violence, the poverty. It is one of the worst regions, if not the worst region, on Earth, in terms of day-to-day life, and so the longer-term answer to this, and most people don’t want to hear this, is that we have to make the investment in trying to eradicate the poverty and violence and corruption in that part of the world. And I know from talking to people that the effort we began in 2016 was actually beginning to make a difference, if done in the right way.

BROWN: I’ll just add on to that that I think we in the United States tend to overestimate the impact our own policies have on the migration decision. The very first decision a migrant makes is I can’t stay where I am now. And we have nothing to do with that decision. Everything else comes later. And I do think that it’s true, exactly what Secretary Johnson said, that our enforcement posture, whatever our enforcement posture is, can affect for a short time maybe the volume and the timing by which migrants will come to the United States, but not the fact of their migration. And given that we are seeing people migrating to the U.S.-Mexico border from increasingly desperate circumstances—this isn’t young Mexican men who are looking to make a few dollars more in the United States than they could in jobs in Mexico; these are families that literally believe they will die if they stay where they’re at.

To try to create deterrence through enforcement against that kind of desperation means that we would be, I think, investing in policies that are not—are not policies that most Americans can support, and I think family separation proved to be one of those. And so we need to rethink the idea that we can enforce our way out of this. There has to be a combination of things that we do, both at the border, in those sending countries, and then, as Secretary Johnson mentioned, our adjudication systems need to catch up to all of this, too.

JOHNSON: Someone once said to me, from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, when I was in office, when we were dealing with the spike in 2014, Secretary Johnson, please do not put a padlock on a burning building; people are fleeing a burning building; that’s how desperate they are, and making the basic decision for the sake of their own lives and their children’s lives to come here. And there’s no enforcement policy that can override that.

HAASS: I lost you all for a few minutes and I’m sure you did better without me, but—(laughs)—the honeymoon’s over, though. (Laughs.) Hopefully, you resolved all the loose ends while I was somewhere out there in cyberspace.

So let me put two questions—or three questions on the table: One is, when we did the poll at the beginning—I heard what Jeh Johnson just said—the numbers of people who are supporting either technology or agents at the border was essentially less than 5 percent. That just seems to me seriously at odds with the sort of policy that’s—it’s almost—the debate is not whether to have a large security dimension for the policy but how big of one. And what else do we have? What are the other pieces of the policy?

I’m just curious: Do all of you agree or disagree with the idea that—essentially people were voting for pretty much, it sounded to me, like an open border. And I was quite surprised at that. Is that a nonstarter, not just politically but a nonstarter simply as a policy idea?

BROWN: I think that—a couple things. One is that the majority of American people, and your poll is a little different than what I’ve seen, but all the polls that I’ve seen or that we’ve done at BPC, show that the public does want a secure border; that is very, very popular. That having been said, I think that there is hopefully an understanding that simply putting more infrastructure at the border, more Border Patrol agents and adding more to—more money to our security apparatus at the border is frankly having diminishing returns. We’re spending more and more money and not affecting migration as much as we were, and a lot of that has to do, as we were just talking with, the change in who is coming and why.

You know, when we were dealing with a situation in the 1990s and early 2000s where 98 to 99 percent of the people encountered by Border Patrol, at the U.S.-Mexico border, were young Mexican men trying to sneak in the United States to work because they could make a few bucks more here and send money back to their families and then they’d go back for a while and come back—that’s not the type of migration we have right now. And so enforcement against desperation, as I said, I think has diminishing returns.

HAASS: But also, there’s the question of—I know it’s become a popular phrase, which is root—to go to the root causes.

When I was in the State Department I worked, in a small way, for years on so-called Plan Colombia, to build up state capacity in Colombia to deal with a civil war and pressures from within, but all I can say is it takes a lot and you need a partner that’s willing and you need years of work and you need enormous numbers of dollars and so forth. And so, even if it were a viable option, it’s a long-term process. And second of all, in some cases, like in Mexico, Shannon, I wouldn’t think we have necessarily a willing partner. So it’s one thing to say this is about root causes, but if it takes a long time to address root causes, and in some cases you cannot, is that in some ways a cop-out, that it sounds like you’re getting to the root of the problem but, in many ways, you really cannot?

O’NEIL: Do you want me—I’m happy to jump in. And actually—I mean, what Jeh was talking about. Back in 2015-16, there were programs that were put in place and they had a three-year track record and they did start to change the individual calculations of people and families, so things that were sort of the microlevel youth violence prevention and counseling and things, you know, urban, you know, entrepreneurial-type things in the—in areas, particularly agricultural areas, helping people, you know, reshape their water shed so they could irrigate their crops, that kind of stuff. So there’s some of that just really basic nitty-gritty stuff that makes a difference in terms of calculations of individuals. And that stuff we saw after three years actually did have some sort of influence. So I don’t think it means it’s twenty years. Some of the big changes, of course, will take a generation, but others, I think, you could change in a few years. So I’ve not—I’m not hopeless about those things.

The other thing with Mexico, which is also interesting, is they also have real interest in making Central America a safer, more prosperous place, because they have become a big destination country for Central Americans and they’re struggling with some of the politics that we struggle with here in the United States in absorbing Central Americans into their own populations and jobs and the like for them. So I think there are areas of cooperation to be had. You know, that said, we’re not going to fix this problem overnight.

But I’ll turn it over to Jeh, if you want to add.

JOHNSON: So political reality, which was referenced a moment ago—most Americans do want a secure border. Most Americans, I think, believe in a humane immigration policy. They believe in DACA. They believe in, you know, what it says on the statue. They acknowledge and believe in our heritage, but they also want a secure border. If you go to Laredo, Texas, for example, which is, I think, 85 percent Mexican-American, they will tell you they want a secure border. They want a border that’s under control, and that’s true among most border communities across the southern border.

Now, reality is you cannot—and 2 percent of those polled recognize this—you cannot build a wall across the entire southern border. Just physically, that is impossible, because much of it is the Rio Grande and the Rio Grande Valley. It’s this long, wind-y river, and you can’t just build a wall there. And the way to approach the issue is—I certainly would have voted for all of the above—is there’s, you know, the ten-foot-high, you know, so-called Trump wall; there’s pedestrian fence; there’s vehicle fence, and some places, on top of a, you know, ten-thousand-foot mountain, there’s no fence at all, because if somebody’s motivated to climb a ten-thousand-foot mountain, a ten-foot wall’s not going to stop them. And there is a smart way to do this, which is a combination of fortifying what we already have in the places where it makes sense to have a wall, and increased surveillance. You ask any senior Customs and Border Patrol official: more surveillance to monitor the surges in the changing patterns of illegal migration, more aerial surveillance, more boats, more roads, more lights, maybe more Border Patrol agents, but also security at the ports, as well. The most dangerous stuff, whether it’s people or drugs, crosses at the border. Terrorists do not cross land borders undetected. Terrorists enter our country at ports with some form of paperwork.

And so there is a smart way to do this, free of the politics, but I agree that we have to address the situation in Central America. I, too, am optimistic that we can do it. It cannot happen overnight, but you have to address the problem at the source. I also agree with the position Mexico is in. Mexico also would like to have guest workers coming from Central America, and so they have this problem, too, perhaps to a lesser extent and they are less motivated than we are, but they, too, are in a—they’re in a similar situation.

BROWN: I would just add that, you know, the definition of border security, I think, is an amorphous thing. You know, when we talk about securing the border against drugs or guns or criminals or terrorists, we kind of know what we mean by that. When we talk about securing the border against migration, it’s a little bit different.

I think that when it comes to migration, one of the things people look for is control and management. Are we managing the people who are coming to the border in an appropriate way? Does it feel like the government has a handle on it? Whether or not that means that zero people are coming in I think is less of an issue than whether or not the government is actually managing it well. And unfortunately, the perception is, and I think somewhat of the reality, is that the government has not necessarily been managing this new migrant group well and we’ve tried a lot of different things.

I think yes, we need to address the root causes. I agree with what Shannon said. There are some things that can, may help in the short term, but a lot of this is a long-term prospect, and we need to kind of understand that continually investing in the prosperousness—the prosperity and the stability of our hemisphere has a direct impact on migration to the United States, and so we need to see it as in our national interest to help them, however long it takes, for as long as it takes.

Providing more legal avenues for migrants to come, whether it’s the Central American Minors program that allows minors who would otherwise come unaccompanied to the border to apply in their home countries—that’s one way of looking at it; providing avenues for legal work visas for people who are just looking to try to improve their situation or desperation. And then we have to look at our process for what happens when people arrive at the border. Again, when 98 percent of the people were Mexicans and they could be really quickly, like within seventy-two hours, sent back to Mexico, and we didn’t have to deal with them in our systems, that was what our system was set up for. It’s not set to receive migrant families or children or people seeking asylum in the numbers that we have. So we need to address those systems, those facilities. Adjudication shouldn’t take five years to decide whether somebody can stay in the United States—so our domestic systems. All of those things, taken together, can have a significant impact on our ability to manage what is happening at our border, but they take a while to get in place. In the meantime, people are coming, and that’s what we’re seeing now is the difference in trying to set long-term priorities and change systems versus having to deal with the immediacy of people arriving today at our border.

HAASS: OK, I’m again at a disadvantage for not knowing what was agreed upon or said. This is also dangerous because this is going to prove to one and all that the president of the Council on Foreign Relations is totally redundant and meetings and the institution can thrive without the individual. So this has turned into a high-cost meeting for me.

Last question—I want to open it up—which is, over the years, we’ve tried immigration reform in the United States. What’s your sense now? Is comprehensive, where we basically deal with all three baskets—the legal, the twelve million who are here already, and external, the security issue. Is it best to go about it with a package and try to build a coalition, or should we try to separate out and get what immigration reform that we can? What makes sense at this point, given just how politically radioactive—I don’t know any other word to use—this issue’s become—or freighted, whatever word you want to use. Given the politics, what’s your advice to the administration for those who want to see some change? And then, you’ve all said the system’s broken; what’s a reasonable amount to try to bite off, if you want to fix it?

Jeh, you’ve thought about this hard. What do you think?

JOHNSON: Yeah. So it was gospel in the Obama administration that you had to deal with this all at once. And that makes, in normal circumstances, a great amount of political sense. You don’t ask members of Congress to take on very difficult issues bit by bit. Deal with it all at once so that there’s something in it for everybody. That, I think, has, frankly, all fallen apart. This issue has become so extraordinarily difficult that to get anything done in this space, I think you’ve got to deal with it, if not issue at a time, but, you know, perhaps segment of issues at a time. In this environment, I do not see how Congress can grapple with comprehensive immigration reform. It is, for a lot of them, simply politically more expedient to stand back on the sidelines and complain about the issue.

HAASS: Is legal—what about—could there be, then, bipartisan support for any one of the three baskets, if you were just—or subset of a basket? Is the—I’m curious, if you wanted to see something, what might be viable?

BROWN: So we actually did some polling earlier this year with Morning Consult where we asked Republicans and Democrats what their priority issues were on immigration and then we asked what they might trade off, what of their own priorities might they be willing to give up to get immigration reform done, what of the other side’s priorities would they be willing to accept to get immigration done. And what we found are that Democrats and Republicans right now have diametrically opposite priorities, right? Democrats, it’s about legalization. That is the number-one priority. And they are—and for Republicans, it’s enforcement and border security. Unfortunately, those are the two issues that both sides are least will to accept from the other side, right? So that deal, which seems like it could work, is not likely to work.

Where we saw more willingness to cross the aisle and accept some of the other party’s priorities was on reforms of legal immigration, in part because legal immigration reforms are not the highest priority for either side, but there are enough important ideas that are bipartisan in nature that that could move forward. And we’ve actually seen that in terms of the legislation that has passed in Congress last Congress and this Congress. The bills that have gotten the most bipartisan votes have been around legal immigration reforms, whether it’s the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, or the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act, or Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act—you know, these are bills relating to our legal immigration system. Those are the bills that have had the most bipartisan support. So while the priorities of the parties are very strong and very far apart, the openness to actually negotiating is on some of these other ideas.

And understandably, though, reforming the legal immigration system could actually have beneficial impacts on both of the other issues. If we create new, updated, more, and different legal pathways, that could affect what we see at the border if more people have the opportunity to come legally. It could impact the undocumented if we allow them to find a way to get some of those new legal visas. So it might still be a way to kind of get to these other issues.

O’NEIL: Good jumpstart, thanks.

Well, we seem to have lost both Richard and Jeh, but we have a whole host of questions. I’m going to turn it over to the operator to start us off on the Q&A, please.

MODERATOR: As a reminder, to ask a question, please click the raise hand icon in your Zoom window. When you are called on, accept the unmute now prompt, then proceed with your name, affiliation, and state, followed by your question. You may also submit a written question by clicking on the Q&A icon. We ask that you include your affiliation and state. Please use the thumbs up icon to vote for other questions that you would like to hear answered.

We will take the first spoken question from Babak Salamatari (ph). Please accept the unmute prompt, state your affiliation and state, followed by your question.

Q: Hi, there. My name is Babak (ph). I’m a second—no, third-year college kid at UCI.

My question—this is more of a special circumstance, and that’s about the special visas for the people that helped us in Afghanistan—their immigration. I was—Afghanistan is basically going belly-up right now, and these people are sitting ducks right there. What’s taking so long for being able to get them into the States?

JOHNSON: Could I answer?

O’NEIL: Do one of you want to comment? Go ahead, Jeh, please.

JOHNSON: If there is one issue around which there ought to be bipartisan consensus in Congress, it is taking care of this particular group of people who served our national interest. And there are a number of different ways you can do that: visas, parole, whatever. But it is no surprise that it has taken a very long time to get to a remedy here, but this is the one area where there ought to be and there should be bipartisan consensus about what to do.

BROWN: I would just note that—I think it was yesterday—the House, on a bipartisan basis, passed a bill that would expedite the biometric processing for people applying for these visas from those countries, so there is bipartisan support for this. There is a similar bill passing in the Senate right now that’s looking to pass.

The matter is one of timing. You know, since we’ve announced that we’re going to remove all of the troops by September 11, the danger for the folks remaining in Afghanistan is severe. My understanding is that the Biden administration and the Department of Defense are now looking at ways that they may evacuate many of these people to a third location, maybe like we did with Vietnam into Guam or one of the U.S. territories, from where they can finish their applications out so they are not left in danger.

Secretary Johnson is right; this is a bipartisan issue. There is a lot of support in Congress for moving this along.

As to why it’s taking so long from then till now, there are a lot of different reasons. I would say there is a lot of bureaucracy involved under previous administrations. A lot of it was about security clearances and delays in security clearances from this part of the world, but now there seems to be a lot of momentum to try to speed things up as much as possible.

O’NEIL: Great. Let’s take the next question.

MODERATOR: We’ll take the next written question from Vanee Calva (ph) in Utah. Vanee (ph) asks: Much of migration from Central America is from the Northern Triangle where El Salvador has an undemocratic leader; Guatemala and Honduras suffer from drug-related violence; and Honduras is politically unstable. Promoting democracy and the rule of law is crucial to ensuring that these countries are better places to live. What can the United States do to promote democracy in Central America?

O’NEIL: I’ll be happy to start off on that and then turn it over if others have thoughts.

You know, a big part of what the United States can do in these cases is actually—as we provide aid and support, is make sure that democratic values, democratic checks and balances—that all of those are part of it. And, you know, one of the challenges these systems have is deep-seated corruption: deep-seated corruption in the political systems, but also among many of the economic and other elites.

So one thing is, as we bring in funds to address root causes, is that we don’t necessarily go through the governments. We go through NGOs, we go through civil society groups or private-sector initiatives and the like so that it doesn’t go through ministries where it becomes a black hole. That’s one part. Another is that we fund programs that explicitly go after corruption and explicitly go after bad behavior and address those things.

One thing the United States can do is if Guatemala and our other justice systems can’t prosecute those that have committed bad behavior, the United States can. A lot of the money that is taken by political elites and others flows through the U.S. financial systems. It goes into real estate in Miami and other places, and so the Department of Justice; FinCEN, which is an investigatory body in the Treasury that can go after money laundering—we have all of these quite powerful tools, and we can help Guatemalan, Honduran, El Salvadorian justice systems where they can’t step in themselves.

So I think there are steps the U.S. government can do to strengthen Central American rule of law on our soil, unilaterally, but then also with the program that we set up to make sure it doesn’t worsen the problem.

I see Richard is back. We’ve turned to Q&A, so I will turn it over to you to ask for the next question if you want.

BROWN: Or not.

O’NEIL: He’s—or not—he’s frozen on our screen, so I’ll just go. Could we have another question, please?

JOHNSON: Frozen. He’s frozen.

MODERATOR: Sure. We will take the next spoken question from Valina Lummeck (ph). Please accept the unmute prompt and state your affiliation and state followed by your question. (Pause.) Please accept the unmute prompt. (Pause.)

We seem to be having technical difficulties there, so we will move on to the next written question from Azar Mujdu (ph) in Barcelona, Spain.

Azar asks: Given the special geographical circumstances of the United States and the elevated number of immigrants received at the border, is there an immigration model around the globe that the U.S. could or should look to?

JOHNSON: That’s a good question. I’d say our—I’d say our geography in our hemisphere is unique. When I was in office I asked myself that question: Are there best practices and models in other nations, in other continents that could serve as an example for us? And I could not find one, especially one that wants to—it has similar values to the values we are. So I think the answer to that question is no, and we have to—we have to come up with our own solutions here.

O’NEIL: Theresa, do you want to add?

BROWN: Well, we—well, I mean, we tend to look at other legal immigration systems for models, and I think that, you know, that’s something that—in terms of the policy to the conversation around how to reform our legal immigration system, we tend to look at countries like Canada, Australia, U.K., and other models that we might look at for adoption.

But when it comes to how we deal with the migration along our U.S.-Mexico border, I’m not aware there’s another border that is quite—that has quite the same characteristics. And again, I think with countries that have similar characteristics to the United States and Mexico or the rest of the countries to the south, I think—it was interesting to me, for example, in 2015-2016, when Europe was seeing the migration crisis from Syria and the Middle East, the response in the United States to seeing that happen in Europe was to cut off refugees from Syria. But we didn’t have a problem with refugees from Syria. Any refugees coming to the United States from Syria were coming legally through our refugee resettlement program by the government. It wasn’t the same situation as Europe was seeing.

The analogous situation for us was the Central American asylum seekers, and yet, the public and our policy and political response was about Syria. So it is kind of interesting how we perceive what happens in other parts of the world and how it relates to our own situation.

O’NEIL: Great. Let’s take another question.

MODERATOR: We’ll take the next spoken question from Rob Bonner. Please accept the unmute prompt.

Q: Yeah, no, I just—listening to the conversation—and it’s very insightful, I think, on the part of all of you—but there has been no mention really of the role of smuggling organizations with respect to the movement of migrants that are traveling illegally into the United States through Mexico from Central America. And I think that’s worthy of some discussion, particularly as it relates to pull factors because if you have a situation where U.S. policy is understood to be that any teenager—and I mean non-Mexican teenagers who are from Central America—is going to be essentially admitted into the U.S.—which is, I believe, the current situation; disabuse me if I’m wrong—you are going to get a flow of teenagers. That’s going to affect the decision-making, and the smugglers also indicate that that’s the case. And of course, they’re accurate when they say if you are under eighteen you will get into the U.S.; you just—we need to get you through Mexico and across the border.

The same is, to some extent, true with a family—with an adult who wants to migrate who finds that, from the smuggler, it’s going to cost them about half the amount to make that migration if he brings a minor child with him. I mean, ordinarily it is his own child, but sometimes there are children that are being used, that are essentially being rented to make that dangerous journey.

So first of all, what is the role of human smugglers here, and how do we—how do we address those pull factors as a matter of policy—or can we address them? Maybe we’re just stuck with them, and this thing is going to continually—perhaps in cycles—but just continue over and over again as it seems to be happening.

JOHNSON: So if we didn’t discuss the smugglers it’s only because we didn’t get to them in this discussion. I think this is still true, but it was certainly true in my time in office that the smugglers have a monopoly on migration from Central America to the U.S. Virtually everyone apprehended at our southern border was sponsored by and brought there by the coyotes. And they do two things. One, they message—and sometimes provide distorted message—about what is happening in the United States in terms of enforcement policy. They’ll put out the word in Guatemala, let’s say—border is open, the United States is offering free permisos; go now. And you would ask a migrant, you know, what is this about a permiso? Oh, yes, this notice to appear that I was given; that’s my free permisos. And so they message—and sometimes it’s a distorted message—and amplify it to create the run for the exits, and then they literally bring them to the United States. They have creative pricing mechanisms and discounts to create a sense of urgency—this is going to expire. The smugglers are beholden to the cartels; they’re not equated to the cartels, they’re beholden to the cartels. And from a law enforcement perspective, they’re difficult for the United States to get at because they don’t cross the border. There’s no smuggling operation that exists someplace in Texas or southern California that I know of. And so it is a very difficult problem, and it’s one you have to combat through messaging about the dangers of the journey and providing correct information about, you know, our policies; how DACA is not available for someone who arrives tomorrow, and the like.

We can be better at, from an intelligence collection perspective, knowing what the messaging is in Central America—what is it the coyotes are putting out there now—to try to counteract it before it shows up on our doorstep?

O’NEIL: Let me just add—


O’NEIL: I agree. Let me just add a couple of thoughts. One is, you know, smugglers are very pervasive, and how pervasive and how much they cost became very apparent a year or so ago when you started seeing these caravans form in Central America because the whole point of the caravans was to get around the smugglers, and this idea that if you went in a group of a thousand, or two thousand, or several hundred, you wouldn’t have to pay these crazy rates, nor would you be as dangerous—the coyotes wouldn’t be the danger to you; other things might the danger to you. So I think there is this prevalence, but there have been efforts by Central American citizens and others to get around it through sort of strength in numbers.

The other thing you are starting to see just in the last few months is smugglers bringing not just Mexicans, not just Central Americans, but others to the border. So, for instance, in the May numbers, 180,000 people were apprehended. Forty thousand of those were not from Mexico or Central America. They were from other countries all over the world. So the strength of the smuggling network to get into the United States is growing, and they are casting a much wider net than they have in the past. So I think that is also something to watch, and sort of the money laundering trails, the organized crime trails that go much further than our more immediate geographic neighbors.

BROWN: Yeah, and I—thank you for calling in, Commissioner Bonner.

I would say that I agree with Shannon that the smugglers aren’t the reason we are seeing migration. We’re seeing them—the smugglers are taking advantage of the desire to migrate. They have that, you know, capitalistic, monetary incentive to encourage migration, and they will do whatever they have to do and say whatever they have to say to encourage that to happen.

I think our best counter to this, frankly, is seeing what we can do, along with Mexico and other nationalities, to go after the smuggling organizations, to go after the transnational organizations. As much as I understand why Secretary Johnson would say we should try to counter it with better information, sure, we should try. I’m not confident that anything that the United States government would have to say would overcome what they hear from, frankly, the last person who got to the border and what the smugglers are promising them in terms of migration.

But we should treat it as a criminal enterprise and go after it the way we would a criminal enterprise. And I think we should encourage Mexico—and we know that this administration and Mexico may not be the best partner on this, but we need to try because their ability to facilitate the migration has compounded what would otherwise be happening with migration and definitely has exacerbated it.

JOHNSON: If I could just add to that, when it comes to transnational smuggling from places other than Mexico and Central America, we have—at least in the last six or seven years—seen some success in the willingness of countries like Costa Rica and Brazil to cooperate with us in interdicting those who are coming from a different hemisphere through Central and South America into the United States. So there has been—there has been some limited success there.

O’NEIL: Great. I think we have time for one more question.

MODERATOR: We’ll take the final question from Mojúbàolú Olufúnké Okome in New York, who is a professor of political science at CUNY Brooklyn College and an African immigrant. Mojúbàolú writes: The barriers to legal immigration are especially onerous for Africans, even those who are highly skilled, as well as students, refugees, and asylees. This increases the incentives to undertake more dangerous and clandestine migration routes. What strategies and policies can the Biden administration use to address the situation?

O’NEIL: Great. Theresa, do you want to talk a little bit about immigration law—

BROWN: Sure.

O’NEIL: —on that subject?

BROWN: Yeah, I mean, I think it’s a very big misconception that a lot of people have that immigrating to the United States today is as easy as it was for our great-grandparents to come to Ellis Island a hundred years ago. It is absolutely not.

Our legal immigration system is byzantine and Kafkaesque at the best of times. It is—I know—I worked in immigration law firms and filing cases, and I don’t understand how anyone who isn’t familiar with American law, English language proficient, and frankly, highly educated, could even think about trying to apply on their own. It would just be inordinately difficult. We have made it as hard as possible, and that is—I agree a hundred percent. The challenges of immigrating legally are one of the reasons we have such a problem with unauthorized migration.

You know, going back to what we said at the beginning, if we were to create easier and—easier to use and more understandable legal immigration mechanisms, that might actually address a lot of our irregular migration problems and, you know, that’s one of the areas that we could get bipartisanship on if we were willing to really sit down and work through some of that.

O’NEIL: Jeh, do you want to add any last comments or something you want to put on the table?

JOHNSON: I concur with what Theresa said. It is complicated. It is byzantine. Immigration was the only policy space I worked in the government where the statute says one thing, and then somebody who has been doing it for years says, well, that’s actually not how we do it. We’ve been doing it this way. You try to untangle it and it’s just hopelessly complicated.

O’NEIL: Great. Well, now we’re going to turn back to our poll to see if we’ve changed anybody’s mind. So let me turn it over to Veronica and let you all see the poll here.

You can see it—Veronica, do you mind reading them off for people?

STAFF: Sure.

Question one is which immigrant group should make up the largest percentage of new admissions to the United States: high-skilled workers; family members of U.S. citizens or permanent residents; refugees and/or asylum seekers; or temporary migrants including students and seasonal workers.

For the second question, how should the United States handle the current undocumented population moving forward: create a pathway to citizenship; create a pathway to legal status; allow them to remain in the U.S. without legal status; or return them to their home countries through deportation.

And thirdly, how should the United States approach security along the U.S.-Mexico border: build a physical barrier along the full border; allocate greater resources to border surveillance by agents and/or utilizing technology; address root causes of migration from Latin America through aid programs and diplomacy; all of the above; or none of the above.

So we’ll give it just maybe fifteen more seconds.

O’NEIL: Great. So please fill out your choices and submit. We’ll see if there is any changing minds over the last hour. (Pause.)

JOHNSON: In the meantime, Shannon, tell Richard he did a great job.

O’NEIL: I will. He was an excellent moderator. We’ll let him know.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

O’NEIL: OK. So it looks like we’ve had a little bit of movement. There’s, you know, more focus it looks like on refugee and asylum seekers than when we first started. We still have a very strong path to some sort of regularization of status, though leaning more toward legal status and citizenship than the first time around.

And what else do I see here? Then—sorry, I’m trying to see this on here. (Pause.) And then on the last one we’re still—right, we’re still looking to—there’s more of all of the above in the way that we should deal with security.

So, Jeh, it looks like you convinced everyone that that is the best approach to take.

Well, in lieu of Richard not being here, I want to thank my fellow panelists here. This has been a really great and enriched conversation in what we all know is an incredibly thorny but vital issue for the United States going forward, and will be one of many conversations that we’re going to have about what we call here home and abroad where the way that things are happening in the United States influence U.S. influence and reach around the globe.

So thank you all for joining us, and a sincere thank you to my fellow panelists.

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