In advance of the Global Forum on Migration and Development in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, Assistant Secretary of State Eric Schwartz discusses U.S. policy on international migration and the foreign policy aspects of the domestic immigration debate.
FRANK E. LOY: Good afternoon. I'm Frank Loy. And welcome, all, to the council.
We are very honored and pleased to have Eric Schwartz, the assistant secretary for the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, with us today. Eric is going to speak to us in a moment.
Let me just make the traditional announcements at the council. Please turn off -- (inaudible) -- mention it -- (laughs/laughter) -- please turn off all of your cell phones. And turn them off completely, not just put them on vibrate, because this is being recorded and we want to make sure that your telephones don't interfere with the recording.
Let me say one other thing. And that is, contrary to many of the meetings here, this meeting will be on the record.
I'm not going to introduce Eric, because in your materials you have his bio. He is the assistant secretary of a bureau that has an enormous budget, way out of proportion to what I think most people understand, and that reflects the urgency and the significance of the work that he does.
We are very pleased to have him with us. And he's going to speak for about 20 minutes, then we'll have a short conversation and then open the floor to get your views and your questions.
Without further ado, Assistant Secretary Eric Schwartz.
ERIC SCHWARTZ: Thanks, Frank. Do I need these, or is the thing that's on my shirt going to suffice? I don't know.
Well, I'm very grateful for the council -- for offering me the chance to speak on international migration issues. And I think it's maybe best to begin by defining the topic.
International migration policy concerns the array of national practices around the world that apply to the treatment of citizens and non-citizens who cross borders, and constitutes the effort by the United States and by others to share best practices and develop common principles, approaches and initiatives toward these populations. And while domestic immigration policy remains the sovereign right of each individual nation, how each of us addresses migration at home will certainly inform any effort to develop common understandings internationally.
And of course, we in the United States can't be urging other governments to develop policies and practices that we ourselves aren't prepared to implement. In other words, as President Obama has said with respect to our general human rights diplomacy, we should practice at home what we preach abroad.
Now, my remarks today, not coincidentally, come against the backdrop of the fourth Global Forum on Migration and Development, which will take place this week in Puerto Vallarta. I will lead the U.S. delegation to the forum, where our goal will be to articulate principles and policies that serve the broad development objectives of receiving, transit and sending countries while respecting the dignity and well-being of people who are on the move, as well as the sovereign rights of governments to determine their domestic immigration policies.
It seems to me, especially since we don't give a lot of speeches on international migration policy, it seems to me that the starting point for a discussion of common principles and policies -- the starting points are our own history, our own perspectives and our own posture.
Migration has played and continues to play a critical role in our own national experience. Of the more than 200 million people who are outside the country of their birth today, one in five resides in the United States. And President Obama has said, and I quote, "The steady stream of hard-working and talented people who have immigrated to the United States over the years has made the United States the engine of the global economy and a beacon of hope around the world." And this perspective is hardly unique among our political leaders, past and present.
Former President George W. Bush expressed a similar view when he said -- and I quote -- that, "Every generation of immigrants has reaffirmed the wisdom of remaining open to the talents and dreams of the world." And he added that one of the primary reasons -- and I quote -- "One of the primary reasons America became a great power in the 20th century is because we welcomed the talents and the character and the patriotism of immigrant families."
Especially as we prepare for the Global Forum on Migration and Development, I think it's worth articulating our view of the benefits of our own immigration experience and the lessons that they might offer to others. In short, immigration indeed has been critical to the economic growth and the development of the United States. Over 40 percent of the 300 million or so people who are in the United States today can trace their ancestry to immigrants who passed through Ellis Island between 1892 and 1954.
And it's difficult -- it's difficult to imagine that the United States could have become the leading economic and political power it is today without the contribution made by the over 120 million people who immigrated during this period. And this doesn't -- this doesn't include the many millions who came to the United States prior to the 19th century or who have come since 1954.
Immigrants have made important contributions to the U.S. economy since the founding days of our nation, providing the critical foundation of our economic prosperity throughout the centuries. In the year 2000, immigrant business owners generated an estimated $67 billion of the $577 billion in U.S. business income.
To be sure, as we well know, perspectives on the economic impacts of immigration to advanced industrial societies do vary. On balance, however, the data reveal that the overall effect on U.S. wages has been positive, and that over time, tax revenues generated by immigrants far exceed the cost of the services they use.
Immigration has also helped the United States to avoid many of the very troubling demographic trends that bedevil other industrialized countries less hospitable toward immigrants. As populations age, birth rates decline, and the revenue streams needed to sustain social security programs shrink, new entrants and their families have played a critical role in helping the United States to sustain our capacity to maintain and support social programs.
It's also played -- immigration has also played a role -- a vital role in innovations in the development of American science, art, music and public policy. One in four doctors in the United States is an immigrant, as are two in five medical scientists, and one in three computer software engineers.
And our generally positive record of assimilation of new communities has certainly been influenced by the contributions of previous waves of immigrants to the creation of social institutions such as immigrant aid societies that facilitate the integration of newcomers.
Now, none of this can allow us to ignore the difficult policy issues that migration presents, such as the right balance in the composition and in the magnitude of legal immigration, the challenge of undocumented migration, and the most effective ways to address a perception among many citizens that immigration threatens their economic well-being.
Of course, tensions around migration issues are nothing new. But they must not be allowed to divide; they must not be used to divide and to inflame. Rather, the task is to engage a collective effort to promote positive change.
The president has acknowledged the concerns of many Americans, that our immigration laws must be reformed to ensure accountability within the system while reflecting our values. This commitment to reform and to accountability is essential to sustaining public support for immigration.
But amidst all of these concerns, we should not lose sight of the fact that immigration has -- to the United States has yielded enormous benefits, nor should we forgo our commitment to remain a society that welcomes the diversity and the benefits that immigration can bring.
These polices, our immigration approach, has -- have also had financial benefits to communities around the world, even as they have bound us more closely to those communities. In 2008, immigrant remittances from the United States amounted to $96.8 billion, which represents nearly 30 percent of the total $336 billion in remittances worldwide.
Mexico, the host of the Global Forum on Migration and Development that is about to begin is among the top recipients of migrant remittances, with an estimated 22 billion (dollars) in private remittances overall in 2009. And Mexico, I should add, has developed a novel three-for-one program in which remittance dollars sent through hometown associations in Mexico are matched dollar-for-dollar by federal, state and municipal governments. Along with remittances sent directly to families, this program has bolstered the economies and the infrastructures of many communities.
I don't mean to suggest that remittances should substitute for generous and strategically sound programs of development assistance -- a commitment to which President Obama most recently affirmed at the U.N. Summit on the Millennium Development Goals -- nor should we ignore legitimate concerns about the loss of highly skilled workers from developing countries. That is why the administration joined a consensus earlier this year on the World Health Organization's Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health Workers, with guidelines for how receiving and sending countries can grow and sustain their workforces and limit the negative impacts of migration while respecting the freedom to (emigrate/immigrate ?).
This issue of remittances reminds us that whatever one's overall perspective on immigration, there is no arguing that migration is a constant in the human condition, and that our policies and our practices have to come to grips with this basic reality. This is critical for security, for economic and social well being and for the humanitarian values to which we and others aspire.
So now let me pivot and turn to some principles that inform our policies and our practices in these critical areas, and which might be of some use to other governments that are grappling with this same set of issues.
First, we must respect the dignity and uphold the human rights of migrants on our territory regardless of their legal status. To be sure, governments have very legitimate interests in enforcing their immigration laws. However, while doing so, we can treat undocumented migrants with dignity. And we do well to remember President Obama's comment about the some 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, and I quote, "The overwhelming majority of these men and women are simply seeking a better life for themselves and for their children."
I hope this wasn't Frank's.
Thus, the Obama administration has a strong commitment to enforcing federal laws and policies not only aimed at illegal immigration, but also aimed at those who would abuse migrants. We've maintained a robust effort to identify and to prosecute human traffickers wherever we might find them, and we welcome strong congressional support on this score. In fact, Congress has authorized special programs like the U visa and the T visa. There are people in this audience who have played a -- played a role in putting those initiatives together, where officials can use -- can use these mechanisms to extend protection to trafficking victims and others who, due to fear of deportation, might otherwise be reluctant to come forward to assist law-enforcement efforts against those who exploit vulnerable migrants.
We should continually review these programs to ensure that they are being implemented as effectively as possible, and we should share our experiences with other governments.
We also work to ensure that those who may be subject to deportation receive humane treatment while in federal government custody and are able to receive expeditious decisions on their cases. The Department of Homeland Security is engaged in a robust review of our immigration detention system and has taken a number of important detention-reform measures over the past 15 months, including a revised policy on parole of aliens with credible fears of persecution.
In addition, we've made significant investments in the Department of Justice Executive Office for Immigration Review to improve the immigration court system. So the first is respecting the human rights of migrants.
Second, we should strengthen our capacity for migration management to effectively enforce domestic immigration laws. This is critical if we and other receiving states are going to sustain critical public support for immigration policy. Moreover, in the post-9/11 environment, it is reasonable to expect that those who would wish to do us severe harm may seek to enter the United States fraudulently.
While we must be vigilant in efforts to prevent bias and unfair treatment, we must also be prepared to implement new and effective enforcement mechanisms. For example, in our refugee program, we will soon be instituting DNA testing for certain applicants to ensure the validity of claims made about family connections.
Third, the United States must press other governments, and we must speak out loudly and clearly when enforcement practices run afoul of international obligations. For example, actions such as the unprovoked or disproportionate use of deadly force to prevent migrants from crossing borders, or law-enforcement actions against smugglers that don't adhere to applicable obligations relating to protection of refugees must be of deepest concern to sending and receiving states alike.
Fourth, we must continually review our own procedures for providing protection for vulnerable migrants. Our Temporary Protected Status statute enables non-citizens or lawful permanent residents who are in the United States to remain here temporarily if their country of citizenship is affected by situations, including natural disasters or armed conflicts, and return would pose a threat to their safety. Earlier this year, we used this statute to provide temporary refuge to qualifying Haitian nationals after the devastating earthquake in Haiti. And our refugee admissions program and our asylum program have resulted in citizenship for millions over the past three decades. Other governments should be encouraged to implement or strengthen programs of this type.
Fifth, governments and international organizations must be more focused on the relationship between migration and national development strategies. This year, for example, more than 100,000 Afghans have returned to their country of origin, but many of these returnees have not had adequate access to national development efforts. International financial and development organizations should ensure that their assistance is linked to refugee return and reintegration programs, as well as to local integration programs for individuals who remain in countries of refuge.
Governments and international organizations must also better-anticipate the impact of development programs on the movement of people. For example, such programs can sometimes result in the relocation of populations from rural areas to urban centers, but in countries that lack urban employment opportunities or infrastructure, this can lead quite quickly to out-migration, with significant impacts on neighboring states.
Sixth, we and other donors must seek to build the capacity of developing-country governments to manage migration effectively and humanely and to direct assistance to the most vulnerable of populations. Our bureau -- the State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration -- supports programs throughout the world for this -- for these purposes. And our efforts to build migration management capacity are supplemented and supported by those of other U.S. government agencies. For example, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement manages a global trafficking in persons program that has trained more than 34,000 personnel from foreign law enforcement, NGOs and international organizations.
And finally -- I didn't quite make it to 10, so I guess that's seven, but maybe we can think of three others. Finally, we and others must recognize the critical importance of partnerships, partnerships with civil society on international migration issues. Under Secretary Clinton's leadership, the State Department's Global Partnership Initiative is engaging diaspora communities in efforts to promote social, economic and political development in their countries of origin.
The U.S. Agency for International Development has also engaged with civil society to amplify the developmental impact of remittances and to encourage investments by immigrants in the countries of their birth and of their ancestry.
And we are engaging partners to assist migrant communities within the United States. U.S. citizenship and Immigration Services recently announced federal support for 78 organizations to support citizenship, education and preparation programs for lawful, permanent residents and build capacity in communities to meet increasing demand for these citizenship services.
I can't close -- I can't close without mentioning a key element in communicating our seriousness of purpose on these issues, comprehensive immigration reform. In July, President Obama renewed his call for commonsense reform. For the past 20 months, the administration has played an active role in engaging with elected officials to promote a bipartisan solution, and we will continue to work with the Congress for reform that is grounded in principles of responsibility and accountability and which addresses future requirements of both family-based and employment-based immigration.
And while there has been movement toward some of these objectives, comprehensive reform, as we all know, can only be accomplished through congressional action. And that would be the best means, it seems to me -- and to others in the administration -- that would be the best means to address frustrations of U.S. citizens in several states that have passed laws attempting to enforce federal immigration law on the state level. This, of course, includes the recent Arizona law, provisions of which the Obama administration opposes.
While the outcome of the comprehensive immigration reform debate may be uncertain, the message of this administration is clear. The United States has greatly benefited by migration to our shores. And whatever the precise contours of a system of legal immigration, our country must protect the rights of all migrants. These are the principles that we will advocate strongly this week in Puerto Vallarta, as they not only reflect our values, but also international humanitarian principles to which this administration and its predecessors have been so deeply committed.
Thank you. (Applause.)
LOY: Eric, first of all, I want to thank you for those remarks. And I want to thank you -- I thank -- I want to thank you for serving in this tough time in this tough job. As one who had this job at an earlier stage, I recognize how difficult it is, and I'm certainly glad you are there.
I mean, the kind of background that Eric has had, both at the National Security Council in the United States and with UNHCR as a special representative of the secretary-general on tsunami relief and others, makes him really uniquely qualified to implement the kind of principles that you're talking about. So thank you for that.
SCHWARTZ: Thank you.
LOY: A couple of questions before we open it up to the audience here.
You stressed that we must uphold the dignity of people who arrive on our shores, or on anybody's shores regardless of -- if I understood correctly, regardless of their status or their legal or non-legal purpose. And I understand that, but the United States is a party to the Geneva Convention, which does make a distinction, it seems to me, between persons who are political refugees who flee and have a legitimate, well-founded fear of returning, and others who simply come for a better life or a better job.
And I wonder whether your remarks suggest that you think that that distinction is no longer as important, or what you think about that.
SCHWARTZ: Well, I think that distinction remains important, but I -- but I think there are a number of measures that the international humanitarian community, international community, and state -- and national governments have taken over the past many years, several decades, that recognize that people in trouble and people who need help and on some -- on some level people who deserve help might not necessarily always meet the definition of the 1967 protocol relating to the status of refugees.
That's what TPS is all about. You know, it doesn't require -- to get that temporary protection, it doesn't require that you have a well-founded fear of persecution about return. In addition, some -- in some regions of the world, governments have taken more explicit efforts to expand their own notion of those who would merit protection. The African Union, for example, its international document on protection of refugees and those outside their country of origin has a broader definition of those who would merit protection.
So I think, while I would say that the integrity of the Refugee Convention should be maintained, I also think that it's simply a statement of fact that governments are grappling and have grappled with other means to provide people who might not meet the refugee definition with various forms of protection
LOY: Eric, I am -- I read the periodic letters that you send out to whoever your audience --
SCHWARTZ: As many people as we can.
LOY: As many as you can. They're very --
SCHWARTZ: If you're not on the mailing list, talk to -- talk to Beth in the back.
LOY: They're very informative, and they underline the breadth and depth of the problems that come with migration. And I'm just impressed with the numbers that you quote. You know, 4 million Afghans have returned to Afghanistan since 2002. A million six Iraqis are internal -- are in Iraq, but have been displaced internally. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis are in other countries. And in Africa, you have just dozens of situations.
And then I'm impressed by the dollars that are involved in trying to deal with that. And then I think about the future, and I think about the likelihood of increased numbers, because of climate change and its consequences, because of continued conflict, because of failed states that can't provide basic living for their citizens. And I can see -- and correct me if you see a difference, will you? -- but I can see this whole issue getting bigger and bigger and the numbers getting bigger and bigger.
And the question is this, like they used to say in the soap operas: Can we go on like this? Is this -- do we have -- do we have a policy that could actually handle this kind of problem at a substantially increased volume?
SCHWARTZ: That's a simple question, right? (Laughter.) Well, let me -- let me answer this in a couple of ways.
First, on the trends, you're absolutely right. First of all, the face of displacement, I don't know if it as much changed as much as we've recognized, more accurately, that the vast majority of people who are -- who are forced from their homes never cross borders.
And, you know, your estimate as to the number of internally displaced persons is as good as the next person's, but by some accounts we're talking about if there are 10 (million) to 15 (million) or 10 (million) to 12 million refugees outside their country of origin -- what is it, Roberta (sp), 26 million?
MS. : (Off mike.)
SCHWARTZ: Twenty-seven million people are internally displaced. So that's one issue.
And as far as I'm concerned, displacement is displacement. And the tools -- there's some differences, but the tools that we have to bring to bear to address the needs of these communities are substantially similar, although I think it's fair to say that national governments certainly have a greater responsibility when they're dealing with populations -- their own populations.
So that's one element which I think increases the challenge, because if you recognize suffering that may have been going on before but you just didn't recognize it, that doesn't -- it doesn't give you a pass. You can't say, well, we never accounted for this problem in the past, so we're just going to focus on the problems that we've been solving. You have to deal with what you see. So that's one challenge.
The challenge of the increased frequency of disasters borne by natural hazards -- and which have not kept pace with our capacity to prevent or to -- or to address those disasters.
The so-called youth bulge in the world and the relationship that that might have -- might have; I don't want to be -- you know, I don't want to be an armchair expert -- on the incidence of conflict.
So our -- you know, and we spent two days last week looking at these issues in my bureau, which is a good sign; it means we're thinking about them. And so all of those, I think, means that this is a growth industry.
Now, so what do we do? Well, on the one hand I think that we just have to enhance our capacity and recognize the importance of building -- of increasing resources to deal with these problems.
We believe that one of the ways we can lighten our load, although it doesn't mean that we're not going to have to augment our resources, is by recognizing that the response needs to be, generally speaking, an international response. Right now, we provide, for example, about 25 percent of the requested budget of one of the largest international humanitarian organizations, the UNHCR. That enables us to leverage support from other governments and also leverage and influence the development of international -- best international practice like no other government in the world. So we need to continue to invest in international efforts to deal with these crises.
In addition, we need to match our engagement with individual humanitarian organizations with engagement with the -- with the system at large, because as we saw in Haiti and in Pakistan recently, the demands are increasingly taxing the ability of the system of all of the various actors to work more effectively together. So we have to take dead aim at that. So that's in dealing with kind of what I would call building a better Band-Aid -- right? -- that's kind of building a better Band-Aid in shorthand.
But we also have to complement those efforts with recognition that most humanitarian crises don't have humanitarian solutions. We have to increase our capacity to address political, security issues in countries that may be at risk of conflict. And that has been one of the major objectives of the about-to-be-completed QDDR process which the secretary of State launched some time ago, the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review process. So we have to do both. We have to do both, to deal with prevention and conflict response, and also continue to enhance our capacity to respond when those tools just don't do the trick.
LOY: All right, let's open the floor for questions. I would ask you to wait for the microphone and speak directly into it. And I would ask you, when the microphone reaches you, to stand and give your name and affiliation, and keep your questions brief and crisp.
SCHWARTZ: Are my answers about the right length? Should I be shorter or longer?
LOY: Brief and crisp. (Laughter.)
SCHWARTZ: Okay. Got it. But there was no evaluation, though. (Inaudible.) (Laughs.)
LOY: No evaluation, no. (Laughs.)
All right, right back on the aisle in the last row there, please.
QUESTIONER: Yes. Jordi Zamora. I'm from France-Presse. Thank you for taking my question.
I was quite interested by your definition -- I thought it was quite broad -- of what it could mean to be a refugee or someone seeking for asylum in another country. I wonder if, for instance, do you consider that a Mexican citizen who is in danger because of the drug trafficking and the violence in that country could apply for refugee? And I'm asking you that because some Mexican journalists have already applied for that status.
SCHWARTZ: Well, I wasn't -- I wasn't -- my comments I don't think suggested an expanded definition of who is a refugee. A refugee is an individual who's outside his or her country of origina and has a well-founded fear of persecution based on -- I hope I get them all -- race, religion, ethnicity, political opinion or membership in a social group. That's a refugee. And I don't -- I don't suggest that we should expand our definition of who that is.
I do think that beyond that category of people, there are individuals who are in transit, who are on the move, who can't be in their place of habitual residence. And I think the international community has developed a range of tools to try to address that situation. And I think it's a good thing that we have. And I think that in this respect my own view is it's a good thing that we have and we should continue to look for ways to do more, because that's what it means to be a human being who has, you know, a humanitarian concern about those who are in trouble.
Any individual in the United States can apply for asylum, and so any individual who is here can apply for asylum, and if they believe they have that well-founded fear of return, they can do so.
So I'm not sure what more I can say in terms of the question you've asked.
LOY: I think that's -- that's pretty responsive, I think.
The lady next to the aisle, and it's the fourth row from the back.
QUESTIONER: Thank you. Roberta Cohen, Brookings Institution. I just want to first say that I have such great admiration for Eric Schwartz's vision of migration, refugees and displaced people.
My question is about environmentally displaced persons who -- where temporary protection is not sufficient, say people that are from island states that are submerged or parts of countries are no longer -- you can no longer return to. Is the U.S. promoting discussion or policy toward protecting those kinds of situations?
SCHWARTZ: Roberta, I don't know the answer to your question, but I'll try to find out.
Can I ask -- can I answer a question that I thought you were going to ask -- (laughter) -- since I don't know the answer to that?
LOY: Old bureaucratic trick. (Laughter.)
SCHWARTZ: Well, let me say, in terms of your question, I -- you know, as the deputy special envoy for tsunami recovery, one of the five major areas of focus for me, major country areas of focus for me during that time I worked at the United Nations was, of course, the Maldives. And they are grappling very seriously with that issue. They held a cabinet meeting under water, I think many of you saw.
And so I think it is a huge problem, and I think it's an issue that certainly sovereign governments have to deal with, affected governments, but I think i's also an issue that the international community has to come to grips with as well. But in terms of the specific answer to your question, I'll have to get back to you.
The other question is, you know, what role for a bureau that deals with migration, refugees and population on this issue, especially, especially when our -- when our partner, the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance and the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance at USAID, you know, has done so much work on prevention, on prevention focused on disasters that result from natural hazards. And we like to complement our efforts.
And it seems to me, within the bureau, we've been discussing, you know, two areas that might be of possible, you know, increased focus for work, but it's also in the context of a conversation in which we're dealing with so many priorities. But one issue for humanitarians is, you know, is the international system of humanitarian response effectively coming to grips with these trends, and are we establishing mechanisms, are we establishing the right tools that respond to this greater incidence of movement as a result of natural disasters? I think that's one area that all humanitarians need to be looking at very closely.
The second area where I think we can play a very useful role is just in reporting, in letting the world know what the implications of these trends are going to be in terms of movements and humanitarian impacts, because we're not engaged in the mitigation effort. That's not the bureau's role. But that sort of information, getting that information out, I think, is important in terms of playing a role in the discussion about mitigation.
LOY: Ambassador Kux?
QUESTIONER: Dennis Kux at the Woodrow Wilson Center. In recent months, years, there's been a wave of anti-immigrant feeling in Europe: in France, in the Netherlands, in Denmark, Germany, Italy, et cetera. I wonder if you can comment on how the United States feels about that, whether we've -- and what sort of interaction we've had with governments as they've sort of moved against immigrants.
SCHWARTZ: Well, I think as a general proposition, when we're dealing with, you know, friendly governments and societies that have well-established democratic systems that have their own self-correcting mechanisms within them, I think we're understandably -- and I think reasonably -- a little reluctant to start, you know, telling them how we think they should do business.
I think the -- at the same time, fora like the Global Forum for Migration and Development provide opportunities to make our views known as we try to develop common principles. And if you were listening -- and I'm sure you were listening -- to the six or seven points that I made, they were -- in each case, I said, you know, these are points that are applicable to us, but they might be applicable to others. And I think that's the way in which we engage in this discussion and also where we have a little bit of different perspectives from other governments. We just had them and we allow them to -- and we don't hide those differences. And that in and of itself can create the opportunity for discussion and dialogue.
LOY: In the last row, second from the end there, please.
QUESTIONER: Hi. I'm Welby Leaman from the Treasury Department. To what degree can we liberalize trade and capital flows without liberalizing to approximately the same degree people flows, migration? And I -- to put that in context, E.O. Wilson's written in "Consilience" about the Rwandan genocide being the result of just basic carrying capacity problems, that there were too many people for the space. And in like manner, we've been talking recently in the news about outsourcing of jobs and so forth. As jobs move because capital and trade move, do people have to move? And if so, is -- do we need a very big change to immigration?
SCHWARTZ: I would ask you -- you're from the Treasury Department, so I would ask you that question. (Laughter.) You know, you're going in -- you know, into territory which, even if I had an informed view, I'd be reluctant, you know, to get into great depth about it, because this -- well, you've asked me a question which really is the substance of the discussion of what the character of a reformed immigration system should be.
But let me respond generally to your point. I think there is no -- I think it's probably not arguable that our own general approach to immigration over the many years is, in some sense, vindication of the proposition that you are suggesting; that given the flows of capital across borders, there has to be provision in national systems for the movement of people in more than, you know, (insignificant/in significant ?) ways. And for us, that will ultimately be a combination of skills-based, employment-based and family-based immigration. That's the best nonanswer I can give you.
LOY: (Inaudible.) The lady in the second row, please.
QUESTIONER: Kathy Waters (ph), the International Crisis Group, but this is just me speaking on my own, and I apologize if I don't put this very well.
I want to go back to Former Undersecretary Loy's question about do we keep on keeping on with the same system, or do we need to have fundamental changes to how we do things -- not necessarily just domestically but internationally?
And I know you talked about, you know, some of the steps that need to be done in terms of capacity building and prevention. But in a world where, as you pointed out, we have a hell of a time just getting basic domestic legislation through on immigration reform, and given where these issues tend to fall in the sort of, like, sexy factor, in the international community -- I mean, people care about them, but sometimes you don't get presidents speaking out as much about them in substance -- I'm wondering what you see -- assuming that there is perhaps a need for some pretty fundamental shifts in how we do business internationally on these issues -- what you see as the potential bright spots; what gives you hope on that front.
And relatedly -- and again, this is just me off the top of my head -- but is there a role for, like, a special Security Council session at the U.N. to really try to pick up senior-level political interest in this so you can get things moving on the working level?
SCHWARTZ: It's a good question. And, you know, my initial -- my instant reaction -- you threw out a lot of provocative issues, so I'll just pick and choose the ones that I want to answer. (Scattered laughter.)
First, you know, I think it's difficult to overestimate the reservoir of support within the Congress for this cluster of issues, if you're talking about humanitarian response. And I think part of the reason the Congress has been so supportive of our bureau -- besides I think basic competence of the people who work in the bureau -- more than competence; they're really at the top of the game -- is a perception that the assistance really is the best expression of American values, that it's well used and that it's not politicized. So that causes me to wonder about the wisdom of trying to inject the area of humanitarian response into a Security Council session.
I also think that given the amount of time and energy and investment that has been put into -- and realizing that sum cost is sum cost for our Treasury Department (person ?) -- that -- and so if the whole effort is just a waste, you don't worry about how much you put into it. But I think the effort to build this international systemic response capacity through the Office of the Coordinator for Humanitarian Assistance, OCHA, over the past decade or so, you know, has had some successes.
And so I think my own instincts would be, let's, you know, work at enhancing, improving the capacity of an institution like that and the related institutions, rather than kind of, you know, go back to the drawing board. I think that if you -- it may not be an expression of official policy, but I think it is reflective of the views of other senior officials who operate in this area in the government.
So that would be my instinct. But I think that we're going to have to come to grips with some new realities, and I'm not sure we know how to do that right now. For example, the introduction of many additional actors in the international humanitarian response system who haven't -- who haven't, you know, grown up in a -- with this relatively -- this club of relatively small numbers of governments and international organizations that have -- that have really influenced the development of international humanitarian response -- in the Arab world, the government of China, the government of India; you know, these are all important international actors that are to a lesser or greater extent increasingly coming to the table. So I think how our response system is going to evolve is still unclear, but we need to be engaged actively with all of those new players.
LOY: Right there.
QUESTIONER: Thank you. Allan Wendt.
On the subject of reform of U.S. immigration laws -- and there seems to be a majority of opinion in the Congress that they do need to be reformed -- can you tell us if any consideration is being given to a system based more on skills, such as Canada and Australia have, with less emphasis on family reunification, as is now the case?
SCHWARTZ: I really -- I really -- I really can't. I mean, it's -- first of all, I don't think, even if I were -- you know, it's an interesting challenge for a senior State Department official to give a -- you know, a speech on international migration policy when what we've -- when we've kind of scratched the surface on what do we mean when we talk about international migration policy. There's no sort of disembodied international migration policy. It's really about comparative domestic policy.
So there's a bit -- it's a bit of a challenge for me. And I think the more you get the questions that you ask and into the guts of, you know, the policy, the deliberative process on, you know, what the -- what the relative balance will be between skills-based and employment-based, you know, I think -- I think I'm getting a little bit out of my depth.
Moreover, I'm not sure that the discussions have really progressed to such a great extent that I could -- even if I were, you know, at DHS working this issue day in and day out -- I could fashion a, you know, an answer on behalf of the administration. I'm sorry.
LOY: Can I just follow up?
SCHWARTZ: (Inaudible) -- not answering the question.
LOY: Can I just follow up on that, though? Given that what we do domestically influences what you can ask of other countries, my question is, as a domestic immigration policy is fashioned, are you part of that process?
SCHWARTZ: I think the Department of State needs to be very much engaged in the discussion of how we deal with these issues, not only -- and we are. And we are. And I'll give you some examples. But not only because of what we say in international fora, but because how our policies evolve have direct foreign policy implications. So I see -- for example, I sit down with Alejandro Mayorkas on a regular basis to discuss issues that are related, you know, to the work that we do. I had lunch with -- a meeting with Phyllis Coven a couple of weeks ago on this whole question of detention reform.
So -- and, you know, while recognizing that in our government, the Department of Homeland Security is the place where these decisions ultimately are made, the Department of State has a critical interest in engaging in that conversation. And we do, and both in the department writ large, but also through my bureau.
QUESTIONER: Thank you. Anne Richard, International Rescue Committee. I just wanted to say, Frank, I know that it's been a few years since you were in Eric's seat. And so even though it looks like he's got a lot more money than you used to have, it still doesn't quite match the need. So don't get too carried away with how much money he has, okay? (Laughter.)
And Eric, I -- you know, I know you've got your mind on Mexico and this trip you're going to be taking, but sooner or later you'll come to Washington. And who are --
SCHWARTZ: (Word inaudible) -- Thursday. (Laughter.)
QUESTIONER: Who are the -- who are the -- and it makes sense to those of us who know you that you're a leading spokesman within the administration on these issues, but who are going to be the leading champions on the Hill for these issues with the new Congress coming up? And do you think there will be members who are willing to step up and talk about this?
And could, potentially, Cuban American members play a role in talking about this more? You know, it was interesting to hear Marco Rubio's acceptance speech and him talking about being in exile. Are there some personages up there who can take leadership roles in this, or is this going to be an issue that all the politicians are going to flee from?
SCHWARTZ: I don't know the -- I don't know the answer to your question, but let me comment on your question, because in my experience this area, both the humanitarian brief, for which I have responsibility, as well as the migration brief, often makes unusual bedfellows. And so I think that there are great opportunities for -- there could be great opportunities for coalitions from members who span the political spectrum.
That has been -- that has been my own experience in the area of humanitarian response, where a political party has played, in many respects, very little role in who our strongest supporters and best friends are on Capitol Hill. And from my days when I was -- in my earlier days, at the National Security Council in the Clinton administration, when I was working a lot of these -- migration issues much more aggressive -- or in much greater depth, that was my experience there, as well. I think that -- and I think it's mainly because of the humanitarian character of both these sets of issues.
So I -- while I won't, you know, say you ought to try this member or that member or the other member, I will say that I think if comprehensive immigration reform is going to move, it's going to move in large measure by virtue of that very dynamic.
LOY: Right there, the lady on the aisle.
QUESTIONER: Thank you very much. Michele Klein-Solomon from the International Organization for Migration. And I'm going to take you back international after Anne's last question, and specifically recognizing that you're about to head off to Mexico and Puerto Vallarta.
Let me say first off how pleased we are in IOM and most of the other internationals that you are -- the U.S. government is stepping up to the plate in the global debate about migration, because you're right, it is a mixing and pulling together of the national policies and cooperation mechanisms, but the U.S. has been largely absent and silent from that discussion. And obviously, as the biggest country of immigration with the longest tradition in history, it's extremely important they be there. so first, thank you for that.
Second, looking forward to the discussions that will take place in Puerto Vallarta and beyond, there's no question that many of you have asked -- have been getting at that tension and that lack of evolution, in many respects, from the systems that we have at the international system as well as the national system to address the movement of people. And many of our systems, certainly at the international level, were set up at a time when they were addressing a reality that is not the predominant reality that we have today.
I think your questions -- your responses have alluded to the need to be flexible and humanitarian in our outlook in response, but also I want to come back to something you said at the outset with respect to U.S. migration policy and economic benefits.
In a perfect world, there would be no refugees. We would have the prevention to be able to ensure that there was not a need for people to flee their countries because they're persecuted. In a perfect world, there would be migration. There would be people who could move as a matter of choice. And how do we -- thinking about those two concepts, how do we think about moving the international system forward to address those new realities, those new force situations as well as the need to facilitate and promote needed mobility? I'd welcome your thoughts about where we go.
SCHWARTZ: Well, I mean I think that we're not -- it's a very provocative question. I think we're not -- the fundamental premise on these issues that all governments share is the notion that governments get to determine what their domestic immigration policies are going to be, and that governments have made judgments that they have the right and the sovereign obligation, you know, to control that movement, for a variety of reasons -- in terms of economic benefits, in terms of carrying capacity in their own countries, in terms of concerns about criminality, terrorism, et cetera.
So it seems to me that the challenge is to -- in the first instance, you know, we all recognize that reality, and we recognize the obligation of governments to address that -- you know, the enforcement imperatives, but also to, in a very systematic and dedicated way, you know, demonstrate the benefits of immigration, you know, have data that supports the propositions that we're articulating about the benefits of immigration, but also to be open to, you know, means to give expression to our humanitarian commitments as well, and to be prepared to look at establishing mechanisms like TPS, that were not envisioned in the refugee convention, you know, to provide a modicum of protection for people.
But I don't know if there's a -- you know, there's no silver-bullet answer to your question. I just think that we just have to keep -- we just have to keep at it.
LOY: We have time for one more question. Before I take it, let me just thank all of you for being here. But -- and thank you, obviously. Let's have one more last question, back in the back row in the blue shirt.
QUESTIONER: Thank you. (Name inaudible) -- from the Mexican (news agency ?) Notimex.
(To the Obama administration ?), creating immigration reform is a national security issue or a foreign policy issue instead -- (inaudible) -- for lack of action?
And also, how important is immigration for the United States to remain competitive with -- (inaudible) -- powers like India and China?
SCHWARTZ: Well, I think I -- I think in my opening remarks I think I answered your last -- your last question. I think -- I think that -- I think the president and the former president and our political leaders have articulated the importance of immigration in creating and sustaining so many of the, you know, economic -- so much of the economic, political and social development of our country.
But in terms of your first -- your first question, I think that how we address immigration reform -- issues of immigration generally absolutely has implications for both of -- both our foreign policy and our national security -- and our national security. And I think all of us in the administration recognize that, and I think it's reflected in the efforts day in and day out on these issues in the Department of Homeland Security, at the State Department and elsewhere. I think it's also reflected in the president's desire to develop and implement sensible immigration reform.
I don't -- you know, I think it is this administration's strong and -- you know, very strong desire to ensure that this -- that this issue does not become politicized, does not become a partisan issue, but rather that we can roll up our sleeves and address the requirements of reform in a collegial and responsible manner in the months to come.
LOY: Eric, we thank you for your remarks. We thank you for your service. We wish you very much luck as you go to Mexico for the global forum. And this meeting is adjourned
SCHWARTZ: Thank you. (Applause.)
LOY: Thank you very much. Good job.
SCHWARTZ: Thank you very much. Thank you very much.