Immigration Forums

In the spring of 2008, the Wisconsin Institute for Public Policy and Service, in collaboration with the Marathon County Public Library (MCPL), the Kettering Foundation, and the Wisconsin Humanities Council, sponsored The New Challenges of American Immigration: What Should We Do?—a series of National Issues Forums (NIF)-style town hall meetings. From January to March 2008, over 139 citizens attended the public dialogues held in the nine MCPL locations of Edgar, Athens, Marathon, Spencer, Stratford, Hatley, Mosinee, Rothschild and Wausau. In addition, a student forum was held on the University of Wisconsin-Marathon County campus.

The intent of the forums was to address some of the basic tensions underlying the debate over current and future U.S. immigration policy, including these questions: Do the costs of our immigration policy outweigh the benefits? If change is necessary, how will we arrive at a manageable strategy, and what are the major tensions and stumbling blocks to creating a workable national policy? What does the current status of U.S. immigration policy mean for Wisconsin, and what changes are in the best interests of central Wisconsin?

The NIF–style deliberations (which emphasize civil discourse, multiple viewpoints, and the weighing of benefits, challenges and trade-offs) grappled with various tensions surrounding illegal immigration that included:

By examining these tensions, and listening respectfully to all voices, forum participants in this series agreed on these common understandings:

These (among other) possible action steps were suggested at the conclusion of the forums:

(to read the full report, click on link here)