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UHD's Center for Public Deliberation Hosts Interactive Forum on Immigration Reform

The Center for Public Deliberation at the University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) recently hosted an interactive forum for more than 150 Houston-area leaders, legislators, students, faculty and community members to discuss various solutions to the nation's current immigration reform debate.

Also sponsored by the University's Center for Public Service & Family Strengths, National Issues Forums Institute, the Kettering Foundation, the Simmons Foundation, Lone Star College-Kingwood and UHD Student Activities, the forum encouraged citizens to share their personal experiences regarding immigration to a panel of "listening leaders," who considered all opinions before sharing their own comments at the conclusion of the event. Participating leaders included Texas state Rep. Armando Walle, noted immigration attorney Gordon Quan, UHD President Bill Flores, Ph.D., and Marisol Valero, immigration program manager at Neighborhood Centers Inc., among others.

The forum - entitled, "Immigration Reform in America: How Do We Fix a System in Crisis?" - presented three different solutions to this issue, focused on welcoming new arrivals, protecting our borders and promoting the country's economic prosperity. This final option centered on acknowledging the contributions made by immigrants, in addition to the country's need to protect American jobs without draining public resources, especially during hard economic times.

Center for Public Deliberation Director Windy Lawrence, Ph.D., launched the discussion by thanking attendees for their participation and for "standing for the idea that being a citizen goes beyond voting or paying taxes, but also helping to solve the problems our communities face." She noted, "When a community decides an issue is a priority, we need spaces to engage in two-way conversation with each other to work through issues."

For this reason, Lawrence, an associate professor at UHD, founded the University's Center for Public Deliberation in 2007 to help improve communication in communities, especially in regard to widespread issues that affect citizens and their families.

During the event, attendees gathered in groups of 10 to listen to differing opinions regarding immigration reform, discuss possible solutions and ramifications to specific actions, and compile brief reports to present to legislators for eventual inclusion in the archive of the National Issues Forums Institute.

Reports from these groups included answers to the following questions:

  • What is one action we can take?
  • Where is one place we disagree in our group that may be part of the reason this issue is difficult to resolve?
  • What is one area of common ground in our group?
  • Was there one thing that an attendee said that influenced or widened your understanding of immigration reform?

UHD's Center for Public Deliberation and Lone Star College-Kingwood will host an additional forum entitled, "Linked Futures: Communities, Higher Education and the Changing World of Work," from 5 - 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 12 at UHD and Nov. 13 at LSC-Kingwood. For more information about this forum, please visit the Center for Public Deliberation website.