Great Decision lecture informs community on the difference between immigration and refugee policy

aheymann@vagazette.com

Tuesday morning there wasn’t a free seat in the Williamsburg Library’s theater as people came out in droves to listen to David Martin, a former member of the federal government’s Homeland Security Advisory Council.

His talk, “Refugees and Global Migration,” was the last lecture of the League of Women Voters of the Williamsburg Area’s 2019 Great Decision lecture series.

“I think (Great Decisions) is just a good forum for serious engagement with issues,” Martin said.

Bobbie Falquet, administrative chair of Great Decisions, thought the series was wildly popular this year.

“We’ve had great speakers every year, but I think particularly this year we’ve just had some outstanding speakers, and really helping people, including me, get a hand on what that topic is,” Falquet said. “I think so few us have so little understanding on what’s happening in the rest of the world and what the issues really are beyond the headlines, and it’s really been helpful.”

At this lecture, Martin discussed the difference between immigration and refugee policy and steps he thinks could be taken to address the issues our nation faces.

Some key elements of reform he focused on were legalization of long-term illegal immigrants and focusing law enforcement against new and recent immigration violators.

“In in my view, probably the single most counterproductive step the federal government has taken was to focus enforcement on people who’s core violations occurred when they were children,” Martin said.

“Polls show the large majority of Americans reject the removal of the Dreamers. If we’re going to make any headway on these issues, the focus needs to be on recent violations of immigration law violators to whom there is a greater consensus about the justice of enforcement.”

He said sending back recent illegal immigrants is more effective than sending back Americanized children or long-term illegal immigrants who have lost touch with their former home.

Sharon Kiefer, a lecture attendee, said she enjoyed how Martin’s lecture looked at all sides of the issue dispassionately and gave research-backed solutions.

“(Martin) put (global migration and immigration) together in a rational way, which frankly, I had never heard,” Keifer said.

Martin himself was impressed with how the audience zeroed in on his talking points and said they asked him very thoughtful questions.

“I think today was a chance for people to understand there’s a difference between immigration and refugee policy, and there are steps that can be taken to help clarify the issues,” Falquet said.

“But it is possible to reach a solution with the issues of immigration today. That situation may change years ahead, but today we need to address what’s going on and how we can better address all this.”

Want to learn more?

To learn about next year’s Great Decisions lecture series or to learn about other programming put on by the League of Women Voters, visit lwvwilliamsburg.org.

Heymann can be reached by phone at 757-298-5828 or on Twitter at @HeymannAmelia.

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