Miller Center

Media Contact: Howard Witt, 434-924-6051

The 2012 Mortimer Caplin Conference on the World Economy: Resources and Scholarship

High-Skilled Immigration: Politics, Economics, and Law

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Official White Paper
“High Skilled Immigration Reform in Historical Context: New Opportunities and Enduring Constraints”
by Daniel J. Tichenor, Philip H. Knight Professor of Political Science Senior Fellow, Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics, University of Oregon
Whereas Democrats and Republicans during the 2012 campaign were poles apart over what to do about unauthorized immigrants and porous borders, they readily agreed on the value of expanding high-skilled immigration. This paper provides historical context about the immigration debate, how it has evolved, and where it stands presently. Read more →

Miller Center Resources
National Discussion and Debate Series
The Miller Center’s National Discussion and Debate Series hosted a debate on the proposed resolution: "Our national interests require a path to citizenship for the 12 million illegal immigrants presently here." Tamar Jacoby, CEO and President of ImmigrationWorks, and Eliseo Medina, International Executive Vice President of the Service Employees International Union, argued for the resolution. Vernon Briggs, Emeritus Professor of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University, and Mark Krikorian, Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies, argued against. Eminent award-winning journalist Robert MacNeil moderated the debate. Watch the debate →

A Melting Pot, or Not: Perspectives on the Immigration Debate (forthcoming)
Mark Krikorian, Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies
Manuel Pastor, Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity, University of Southern California; Director, USC’s Program for Environmental and Regional Equity
December 3, 2012

Is Immigration a Problem? Are the Minute Men the Answer?
Peter Brimelow, President, Center for American Unity
June 16, 2005

What Now? The Next Great Immigration Debate (forthcoming)
John Morton, Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Senate
January 13, 2013

Presidential Recordings Program
The Miller Center's Presidential Recordings Project has transcribed two important conversations by President Lyndon Johnson on immigration policy. The first is a telephone conversation between Johnson and James Farmer, national director of the Congress of Racial Equality, held in February 1964. Congress had recently agreed to a one-year extension of the Bracero Agreement with Mexico, which allowed Mexican workers to work on U.S. farms. Farmer vociferously opposed the extension, arguing that the Agreement took jobs away from black workers. Listen to the conversation →

In the second, an August 1965 discussion between Johnson and Florida Senator Spessard Holland, Johnson informs Holland of his decision to allow foreign workers to work in Florida's sugar farms during the upcoming harvest season. The move, requested by the Florida sugar industry, had been advocated by Holland. Johnson and Holland also discuss the need for foreign workers in the citrus industry. Holland says citrus companies "just can't get the Americans to do it," but Johnson says he has yet to receive a formal request from the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association for such workers. Click here to listen to this conversation →

Mexican Migration to the United States: New Patterns, New Responses
Susan Martin, Donald G. Herzberg Associate Professor of International Migration, Georgetown University; Executive Director,  Institute for the Study of International Migration.
October 5, 2012

American President
In his first term as President (1885-1889), Grover Cleveland condemned the "outrages" being committed against the Chinese on the nation's west coast, but he later changed his position and  worked to limit Chinese immigration and to prohibit those who had left the United States to visit relatives in China from returning. Read more about Cleveland’s handling of immigration policy →

President Warren Harding worked to limit southern and eastern European immigrants by supporting the Johnson Immigrant Quota Act of 1921. That act stipulated that the annual immigration of a given nationality could not exceed 3 percent of the number of immigrants from that nation residing in the U.S. in 1910. This quota made it more difficult for immigrants from southern and eastern Europe, whose numbers had been smaller in 1910, to enter the country. Read more about Harding’s domestic policies →

Later in the 20th century, President Harry Truman liberalized immigration  laws as part of his ambitious agenda called “The Fair Deal.” Learn more about those policies →

President Kennedy proposed a bill that created a system for allowing immigrants into the country based on family ties and special skills called the Immigration and Nationality Act also known as the Hart-Cellar Act; President Johnson signed the bill into law in 1965. Read more about LBJ’s wide-ranging domestic policies →

President Ronald Reagan addressed the issue of undocumented workers in his Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, which allowed the legalization of status for both undocumented people who had lived in the United States before 1982 and agricultural workers. It also included that all employers check the immigration status of their employees. Read more about Reagan’s domestic policies →


Vanderbilt University Professor of Political Science Carol Swain and Vanderbilt law student Virginia Yetter wrote a paper entitled “Federalism and the Politics of Immigration Reform” as part of the 2011 William and Carol Stevenson Conference. Read the paper →

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