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Weissberg Forum for Discourse in the Public Square: Immigration

November 5 and 7, 2013

immigration photos

For decades, immigration policy in the United States has been a paradigm of political debate, with policy makers and the American public unable to find consensus. With a system that everyone agrees is broken, the nation is on the verge of reform.

11 million undocumented people live in the United States. 4.3 million people are on the wait list for family-based visas and 113,058 waiting for employment-based visas — nearly 4.5 million in the overall backlog. Universities, like NYU, and employers are unable to retain talented young students after receiving advanced degrees in the vital STEM fields. And, immigration enforcement agencies are in overdrive, having doubled since 2004, with the greatest influx of agents in U.S. history.

As part of New York University’s Weissberg Forum for Discourse in the Public Square, NYU’s Scholar in Residence, Vice President for Immigration Policy at the Center for American Progress, Angela Maria Kelley hosted two forums that examined current reform measures and how policy choices have and will affect the immigrant population.

These forums considered how U.S. immigration policies change the lives of young immigrants (both documented and undocumented) with regard to access to education, healthcare, and employment as well as the consequences of immigration policies for the criminalization and incarceration of a vulnerable population. The forums provided an overview of the work of dedicated individuals, policymakers and organizations.


November 5, 2013


This discussion addressed the evolving debate over comprehensive immigration reform that is currently unfolding in the United States with a focus on comparative and global perspectives that can yield insight for domestic policies. In this forum, participants shared and drew upon the successes and failures with regard to immigration, including the ongoing, heated debates taking place in the United States Congress and elsewhere.

November 7, 2013


This discussion examined how the immigration policies of the United States affect young immigrants, both documented and undocumented, with regard to access to education, health care, and employment as well as the consequences of immigration policies for the criminalization and incarceration of this vulnerable population. Panelists shared their personal stories and experiences, reflecting on why they joined the movement to fight for comprehensive immigration reform.


Gov. O'Malley

Martin O'Malley - Nov 5

Ali Noorani

Ali Noorani - Nov 5

Clarissa Martínez De Castro - November 5

Clarissa Martínez - Nov 5

Madeleine Sumption

Madeleine Sumption - November 5

Erika Andiola

Erika Andiola - November 7

Andrea Cristina Mercado - November 7

Andrea Mercado - November 7

Joanna Dreby

Joanna Dreby - November 7

Tolu Olubunmi

Tolu Olubunmi - November 7


The Honorable Martin O'Malley

Martin O’Malley is serving the people of Maryland in his second term as Governor. Since 2007, his Administration has been delivering results for Maryland families by choosing to do the things that work to create jobs, expand opportunity, and make Maryland a safer, healthier place.

A former Governing Magazine “Public Official of the Year,” Governor O’Malley was re-elected in 2010. His 2013 legislative successes were described in a Baltimore Sun editorial as “without many parallels in recent Maryland history.”

With a balanced approach of spending cuts, regulatory reform, and modern investment in education, innovation, and infrastructure, Governor O’Malley and his Administration are making better choices that are delivering better results, including:

  • The fastest rate of job growth in the region.
  • The #1 ranking for best public schools in America for an unprecedented five years in a row. (Education Week)
  • The #1 ranking for holding down the cost of college tuition. (College Board)
  • The #1 ranking for innovation and entrepreneurship for two years running. (U.S. Chamber of Commerce)

Under the Governor’s leadership, Maryland ranks #1 nationally in median income, #1 in PHD scientists and researchers per capita, #1 in Research and Development, and #1 in businesses owned by women. The Milken Institute ranks Maryland as one of the top 2 states in America for science and technology.

Maryland is one of only a handful of states to earn an AAA Bond Rating, certified by all three major rating agencies.

Called “arguably the best manager in government” by Washington Monthly magazine,

Governor O’Malley has cut more state spending than any previous Governor in Maryland’s history, balancing these record cuts with targeted, modern investments in priorities like public education. He has reduced the size of government to its smallest size since 1973 (on a per capita basis) and reformed the way it is managed, to make it work more efficiently and accountably. His actions to save Maryland’s state pension system have made it sustainable over the long term. His fiscal stewardship has nearly eliminated Maryland’s structural deficit. His efforts to streamline, consolidate and digitize things like business licensing are making Maryland a better place to do business.

Governor O’Malley’s StateStat initiative – modeled after the CitiStat initiative he created in the City of Baltimore – is widely cited as a model for government efficiency and effectiveness.

Teaming with the men and women of Maryland law enforcement, the O’Malley-Brown Administration’s crime fighting initiatives have driven down violent crime and homicide to three decade lows. The Administration’s homeland security strategies have turned around security at the Port of Baltimore.

The O’Malley-Brown Administration has expanded health care to more than 380,000 previously uninsured Marylanders. It has driven down infant mortality to an historic low and provided meals to thousands of hungry children as it moves forward toward its goal for eradicating childhood hunger.

The Governor’s policies have been credited with restoring the health of the Chesapeake Bay and saving the Bay’s native Blue Crab and Oyster populations.

The O’Malley Administration has secured millions of dollars in rate relief for Maryland energy consumers while jumpstarting the creation of thousands of green energy sector jobs. Under Governor O’Malley’s leadership, Maryland led the charge for RGGI, the nation’s first cap-and-trade auction of greenhouse emissions.

Governor O’Malley has cut income taxes for 86% of Marylanders and reformed Maryland’s tax code to make it more progressive. In addition, he has signed the nation’s first statewide living wage law, along with some of the nation’s most comprehensive reforms to protect homeowners from foreclosure.

Declaring that Marylanders are bound together by “the common thread of human dignity,” Governor O’Malley has signed legislation to protect individual civil marriage rights and religious freedom, along with legislation to protect voting rights. He signed – and successfully defended at the ballot box – the DREAM Act, which expands the opportunity of a college education to more Marylanders.

Prior to serving as Governor, O’Malley served as Mayor of the City of Baltimore, where he was recognized by Esquire magazine as “the best young mayor in the country” and by Time magazine as one of America’s “Top 5 Big City Mayors.” First elected in 1999, he was re-elected in 2003, receiving 87 percent of the vote. Between 1999 and 2009 his policies helped the people of Baltimore achieve the greatest crime reduction of America’s largest cities.

Governor O’Malley received his bachelor’s degree from Catholic University and his law degree from the University of Maryland. In 1986, while in law school, he was named by then-Congresswoman Barbara Mikulski as state field director for her successful primary and general election campaigns for the U.S. Senate. From 1987 to 1988 he served as a legislative fellow for Senator Mikulski, where he focused on obtaining federal funding for projects in Maryland. In 1988, O’Malley was appointed assistant state’s attorney for the city of Baltimore. He served on the Baltimore City Council from 1991 to 1999, during which time he was chairman of the Legislative Investigations and Taxation and Finance Committees.

Governor O’Malley served two terms as Chair of the Democratic Governors Association. He currently serves as the organization’s Finance Chair. In addition, he serves as Co-Chair for the National Governors Association Special Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety. He was appointed to the nation’s first-ever Council of Governors by President Obama in 2010 and was named co-chair of the council in 2013.

Martin and his wife, Katie, a District Court judge, have two daughters, Grace and Tara, and two sons, William and Jack. They are members of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church.


Clarissa Martínez-De-Castro

Clarissa Martínez De Castro is the Director of Immigration and National Campaigns at the National Council of La Raza, the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States. Her expertise is in immigration legislative advocacy and strategy; Latino electorate, voter mobilization, and civic participation; state advocacy efforts; coalition-building; and management. She has a master’s degree in public administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and a bachelor’s degree in diplomacy and world affairs from Occidental College.

Her previous positions include Manager of the Coalition for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, a broad network of national, state, and local organizations committed to advancing policy solutions on immigration; NCLR Director of State/Local Public Policy, managing state policy advocacy efforts and civic engagement work; Public Policy Coordinator, Southwest Voter Research Institute (William C. Velasquez Institute); Assistant Director, California-Mexico Project at the University of Southern California; Organizer, International Ladies Garment Workers Union; and Union Representative, Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union (HERE) Local 11.


Ali Noorani

Ali Noorani has more than a decade of successful leadership in public
policy advocacy, non-profit management and coalition organizing, across a wide range of issues. As a key figure among a new generation of national leaders, he continues this mission as Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum advocating for the value of immigrants and immigration to the nation.

Under Ali’s leadership since 2008, the Forum is a powerful and key advocate on numerous immigration issues, working closely with  business, law enforcement, faith and immigrant leadership across the country to advance much needed reforms to our nation’s immigration system. Ali has led the Forum through a transition process to prepare the organization for the future, focusing on creative alliance building toward a better future for immigrants and America. With a keen eye for accountability and good business practice, Noorani secured for the Forum accreditation from the Better Business Bureau and a four star rating from Charity Navigator.

Ali provides a principled and reasoned voice on immigration policy and politics, and has appeared on Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, NBC News, ABC News, and various radio and local news programs. He has been quoted on the pages of most of the nation’s major dailies and is a regular speaker at conferences and campuses across the country.

Born in California, Noorani is the son of Pakistani immigrants. He is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley and received his Master’s in Public Health from Boston University. In 2007, Noorani received the Boston University Young Alumni Award.

Established in 1982, the Forum is one of the nation’s premier pro-immigrant advocacy and policy organizations and has been at the center of every major immigration debate over the past 25 years. The Forum uses its communications, advocacy and policy expertise to create a better, more welcoming America that treats all newcomers fairly and respects the rights of all.


Madeleine Sumption

Madeleine Sumption is a Senior Policy Analyst at MPI, where she oversees the research agenda of the International Program as its Assistant Director for Research. Her work focuses on labor migration, the role of immigrants in the labor market, and the impact of immigration policies in Europe, North America, and other Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries. She is also a nonresident fellow with the Migration Policy Institute Europe.

Ms. Sumption’s recent publications include Rethinking Points Systems and Employer-Selected Immigration (co-author);Policies to Curb Illegal Employment; Projecting Human Mobility in the United States and Europe for 2020 (Johns Hopkins, co-author); Migration and Immigrants Two Years After the Financial Collapse (BBC World Service and MPI, co-editor and author), Immigration and the Labor Market: Theory, Evidence and Policy (Equality and Human Rights Commission, co-author), and Social Networks and Polish Immigration to the UK (Institute for Public Policy Research).

Ms. Sumption holds a master’s degree with honors from the University of Chicago’s school of public policy. She also holds a first class degree in Russian and French from Oxford University.


Erika Andiola

Erika Andiola is a founder of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition, a group of young immigrants who advocate giving legal status to people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

Andiola entered the U.S. illegally from Mexico but has work authorization for two years by way of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, the deportation-relief offered by President Barack Obama to immigrants eligible for the Dream Act.

Andiola was in the news last week when federal immigration officers arrested her mother and brother at the family's home in suburban Phoenix. They were later released after a national outcry from immigration reform advocates.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials insist the two weren't targeted because of Andiola's activism.

Andiola said ICE agents told her there was a long-pending deportation order for her mother. Her brother was detained for refusing to answer agents' questions.

Last July, Andiola drew national attention when U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, a main proponent of the Dream Act, held up a large color poster of her on the Senate floor while describing how she graduated with honors with a bachelor's degree in psychology from Arizona State University.


Joanna Dreby

Joanna Dreby is Assistant Professor of Sociology the University at Albany, State University of New York and received her PhD from the CUNY Graduate Center in 2007. She is author of the book Divided by Borders: Mexican Migrants and their Children (University of California Press 2010), which is the recipient of the Goode Book Award and the Thomas and Znaniecki Best Book Award from the American Sociological Association (Family Section) (2011) and also the 2011 Book Award from the Association for Humanist Sociology (International Migration Section). The book is based on a four year ethnographic study that draws on fieldwork and interviews with over 140 members of Mexican transnational families including migrant parents in Central New Jersey and children in the Mixteca region of Oaxaca and children’s caregivers. It explores how family separation during international migration, and the sacrifices such separations entail, affect the relationships between family members.

Joanna is an ethnographer of family life, whose research focuses on the ways migratory patterns and families’ decisions about work and child care affect children. Her current research, funded by the Foundation for Child Development, explores the experiences of young children growing up in Mexican immigrant households in Ohio and New Jersey. The project documents the ways variations in legal status within families and settlement patterns in new destination sites impact the lives of children.


Andrea Cristina Mercado

Andrea Cristina Mercado is the daughter of South American immigrants and was raised in New York and Florida. She has been organizing immigrant women workers since 2003, when she started as the first community organizer for Mujeres Unidas y Activas (MUA), a grassroots Latina immigrant women’s organization in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2005 she helped start and build the California Domestic Worker Coalition, which recently passed a Domestic Worker Bill of Rights. At MUA she also helped to organize the first national meeting of domestic workers organizations at the US Social Forum in 2007, which resulted in the formation of the National Domestic Workers Alliance. She is now Campaign Director at the National Domestic Workers Alliance where she helps lead Domestic Worker Bill of Rights campaigns across the country and supports the We Belong Together: Women for Common Sense Immigration Reform campaign. She has also lived and worked in Bahia, Brazil with Ipeterras, a sustainable agriculture project, organizing against free trade agreements and developing sustainable alternatives to migration.


Tolu Olubunmi

Tolu Olubunmi was born in Lagos, Nigeria and brought to the U.S. at age 14. She attained many honors in high school, graduated in the top 5% of her class and attended one of the nation’s top universities. In college, Tolu was a peer counselor, an assistant head resident assistant, a volunteer with an abused women’s shelter, and joined a sorority where she helped raise money for the Make A Wish Foundation and other charities. 

Tolu had dreamed of becoming an engineer since she was 8 years old and in 2002 graduated with a Chemistry-Engineering degree; however her undocumented status prevented her from working in the field of engineering.

In 2008, when Tolu was six years out of college and no closer to working as an engineer, bewildered and nearly broken, her motivation for change came in the form of the 2008 presidential election, which led her to make a difference despite the many limitations. That year,  resolved to focus her energy on changing the lives of others in similar circumstances, Tolu advocated for more effective and humane immigration policies. She began working as a full-time unpaid volunteer and devoted herself completely to advocating for passage of the DREAM Act and broader immigration reform.

Over the years, Tolu's undocumented status has forced her to exist in the gray areas of society. But uncontested are her many contributions to the fight for just and humane immigration policies.

Tolu Olubunmi is a senior policy analyst at the Center for Community Change.


This program has been made possible by the generosity of The Weissberg Foundation.



Photos from November 5


Photos from November 7

Angela Maria Kelley
Angela Maria Kelley

Angela Maria Kelley, NYU's first Weissberg Forum for Discourse in the Public Square's Scholar in Residence is a well-known authority on the policy and the politics of immigration, joined American Progress in 2009 as Vice President for Immigration Policy. As Vice President, Kelley applies her many years of experience in the immigration field to the Center’s immigration policy work. In the years since Kelley’s arrival to American Progress, the organization has published numerous impactful reports and analyses on a range of immigration issues including the economic impact of state anti-immigrant laws, the economic value of immigration reform, the cost of mass deportation, and the integration trends of America’s newcomers. Kelley is widely quoted in the press, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Politico, and makes frequent radio and television appearances, including appearances on PBS, MSNBC, Fox News, and NPR.

Before joining American Progress in 2009, Kelley served as director of the Immigration Policy Center, a research and rapid-response organization providing policymakers, academics, the media, and the general public with access to accurate information about the effects of immigration on the U.S. economy and society. Prior to that Kelley was deputy director at the National Immigration Forum, where she headed its legislative, policy, and communications activities and oversaw its operations. During her service at the Forum, Kelley was a frontline negotiator as Congress debated proposed comprehensive immigration reform legislation. Kelley was also at the forefront of advocacy that secured key legislative victories including the Legal Immigration Family Equity Act, the Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act, and the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act.

Kelley, the daughter of South American immigrants, began her career as an attorney for a legal services agency in Washington, D.C., representing low-income immigrants on immigration and family matters. She is a graduate of The George Washington University Law School and a Georgetown University Law School Women’s Law and Public Policy Fellow.

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