[APPLAUSE] [MUSIC - "STAR-SPANGLED BANNER"]
CHOIR: (SINGING) O' say, can you see, by the dawn's early light, what so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming, whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight, o'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming? And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night that our flag was still there. O' say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
ROSEMARY AVERY: Thank you. Good evening, ladies and gentleman, and welcome to Educate the Vote 2016. For the second time in Cornell's history, we're gathering here as a community to consider the major policy issues facing our nation. The very first such event was held in 2008, Educate the Vote 2008, which was during the election cycle of Barack Obama and John McCain, and we did the same thing. The philosophy around the organization of this event is to bring the Cornell community, primarily students, if you consider this-- many of the students sitting here tonight are voting for the very first time at a presidential election. And the goal of the event tonight is to provide a substantive debate on these issues, well beyond what the media provide for us, in terms of soundbites that we hear.
The two issues that we've chosen as the heart of the debate tonight are immigration policy and incarceration policy. And these two issues then form the central platforms of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. We hope it's going to be a really interesting debate tonight. Our moderator for the debate tonight is Dean of Arts and Sciences, Gretchen Ritter. And we brought together both academics and policy experts to provide an in-depth view of these issues.
For those of you who are not yet registered to vote, we would encourage all of you to visit our the entrance of Bailey Hall to get registered. We have tables out there to do that. And I also welcome all of those who are watching online right now, and we're going to welcome those of you who want to take part in this debate via Twitter, via text message, and via email to submit your questions for the audience.
This event tonight would not have been possible without the very, very generous support of Jennifer [? Cohen-Horowitz ?] Class of '93, and her husband Mark, which I believe are sitting here in the audience. And a long list of participants here at Cornell and sponsors here at Cornell that have made this event possible. Please join me in thanking them for their generous support.
I have the pleasure now of introducing to you our Student Organizer, [? Sam ?] [? Turok, ?] who is a junior in the Policy Analysis and Management Department, and he is going to be telling us more about how you can actively participate in this very important debate. Please welcome [? Sam. ?]
[? SAM TUROK: Good ?] evening. Thank you all for joining us this evening. Tonight we are excited to welcome Marc A. Levin, Karthick Ramakrishnan, Reihan Salam, and Vesla Mae Weaver as our panelists. All four of these individuals have been leaders in their respective policy fields, and we are looking forward to what they will share with us this evening.
Marc Levin is the director of the Center for Effective Justice at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, and Policy Director of the Right On Crime Initiative. Politico Magazine has named him the 25th most influential person in modern politics for his work to reform America's prison population. He has been credited with leading the changes to reduce incarceration rates, and has personally been recognized by former Texas governor and former presidential candidate Rick Perry for his extensive work on the subject.
Karthick Ramakrishnan is a Professor of Public Policy and Political Science at the University of California Riverside. Professor Ramakrishnan's work is focused on immigration and civic participation in America. In addition to holding numerous fellowships, directing research on Asian-American voter participation, he has been featured in over 1,000 news articles.
Reihan Salam is the Executive Editor of The National Review and the National Review Institute Policy Fellow. He's worked for National Affairs Magazine, The Atlantic, Council on Foreign Relations, NBC News, and the Energy Information and Reform Project. Mr. Salam did attend Cornell for some time, but finished his degree at Harvard.
Vesla Mae Weaver is the Associate Professor of African-American Studies and Political Science at Yale University. Professor Weaver has spent years researching race and its relationship to American politics. Most recently, she has begun studying intra-race class inequality in an effort to better understand citizenship and governance.
We want you to ask the questions for tonight's debate, and we have three ways for you to do so. You can email your questions to email@example.com, via Twitter through the hashtag #EducatetheVote, or you can text your questions to the number 22333 after sending "Educate the VO 454". We are excited to welcome all of our panelists to the stage tonight, and we are ready to begin Educate the Vote 2016. Please join me in welcoming our panelists.
GRETCHEN RITTER: Good evening, everyone. It's a great pleasure to be with you here this evening. We have an exciting night ahead of us, with this very distinguished panel, followed by the screening of what some believe may be the most watched presidential debate in history. I'll tell you why I am so pleased to be part of this event. As Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences here at Cornell, I think one of the primary purposes of a liberal arts education is to prepare our graduates to be good citizens.
How do we do that? In two key ways. First, by helping people to be well-informed on key public policy issues. And second, by encouraging our students to be open to the opinions and views of those who may differ from the views that they hold.
This evening's panel models this approach perfectly. The panelists bring deep expertise and a range of political perspectives to the topics of incarceration and immigration, two key issues in this year's presidential debate. After this evening's event, I want to encourage all of you to keep the conversation going, to discuss this panel and the subsequent televised debate among your peers and within your families, and to make a point of listening to and learning from those whose views you might not share.
On that note, let's turn to our panelists for their opening statement. Reihan?
REIHAN SALAM: I just want to make it clear to all of you that the only reason I left Cornell is that I wasn't cool enough.
I think that that's clear. It was a real struggle for me. I had to face facts, that it was just-- it was too tough.
I want to share some numbers with you that will make no sense, and they're totally out of context. The first one is 83%, then 31%, and the last is 4%. These are numbers that come from President Obama's Council of Economic Advisers. And what they did a little while ago is a really interesting and kind of provocative thought experiment. They looked at occupations in the United States and tried to see which of them are going to be most vulnerable to automation in the future, in the coming decades.
And basically, what they did is they divvied up those occupations by the median hourly wage. So for jobs where the median hourly wage was $20 or less, the risk of automation, the Council of Economic Advisers determined, was about 83%. For jobs with an hourly wedge between $20 and $40, it was 31%. For jobs with a median hourly wage above $40 an hour, the risk was 4%.
So basically, you guys, we live in a very stratified society. And when we talk about immigration, we tend to talk a lot about the past, and that's very, very important. We talk about our proud history of welcoming immigrants in large numbers, integrating immigrants, facilitating upward mobility, all of these things.
But what I want to suggest to you is that, while the past is enormously important, we really need to think about the ways that the world is changing. Between now and 2060, about 2.5 billion people around the world are going to be moving to opportunity, to cities around the world. When you're looking at the patterns of population growth, you're seeing really, really big changes. The number of people who are going to want to migrate is really going to surge, because the number of people living in countries where the propensity to migrate is going to increase is just an increase quite dramatically, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, but not just there.
So when we're thinking about this big global picture, and then when we're thinking about the national picture, what I want to suggest is that when we think about that stratification domestically, and when we think about that global picture as well, we need to think beyond our past. We need to get beyond maybe some wishful thinking about how great America is, and American exceptionalism, and we're amazing, we're so much better than the Europeans at doing this or that! And thinking more, gosh, we have some very big challenges with second-generation Americans. For example, like myself.
When you're looking at the second-generation population of Americans, these are folks who have very different lives depending on the skill sets of their parents. This is not because people like you guys, who are going to have college educations, and maybe you'll have graduate educations, are better people. Absolutely not. It's that when you're looking at affluent market democracies, it happens that the deck is stacked in all kinds of ways against people with limited skills, in terms of navigating these labor markets and what have you.
And it also is the case that in this country, we have a long history of racial exclusion, racial discrimination, that has meant that we have a big population of people-- African-Americans, American Indians, some people who are second-generation-plus Mexican-Americans, and many others-- with whom we have not invested enough in their upward mobility and in their success. So when you're thinking about the fiscal impact of migration, you've got to think about, well, wait a second-- given this climate of change, we might have to substantially increase investment. And if you're going to facilitate upward mobility for everyone, I would argue you have to think really hard about how maybe the immigration policy of the future needs to be different from the immigration policy of the past.
GRETCHEN RITTER: Thank you.
REIHAN SALAM: Thanks very much.
KARTHICK RAMAKRISHNAN: Thank you for having me here. I'm just going to be very efficient in the time that we have. We have three minutes. I almost thought there was going to be like a Bernie Sanders speech there for a second, about how younger generations are going to be screwed because of-- well, the system is rigged, right?
And it's an interesting kind of bait-and-switch that somehow immigration is the one that is the likely cause for whatever anxiety you might have in the future. Just looking at the present. It's very difficult to project into the future.
National Academies of Sciences just came out with a report. I was part of an earlier panel with Professor Lichter-- I don't know if he's in the room here-- that looked at the social integration of immigrants. The most recent report looked at the fiscal and economic impact of immigrants.
George Borjas was one of the minority voices in that report, and he raised alarm about the depressing effects of immigration on wages. And the studies that were cited in that report showed the most significant effect that can be isolated to people with less than a high school education, or just a high school education, was somewhere in the range of 2% to 3%. That was the maximum. I think is actually below 2%.
2% of a wage decline attributed to immigration, as opposed to, say, the decline of labor unions, right? The kind of massive concentration of wealth that really is-- I wish that we were having a debate between a kind of economic populism that is rooted in reality and evidence, as opposed to one that is rooted in symbolic politics. I should know. We just came out with a book, and I'm going to make a plug for it, called Framing Immigrants.
What that shows you is that immigration, whenever it goes up in public opinion-- it used to be that immigration became a higher priority issue in Gallup surveys when the economy went down. Well, in 2008, immigration did not spike in importance when the economy went down. There were other people who were held responsible for our economic circumstances, and rightly so. But when immigration does spike up is when Congress debates it, when Arizona passed its SB1070 law. Immigration, in terms of public opinion, is entirely politically driven-- OK, I shouldn't say entirely-- almost entirely politically driven, in terms of public opinion.
And in many ways, Trump is good for business for me. Because essentially, when we started making this case back in 2007, saying that the kind of laws that Arizona was passing-- and that's in another book, The New Immigration Federalism-- we said that all this talk about how immigrants are somehow bringing crime, bringing all these undesirable things in, there's actually no evidence for that. But it was fear mongerers, people like Lou Dobbs, people like Tom Tancredo. And what they did was they mobilized within the Republican Party to really take over the Republican Party.
The immigration conservatives within the Republican Party were a precursor to the Tea Party. You saw this way back in 2001, when Tom Tancredo was one of the few Republicans who was going on the record to oppose George W. Bush on immigration reform. And now we're seeing the culmination of that with Donald Trump as a candidate. He knows how immigration plays politically within the party.
What he's offering are solutions to a problem that might have existed 20 years ago. We have net negative migration from Mexico. And yet what we're talking about with immigration is trying to build a wall with Mexico. We need to move beyond symbolic politics and, in many ways, a very false impression of what our immigration challenges are today.
GRETCHEN RITTER: Thank you.
MARC A. LEVIN: Well, thank you. Let me just first say although I'm from Texas, my cousin graduated from Cornell, and I attended her wedding at the Johnson Art Museum, so it's good to be back. And it's not 95 degrees like it is in Austin, so thank you for having me. I will tell you that I think it's really important to understand-- and many of you are probably studying history here-- the history of this issue of incarceration in the United States.
And up until the mid-'70s, we had roughly the same rate of incarceration as Western Europe. And then we had approximately a six-fold increase from the mid-'70s to the mid-2000s in our incarceration rate. And as many of you know, of course, we have 25% of the world's prisoners, but only 5% of the world's population in the United States. And our argument is, essentially, we overshot. We went too far.
And part of it was a reaction to the culture of the '60s-- the idea of it feels good, do it. This permissive attitude. And the public, and particularly conservatives, but not entirely conservatives, reacted against that. And of course, in the '80s, some of the people that built the most prisons were the late governor Mario Cuomo and Michael Dukakis, but all the Republican governors did, too. And no one wanted to be seen as soft on crime. You had many other factors-- the war on drugs, certainly-- pushing incarceration rates up.
But I think one of the other things that's often overlooked is that we've learned a great deal in knowledge, and we've seen tremendous progress in medicine and technology. So for example, now you have non-narcotic treatments for heroin addiction and opiates, where you could actually take something that blocks the receptors in the brain that get feedback from both opiates, as well as alcoholism. But you also have risk and needs assessments, actuarial instruments to predict the risk that someone might re-offend, and can match the right program with the right offender.
You have electronic monitoring. You have drug courts. So we've seen this growth in alternatives to incarceration that has also influenced the discussion.
So I started on this issue back in 2005, with the Texas Public Policy Foundation, the free market think-tank in Texas. And at that time, Texas, like all the other states, had been on this incarceration boom of endless prison building. And we started to look at it and say, what else could we do?
We had tremendous success in Texas with the Justice Reinvestment effort in 2007, where instead of building 17,000 prison beds that were projected to be needed, instead we expanded drug courts, mental health treatment, other alternatives to incarceration, particularly for nonviolent offenders. And since then, our crime rate is down 29%, while our incarceration rate is down 14%. And that helped generate interest in other states, particularly among conservative governors, because people said, look, Texas is the leader in executions, they're not soft on crime, but they're showing how you can really think outside the cell.
And I think at the end of the day, what we found is most people want incarceration to be reserved for those we're afraid of, not those we're simply mad at. And that's why you've see now over 30 states go through Justice Reinvestment. And a lot of it has been the rethinking of the issue among conservatives.
And we have a Right On Crime statement of principles that's been signed by Newt Gingrich, Grover Norquist, Jeb Bush, a host of other conservative leaders, that sets forth how we should think about this issue from the standpoint of limited government, the least restrictive alternative necessary for public safety, restitution for victims of crime, getting people back into the workforce instead of-- we had a conservative senator named Phil Graham who said, with regard to welfare, we need more people pulling the wagon and fewer people riding in it. Well, you could say the same thing about people in prison, and people who are out of the workforce because of a criminal record. So I am really proud of what we've accomplished-- not just us, but a whole host of people and organizations working on criminal justice reform across the spectrum. But we have a lot of work left to do that I think we'll talk about tonight.
GRETCHEN RITTER: Thank you, Marc.
VESLA MAE WEAVER: I'm in the mind to talk about Charlotte, so I hope you'll permit me. Today, for the first time in my lifetime, in this era, the nation stands poised to rethink our course, and to shift course in the decades-long prison expansion that we've witnessed. Many have celebrated the start of a new era that will undo the damage of the last. Our system was judged unfair, ineffective, but mostly just too expensive.
Half a century ago, we sat where we now stand. Then, as now, ambitious technocrats and policymakers spoke of creating a better, more professionalized criminal justice system. Then it was crime in the streets and urban revolts that necessitated policy action. Today it is the fiscal health of the states who can no longer afford it, and the scars of a generation.
Then, as now, cities burned from police violence. The black community even had a name for this. It was called white cop black death syndrome. Ambitious policymakers called for law and order, freedom from violence and fear, and that blacks pushed too hard, too fast in agitating for justice. Watts, Harlem, Rochester in 1964 and 1965, Ferguson, Baltimore, Charlotte today. Then, as now, we were told to dismantle our rage, to stop coming undone, to behave, to be supplicants, to show personal responsibility, that when we protested violence by police, it was us who were behaving violently.
Then, as now, policymakers stood ready to infuse billions of dollars-- and they did-- into a system in need of major adjustment. Money that would soak up the resources that would have actually improved the lives of poor and vulnerable communities. Then, as now, a political consensus had emerged-- right and left together as one. Then, as now, statistics bolstered their vision. Disparate black arrests and police stops could be explained by controlling for criminality. Then, as now, black-on-black crime reared up to slay claims of racial justice.
Justice involvement was a matter of choices made, not burdens inherited. Then, as now, well-intentioned whites wavered in their boots. Civil rights, yes. But mollycoddling criminals and looting protesters, no. Then, as now, the black communities who stood at the brink of all of the harms of an unreconstructed democracy, they knew to be afraid that instead of building safeguards and Miranda rights, we were quietly constructing one of the most incredible uses of state power the world has ever seen. From Du Bois to Kenneth Clark and Ethel Payne, they spoke out.
George Jackson and Soledad Brother wrote in 1970, just as the prison boom was beginning in earnest, he wrote, "Black men born in the United States unfortunate enough to live past the age of 18 are conditioned to accept the inevitability of the prison. For most of us, it simply looms as the next phase in a sequence of humiliations."
Malcolm X spoke about black men living in a police state. He doesn't live in any democracy. Then, as now, blacks argued that their voices should be central to reform. They were ignored. The reason I pause at that moment half a century ago is that it gave us the policy failures we now purport to fix, the broken windows policing, a prison population that dwarfs most cities, a parole and probation system that dwarfs the prison.
I recall that earlier moment to remind us of this-- the prison system was not the result of happenstance, nor are its inhabitants the randomly unlucky. It was the result of dozens of explicit policy choices visited on the most vulnerable American citizens and communities that had only just pulled off the yoke of Jim Crow, the communities that had the most crime because they were the chief victims of the American dream's spoiled fruit, the lead-poisoned water, the failed schools, the joblessness.
Then, as now, many criminologists predicted the end of the penitentiary. This history is a caution as much as a guide. Why was it more politically feasible to build the largest and most expansive, expensive penal system in the world's history than guarantee minimal levels of material security to black and brown citizens in urban cores?
Then as now, what is needed is not piecemeal reform or even decarceration. We can trim back the prison population until the cows come home. It will do little to address the structural violence or ensure the well-being of our communities until we have place-based investments and a true urban reconstruction. Our children will be destined to rehearse this very conversation we're having here. #SayHerName, Our Lives Matter, and no justice, no peace. Thank you.
GRETCHEN RITTER: So I see we're in for an interesting conversation this evening. I'm going to start with a few questions, and we'll be turning to some of your questions a little bit later.
So let me start with a question about the incarceration debate. According to the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, which is here at Cornell, a recent poll found that 77% of black voters believe that police officers are more likely to use excessive force if a culprit is black, while only 25% of whites thought so. How do we implement changes in the justice system when Americans themselves are so at odds in their perception of the problem?
VESLA MAE WEAVER: Uh-huh. Please.
MARC LEVIN: Oh, OK. Well, I mean, actually, there's this Harvard study that came out recently. And of course, there's a variety of studies. But that particular study found, on the issue of excessive force, it was very clear that it was-- all things being equal-- more likely to be used against African-Americans. It didn't find that as far as deadly force. But, of course, there's a much smaller sample size. Because thankfully, even as many of these shootings as we see, it's still relatively rare.
But I think the reality is, there is a problem. And you can look at not all of the victims of officer-involved shootings are African-American, but certainly roughly 40% are. But even if it was 35% or it's 45% or 50%, we all want to minimize those shootings.
Now you have to look at the specific circumstances of, obviously, each one as to whether they're justified or not. But most certainly, even whether it's technically legally justified, whether the officer is convicted or not. Regardless, we ought to be emphasizing de-escalation training among police officers so they know all the different alternatives that they have, which can include, obviously, a Taser, which is not to be used lightly itself. But there are many ways for officers to address these situations.
But I would say, we have to start from the very beginning, which is minimizing unnecessary contacts between police and law enforcement. So in Ferguson, for example, there were an average of three warrants per household. Indeed, one woman had a warrant for an overgrown lawn. Most of these warrants are traffic warrants and city code violations, like the overgrown lawn. Many things which should not be crimes to begin with.
Or if they are crimes, they should be cleared up for people who are unable to pay. Perform community service instead of running up a fine and therefore that you can't pay and getting a warrant for an overgrown lawn or a traffic violation.
So we ought to first start out by greatly minimizing the number of potentially adversarial interactions between police and law enforcement. And then secondly, there is some really great work around, if you look at David Kennedy's Operation Ceasefire, where you have these call-ins where they bring in gang members, bring in the whole community, bring in ministers and mothers and grandmothers and really give people a positive path away. They have opportunities for job placement and so forth. And they have been able to get 80% of the participants to desist from involvement in gangs. So those are the kinds of things we need to be doing.
GRETCHEN RITTER: OK. Vesla?
VESLA MAE WEAVER: Thanks. It's a great question. One of the most cavernous gaps in public opinion is the gap in one's perceptions of the justice system. And this is not new to the [? pule ?] poll. You could go back to the Rodney King era. OJ. You could go back to issues over mandatory minimum sentences.
And time and time again, whites tend to see the system as rooted in individual failures and sort of dispositional criminality. Blacks tend to see the system as rooted in injustice and in structural inequalities.
And there's a ton of experimental research that shows that, when you show people an image, a fictional news story of crime, they actually, those that never saw any perpetrator at all, misremember seeing a black man. And that kind of attribution error happens because there is such a strong and invidious link in the national imagination, I would suggest, that blacks are more inherently criminal. They're more suspicious.
There's even studies that show that the darkness of one's skin color is linked to how criminally inclined they are viewed. I don't have the answer of how you bridge that gap. Where I am optimistic is in your generation, because your generation has begun to show some convergence in ideas about justice.
So when you think about things like the studies that have looked at how people view incidents of police violence against blacks, people see the exact same information and interpret it in very, very different ways. Your generation is doing less of that. Your generation, on polls, is saying, yes, there needs to be racial justice and racial equity and fairness in our deployment of arrest and stop and confinement. So it's a good question. Thank you.
MARC LEVIN: OK. Thank you.
GRETCHEN RITTER: Turning to immigration.
KARTHICK RAMAKRISHNAN: I was going to say, add something on that. Can I have five seconds?
GRETCHEN RITTER: You can have five seconds.
KARTHICK RAMAKRISHNAN: I mean, there's also these experimental studies with police training in which--
VESLA MAE WEAVER: Shooter studies.
KARTHICK RAMAKRISHNAN: --it's either holding a can of Coke or a gun, and they're more likely to misperceive it. And these are life and death calculations that they make all the time. So to some extent, I think there is actually a truth here. It's not just about perceptions. I think African-Americans, because of their greater interactions with law enforcement, are perceiving-- I think we can say they're perceiving the truth more.
VESLA MAE WEAVER: Young black men are actually perceived as older, several years older than they actually are in those kinds of decisions, yeah.
GRETCHEN RITTER: Turning to immigration. So you've already mentioned the study that was just released last week by the National Academy of Sciences, which showed that immigration to the US has little overall negative impact on wages or employment for native-born Americans, but does have an overall positive impact on lowering the cost of many goods and services and on economic growth overall. For highly skilled immigrants, those who enter on an H-1B visa, the wage impact on native-born workers is also largely positive.
At the fiscal level, the study shows that immigration is costly to state and local governments. But at the federal level, there is a neutral or positive fiscal impact. So given this overall portrait, why do you think that immigration is such a hot-button issue in this election? And what does public opinion tell us about what Americans do or don't know about the current state of immigration in the US?
REIHAN SALAM: Is that for me?
GRETCHEN RITTER: Yeah.
REIHAN SALAM: Got it. So number one, it's actually really important to keep in mind that, when you're talking about the fiscal impact of immigration, you actually need to make a bunch of assumptions about what's going on. So, for example, the numbers that were just cited, it makes a big difference if you're talking about the average cost of providing public goods, or if you're talking about the marginal cost of providing public goods.
Similarly, when you're looking at long-term-- and even by long term, I could even mean five or 10 years-- you're looking at what is going to be the fiscal trajectory of the country over a long period of time. So, for example, in 1997, the same National Academy of Sciences had a report on the fiscal impact of immigration. And in making that report, they assumed that by the year 2016, which back then was way far in the future, they believed that we would immediately solve all of our fiscal imbalances. That is, we would either raise taxes dramatically so that there was no longer a shortfall in Social Security or Medicare, or we would cut all benefits so that there was no longer a shortfall in either program.
Now I don't know if you guys read the paper, but that actually did not happen in 2016. So when you actually relax some of those assumptions, you see a pretty different picture.
Similarly, when you're looking at the wage picture, even some of the people who are the most enthusiastic about the wage impact of immigration will acknowledge that people who are similar to immigrants will tend to be-- OK, when we're looking at the larger immigration surplus, the canonical model that everyone-- people pro and anti-- everyone is using, the surplus is in the neighborhood $50 billion in an economy that is quite a bit bigger than that. That's about 0.3% of the total economy. That's the surplus to the native population.
But the tricky thing is that that sounds like a small number, but it actually has-- there's actually another thing going on, which is that who benefits and who is challenged. And when you're looking at that, you're seeing about a transfer of wealth on the order of about half a trillion dollars from people who are the consumers of services provided by immigrants and also the firms, the companies, that are employing immigrants.
And then you have other folks. Right now the United States has a population that's about 14% foreign born, close to it. And also, our labor force is more than that. It's about 16% foreign born.
So Giovanni Peri, a terrific economist who is widely cited by pro-immigration folks, finds that, on average, if you're looking at previous immigrants, their wages go down by about 9%. And if you're looking at discrete categories of immigrants, that's going to be different too.
Because when you're looking at immigrants overall, the thing is that immigrants are not just one big mass. If I'm an immigrant from South Korea who is a working class guy, then I'm going to be very different than an immigrant from Nigeria who has a PhD and is very highly skilled and actually has different access to different social networks. So the thing is, when you're looking at all of these numbers, you've got to understand that you're aggregating a lot of big, different groups of people, number one. And number two, you're making a lot of assumptions that sometimes are made explicit and sometimes are glossed over in terms of how we report these things.
So again, whether or not you take one side of this debate or another side of this debate, I would encourage all of you to think really hard about the assumptions that are going into these numbers. Now there's more to say to your question but--
GRETCHEN RITTER: Yes.
REIHAN SALAM: --my time is up.
GRETCHEN RITTER: Among other things, I think you've just illustrated really well why this is a very nuanced topic. And that's not a lot of what we're hearing, it would seem to me, in the public debate.
REIHAN SALAM: And I'm very happy to talk about some of the larger public opinion aspects, but yeah, wanted to clarify.
KARTHICK RAMAKRISHNAN: So I would say that on immigration there absolutely is miscalculation when people produce policy. But thank goodness for miscalculation. Because people calculated in 1965 that, by preferring family unification, that we'd have more Europeans coming here. They did not expect me to be here, any of you. They did not. You were not supposed to be here, right? That was not what was anticipated in the 1965 [? law. ?]
And many people would have thought, thinking ahead with this massive wave of decolonization and the population explosion that was going to happen, that the US would be drowning with immigration and would not survive. Look at what has happened in the US versus Europe, versus Japan. Our Social Security system is viable now and into the future because of immigration.
And that includes low-skill immigration. That's so important to say. If you look at public opinion data, there's some data by colleagues of ours, of Vesla and mine, [? Heinz ?] [? Miller ?] and Hopkins who say that, well, people aren't racist. They just want high-skilled immigrants.
OK. I guess everyone wants a doctor. Is that good for our economy? I'm not sure. I'm not sure how many crops get picked by doctors. Right? I'm not sure how many toilets get cleaned by doctors.
So it's so important when we think about the economic impact of immigrants that it's not just high-skilled labor. We need to think about the needs of our economy. And we need to look at other countries like Canada. When they have their immigration policies put into place, they take into account all of its economic needs. And insulated from the political process that we somehow don't seem to be able to do here as well.
Finally, I'll just say in terms of the fiscal costs of immigrants. Maybe we should allow states and localities not to allow people that are going to present an immediate fiscal drain on state and local coffers. I'll admit to having done that six years ago and nine years ago.
We had kids, right? Why is it so different when we think about the children that we ourselves bring and to think that is this marvelous gift and somehow that those children will be essential to the long-term economic sustenance of our country but think differently about immigrants? I think the answer is fairly obvious. You can see what happened in California about 40 years ago and even about 20 years ago.
California used to have a very generous system of financing for schools when the children were white. Once you saw this demographic gap between who the taxpayers were and who the children were, California became less generous. I think we need to militate against that kind of selective welfare state policy and to really own up to the kind of racial prejudice that lurks beneath.
GRETCHEN RITTER: Did you have a very quick--
REIHAN SALAM: So unfortunately, there are a lot of things Karthick has just said that I think merit some response. But I'll just focus on one--
GRETCHEN RITTER: But very quick. Very, very quick.
REIHAN SALAM: And one big issue is talking about doctors versus folks who do more working class jobs. And what I want to suggest to you is that what really matters is who has power in our society.
So there are three countries in the OECD where immigration has tended to reduce domestic inequality rather than increase it. Those countries are Canada, Australia, and Switzerland. Those are also countries where the average skill level of the immigrant influx has been comparable to that of the native population.
But when you look at other countries, it's kind of interesting because, when you are more powerful, when you're a more affluent professional, you can say, well, gosh, I don't want more doctors competing with me. What you can say is that I'm going to restrict foreign qualifications from being eligible. So it basically shields certain kinds of people from competition.
And what we find in our country is that people in, let's say, the top third of the income distribution tend to have much, much more influence and power than other people. So the thing is, remember before I talked about that half a trillion dollars' worth in shift in resources domestically? The consumers of services that are expensive provided by skilled professionals, in a way, those consumers, which is everybody. I mean, everyone has to go to a doctor every now and again. They would benefit from having lower wages for doctors.
GRETCHEN RITTER: And we're going to leave it on that point--
REIHAN SALAM: They--
GRETCHEN RITTER: --and turn back--
REIHAN SALAM: --compete with less skilled workers.
GRETCHEN RITTER: --to incarceration. Thank you.
REIHAN SALAM: Think about power.
GRETCHEN RITTER: We should always think about that. Good. So we're going to go back to incarceration for a minute. OK, so here's your big chance. If you were offering advice to one of the presidential candidates, what is the most significant policy change you would recommend to end mass incarceration? And how would you know if the change was a success?
MARC LEVIN: Well--
VESLA MAE WEAVER: I want to see what you have to say.
MARC LEVIN: --I'll take issue with it two ways, is the question, because, really, most of the work that needs to be done is at the state and local level. So as often is the case, perhaps the best thing the feds could do is stay out of it.
One of the ways we got into this whole mess was the federal government, in the '94 crime bill, essentially bribed states to build more prisons. They paid billions of dollars, the feds did, and in exchange, states had to adopt so-called truth in sentencing laws, where everyone has to serve 80% or 90% of their sentence.
Now there is some really good pending legislation in Congress on criminal justice reform that I hope will move forward in the lame duck session dealing with expanding the safety valve for mandatory minimums relating to drug offenses, for example. But our focus, although we're working on those issues is-- and I met with Speaker Ryan a couple weeks ago. I can tell you he's very committed to it.
But our focus really continues to be on the state and local level. 90% of the people that are incarcerated are at the state and local level. And unlike the feds, these jurisdictions have to balance their budgets. And so it's not an excuse just to sit around and not do anything about it.
But the two policy changes that I think are most critical is, first of all, in the area of drug policy, to not really have people going to prison for possessing small amounts of drugs. And so particularly in the states with high incarceration, even though we've reduced it in Texas. We've closed several prisons. We still have 17,000 people in prison for drug possession. These are people that could be in drug courts and other approaches.
And then secondly, which is more overlooked, is the issue of people on supervision who are revoked to prison. So nationally, half the people going into prison are on probation or parole. Now of that group, half of them are going back because they committed a new offense. Or in the case of people on probation, they're not going back but they're going to prison because they committed another offense.
But the other half is people going to prison because they committed technical violations while on probation or parole, which can include missing a meeting, testing positive for drugs, going out of the county without permission, of course, even drinking alcohol. If you're on probation in Texas, even if it's for shoplifting, you have no issue of alcoholism, you can't have a glass of beer with your dinner. Now no one can really enforce that. You have 120 probationers for every officer. But if you get a probation officer who doesn't like you, you might be out of luck.
So simply by, if you look at Washington State, for example, they don't revoke people to prison for technical violations of supervision. If you're not showing up to your appointments with a probation officer, you can go to county jail that weekend, spend the weekend in jail. All the research is showing it's the swiftness and certainty of the sanction, not the duration, that changes behavior.
And by the way, even more impactful in changing behavior is positive incentives. So you could earn time off your term of probation by exemplary performance, by getting a vocational certificate, all of these positive incentives. So I think that's what we need to do.
VESLA MAE WEAVER: Great.
GRETCHEN RITTER: Question.
VESLA MAE WEAVER: I want to add to that. Attorney General Loretta Lynch recently said that one of the first, as many black thinkers before her did, from James Baldwin to Kelly Miller to others, that in communities like Ferguson, oftentimes a young urban black youth's first contact with the state was with a police officer. In the position to be arrested or frisked or thrown up against a cop car, which is troubling in a democracy.
And I would say that changing that basic fact needs to be priority number one. Once that is done, I would say three other things need to change.
The first is get the money out of the system. The second is end the low-level fees and legal financial obligations that keep people mired in poverty. And the third is urban reinvestment. So I'll talk briefly about each of those.
Get the money out. What do I mean by that? Oftentimes reformers are saying, all we need is incentives, monetary incentives, to draw down our incarceration rates and move them to parole, move them to local jails, move them to probation. I say, one of the reasons we got into this pickle is that a little-known agency called the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration poured the equivalent of $28 billion, in today's money, into the justice system, allowing states and localities to virtually remake their criminal justice systems overnight.
What happens when you give people a special coupon and then you tell them that categorical priorities require that they keep investing after their initiative has ended? You get what we got over the past five decades, a massive investment in the infrastructure of criminal justice.
What we need today is to end the federal grants to states and localities for justice functions. And you will immediately see a drawing down once states no longer have the federal government's coupon.
Relatedly, end the fee system. You mentioned Ferguson, where people had enormous fees, we later found out, for things like failure to appear in court, cursing in public, open container violation type stuff. The average man exits the prison system with an average of $17,000 in debt from victim restitution, court fines and fees, even-- this is my favorite-- inmate room and board, where they are actually paying for their own confinement. It's the equivalent of a debtors prison, and we need to end that practice.
And then finally, nearly every treatise on urban racial inequality from the Moynihan Report to the Kerner Commission to the Harlem Children's Zone Original Business Plan called for community place-based solutions, investing in places and taking seriously the importance of neighborhoods and concentrated poverty in addressing unequal distributions of poverty and power. And I would suggest to you again-- I'm out of time-- that what dogs me, what keeps me up in the middle of the night, is that we can decarcerate, we can trim back, pare away at the system that we've built, and that's good. But until we fundamentally solve the unequal distributions of resources and power in the neighborhoods that are sending their men and women to prison, we will not ultimately remake the conditions and the root causes that are driving the system.
GRETCHEN RITTER: Thank you.
So now we're going to turn to some of your questions. And someone is magically going to appear with the questions, I think. Yes? No? Maybe? Do we hear-- yes. Here we go.
MARC LEVIN: Ah.
STAFF: Just to let it go dark.
GRETCHEN RITTER: OK. All right. So this is a question from Thomas, who is a sophomore from Arts and Sciences. And the question is, with the Obama administration's recent decision to end, quote, "for-profit," quote, prisons, how is this expected to impact incarceration rates? And is this a policy we can expect to see continued no matter who is elected president?
MARC LEVIN: Well, I think the interesting thing is, I don't think the research has shown there's much connection between for-profit prisons and incarceration, although certainly there are some practices that are of major concern. For example, one for-profit prison company sent a letter to various states saying they wanted to buy their prisons from them. And they would require an occupancy guarantee of, like, 90%. And I know Hilton and Marriott would like an occupancy guarantee as well whenever the government is ready to provide that.
I think the reality, though, is you've had prison guard unions, for example, in New York and California and Michigan. They've been a constituency for higher incarceration fighting for three strikes laws in some states. And you can argue private prisons, because they're not unionized, kind of offset that power. So I think it may well be a wash.
There's probably a way to do private prisons differently than we have done. I mean, one of the biggest problems with them is it's kind of a race to the bottom as far as what's the lowest daily rates you can provide without any reference to reducing recidivism. Theoretically, you could encourage innovation and developing programs that reduce recidivism if you were to pay partly for performance.
There's experiments in Great Britain now where a particular nonprofit is responsible for a particular offender through the whole system, through incarceration, re-entry, and so forth. And they're only paid to the extent they reduce recidivism. It's a portfolio management approach to this, which I think is quite noteworthy.
But I think at this point, what we really need to do is be thinking about totally new approaches that don't involve incarcerating people whatsoever, whether in a government-run or private prison. And there's a lot of good models for doing that. And so I don't know what will happen regarding who the next president is and their administration, whether the policy on private prisons will change. Certainly there's many states that will continue to use them.
But our focus has really been moving beyond just simply putting people behind bars and warehousing them. But instead, what can we do-- particularly for nonviolent offenders within the community-- to hold them accountable but to get them into the right treatment programs and get them into the workforce.
VESLA MAE WEAVER: I actually-- we're agreeing on most everything, and we do agree on most everything. I think--
GRETCHEN RITTER: So we'll ask an immigration question.
VESLA MAE WEAVER: Yeah. And I would say that most people-- this was a bold move by the Obama administration. I think it was utterly necessary. But Marc's right. The for-profit prisons are really a very, very small percentage of all of the prisoners in the US, right? They're just a small corner of a much larger problem. We think about the prison-industrial complex, and really private prisons are a small aspect.
What is not a small aspect is the amazing industries that have grown up around government prisons, right? So everything, when you think about what is provided in a prison, everything from the guards' uniforms to the health care, the dental care, the commissary, everything, food. Some of the biggest industries surrounding the prison. Sodexo. I mean, there's a whole lot of companies that are profiting off of the confinement of American citizens.
And so I think more needs to be done to undermine that relationship. One of my colleagues who is here at Cornell, Mary Katzenstein, has written a fabulous piece on this, on just how deep this situation goes. And often what she's finding is the people that end having to pay for men's fees and commissary and the right to call their loved ones and their video visitation and all of the industries around that are the loved ones, the mothers and aunties and sisters of the men that are incarcerated. And they end up, she argues-- you should take a class with her since you're here-- end up seizing, it's the state coming in and seizing, in a retrograde welfare state, the only financial resources that poor women have. And that's an aspect of our prison system that we don't talk about enough, in my opinion.
GRETCHEN RITTER: So our next question is from Paul, who is also a freshman in Arts and Sciences. In the last five years, illegal immigration from Mexico has drastically slowed down. There are more people going back to Mexico than coming over. For those who continue to support a hard line against immigration, why has the focus been on strengthening borders instead of going after the corporations that hire illegal employees?
REIHAN SALAM: I'd be delighted to take that one. So remember earlier on, I didn't realize that it was a premonition on my part talking about who has the power. So when you talk about an immigration enforcement policy that is exclusively focused on targeting unauthorized immigrants, the trouble is, you miss the fact that, gosh, there are a lot of employers involved, right? When you think about these numbers of who it benefits from lower consumer prices, who benefits from having workers who are in the shadows, who are exploited, who cannot organize, who can't engage in collective bargaining, who also are, in many cases, actually afraid to go to the authorities to say that I'm working in substandard conditions. Who benefits from that?
When you're looking at how employers are treated, look, think about it. There are many employers, many upper-middle-income professionals, affluent upper-middle-income professionals who decide, well, I'm just going to pay my workers off the books. I'm not going to go through the formal process because, again, why not do that?
And these are not people who are ever incarcerated for this. They are not fined, as a general rule. It's very rare that there's any enforcement of this at all.
So when you think about the labor market, you've really got to think about, what is the legal foundation? And when you're looking at employers who hire unauthorized immigrant labor, in many cases these are employers who also flout other laws as well. Minimum wage laws, occupational safety and health requirements, and many, many other things.
And there have been efforts. For example, in 1986, there was an effort to strengthen employer sanctions. That was ultimately a mixed bag because there was not a lot of willpower to actually take on employers. This is something that I think is a very profound issue. And the truth is that there are many different perspectives on immigration, one of which is simply you could say exclusionist. I believe that immigrants are inferior people. They're bad. They're unworthy, et cetera.
Another perspective, however, is what you might call an egalitarian perspective. The idea that we want all workers in our society to be free citizen workers. People who have equal dignity, who have the right to labor market protections and much else.
But then the issue is that the people who are the problem in that equation are actually the employers, including the wealthy people who cut corners and who never get punished for it. Whereas when you're looking at unauthorized immigrant workers, these are people who bear the burden of punishment. And I would suggest that that is very seriously unjust.
KARTHICK RAMAKRISHNAN: So maybe there's some of that is rubbing off on here, because I don't have much to disagree there. Although I think-- I don't know what you do with someone like Donald Trump, who hired contractors that hired undocumented immigrants to work on it. And somehow, in a very ironic way, are able to deflect what might be the ultimate cause of some of these problems.
On the part about undocumented immigrants, illegal immigrants from Mexico slowing down. Yes, migration from Mexico's slowed down. It's because of a steep decline in fertility. I was just talking with one of your professors who's done work looking at this US-Mexican migration phenomenon over the last 50 years. And I asked her, I mean, is this-- some demographers have been saying that you're probably not going to get any more mass migration from Mexico. And from the evidence that she's seen, she backed it up and she said it's just not going to happen. That you just don't have the same kind of population pressures as you did before.
So why are we talking about this? Well, Donald Trump needed to win some primaries. That's why we're talking about this, right? So we're talking about immigration. It's almost like something that had to be invented so you can win over these evangelical voters that would never have voted for someone who's not quite strong among the religious right. But he didn't win Iowa, but he came close enough. But how do you win South Carolina?
GRETCHEN RITTER: Is it evangelical voters-- I'm just reading JD Vance's book, Hillbilly Elegy. Is it people who've been left behind by some of the economic transitions and feel as if what is happening to them is not something we're paying attention to?
KARTHICK RAMAKRISHNAN: Right. But it has nothing to do with immigration. That's the beauty of it. Well, in fact, there's been an analysis-- I'm still on my time, right?-- so there's an analysis-- trying to be very efficient here. There's an analysis of the Brexit vote which showed, you can see it on the Monkey Cage blog, which is a political scientist blog, that the greatest support for Brexit was not the places where immigrants went and competed with the native born. It was the places where factories shut down and had gone to China. Right?
So we need to be very clear about who is suffering economically. And it's not because of immigrants moving into those places. So if we look at problems, especially of a downwardly mobile middle-aged white working class, it's mostly due, again, to decisions by capitalists, right, to relocate their factories elsewhere. I love the idea of holding these capitalists accountable. I love it. Let's do it.
REIHAN SALAM: Just briefly. If you're looking at the British situation, I'm happy to talk to anyone who wants to talk to you afterwards about the immigration dynamics there. I don't believe that Karthick has given you the full picture, but fair enough.
So with regard to the net migration question, one of the tricky things about what the Pew Research Center has done is that they're actually looking at households. And in many of those households, you're actually looking at US citizens who are in those households too. So when you're looking at those numbers, you have some ambiguity about whether or not the net migration rate really has changed.
The other thing is that Jorge Castaneda, the former Mexican foreign minister and a great advocate of increasing immigration to the United States and regularizing the status of unauthorized immigrants, has himself said that, when you look at the surge in remittances in recent years, it's in fact very unlikely that we've seen a net decline. But again, these are some questions about when you get under the hood, you dig into these numbers, you see some different patterns.
Also, Mexico is actually not just a source of Mexican migrants. So when you're looking at the global picture, Mexico is a middle-income country. It's a member of the OECD. But if you're looking at many of the migrants who are coming through Mexico, many of them--
For example, there's been a recent surge in Indian unauthorized immigrants. This is actually the biggest growth among unauthorized immigrant populations. If you're looking at folks who are coming from Central America, Mexico's very interesting policies relating to this.
So the thing is that, when you're looking at border enforcement, it's actually about more than demographic change in Mexico and the Mexican population itself. It's also about larger questions as well, also relating to visa overstayers. That's another big component of the immigration enforcement challenge. So again, on a number of different levels, some of what we've heard about net Mexican migration looks a little bit different when you go under the hood.
GRETCHEN RITTER: OK. I've promised him five seconds.
KARTHICK RAMAKRISHNAN: Just quickly on the apparent surge in Indian unauthorized. I was speaking to another faculty colleague of yours. Matthew Hall is in the audience. And we're maybe going to do some research to try to figure out where they got these numbers from. Because it's using particular data sets that made sense with one purpose and trying to use it for something else. And it might not make sense.
REIHAN SALAM: That's a great point. We have--
GRETCHEN RITTER: OK, OK.
REIHAN SALAM: --very bad data--
GRETCHEN RITTER: Enough. Enough.
REIHAN SALAM: Our data is very bad.
GRETCHEN RITTER: We're turning back to another question.
REIHAN SALAM: And we're giving them confident pronouncements.
GRETCHEN RITTER: Here this question is from Nancy, an alum, '73 and '90, Human Service Studies. And the question is, what early childhood development policies and programs have been shown to affect or interrupt the cradle-to-prison pipeline?
MARC LEVIN: Yeah. Well, this is something both of us feel passionately about. I know from our earlier discussions. We actually face this issue in Texas, actually, with kids in school getting Class C misdemeanor citations for chewing gum, for throwing spitballs, for talking too loud in class. It's actually a crime. And so we changed all of this and we said school districts could no longer criminalize routine misbehavior through their code of conduct.
Now the other big issue, which we still face, is kids being kicked out of school, suspensions. And believe it or not, in Texas, one of the penalties for truancy is out-of-school suspension.
VESLA MAE WEAVER: Yep.
MARC LEVIN: So the penalty is the same as the, quote, "crime." How bizarre is that?
Now when you look at it longitudinally, the Council of State Governments did a great study in Texas tracking kids over eight years. And what they found is, these kids that are dropouts-- which is a huge problem, obviously-- it's really pushout because they had initially started by being truant and then, of course, they were suspended. They got in the habit of not going to school. Lo and behold, they're a dropout.
So the reality is, these kids that are having these challenges with getting to school, they need more intervention, not less. They in many cases need to be kept after school for tutoring.
We actually have programs now where they're looking at, well, if Johnny's not in school in second period, let's figure out why. Let's call up that household. And if they don't answer, let's send someone out. Not a police officer, but someone to bring that child to school. By the way, we had to pass a law to say they could be brought to school instead of juvenile detention.
And in one of the cases, it turned out Johnny wasn't going to school because he didn't have any clothes. So they got donated clothes. They brought clothes. Solved the problem. So that's the reality that we need to deal with.
Now the other issue that's very serious is exposure to trauma on the part of young children, which could be domestic violence, it could be gunshots ringing outside the household. But we need in school to screen kids for exposure to trauma, to violence, and then find ways to address that.
One of the great ideas is conflict resolution programs. You have kids who are used to settling disputes through violence. But you can train them to settle disputes through talking it out, through de-escalation and so forth. So we can solve a good chunk of this problem.
VESLA MAE WEAVER: You ended right on time.
MARC LEVIN: Yeah.
VESLA MAE WEAVER: This is a great question. And to me, it's super simple. When Mayor de Blasio in New York has trouble passing a law to limit the use of suspensions of kindergartners, we've got a problem.
We need to start rethinking and remembering that our children are our children. They are children. We should not be handling them in punitive ways. When they misbehave, we need other kinds of interventions.
And Marc is absolutely right. There's a body of evidence showing that just a single suspension-- and oftentimes it's black kids that have by 10th grade-- in my studies it was often somebody would say, oh, yeah. I guess the first time I was stopped by police was when I was age five or eight or 12. It's very, very young.
Almost no one that enters the prison system doesn't have, eventually, doesn't have their first encounter at a very, very prepubescent age. I think we just need to eliminate that and begin recognizing that things like recognizing adverse incidents and how adverse trauma, adverse childhood experiences, have a direct causal link to later delinquency and later justice involvement.
We should not be suspending kids. Kids should not be moving through metal detectors. And their first contact is not with a school counselor. It's with a school resource officer, which is pseudo name for, basically, a cop in the schools.
Why is it that Baltimore has more probation officers in its schools than school counselors? Why is it that New York City has the largest school police force, larger than most city police forces? We need to reorient dramatically the way that our country is orienting itself to children.
GRETCHEN RITTER: Thank you. So this is a question from Andrew, who is a sophomore in CALS. And the question is, with growing threats in some Middle Eastern countries, should the United States limit migrants from said region?
KARTHICK RAMAKRISHNAN: So I'll just say something quickly, and I'm happy to cede my time to you, Reihan. So we talk about power. It's important to recognize the power of the United States in terms of causing disruption in many parts of the world. And then we are surprised that people from said regions want to come here, right?
So we saw that with the Vietnam War. We saw that in Cambodia. We saw that in Laos. We saw that in parts of Central America. We're seeing that in parts of the Middle East.
So that's something that's important to consider is, not just to think about a migrant, broadly speaking, including refugee populations, as someone who can potentially contribute or drain economically to what we have. But we need to think about immigrants and their family connections, migrants and their family connections, and the special obligations we might have as a global superpower in causing disruption in so many parts of the world.
REIHAN SALAM: So when you're thinking about displacement on a global scale, I want to encourage everyone to think about what that means. Recently in India, you had a labor action, a strike. And this strike involved 1.4% of the entire global population. It's a pretty staggering number. When you're looking at the number of people who live in a country that is not the country in which they were born around the world, that number is about 3%.
So Sweden has recently had a pretty dramatic influx of migrants. And it's actually something that's kind of been very interesting and very challenging for Sweden. Because Sweden is a country that thinks of itself as a humanitarian country. Some call it the moral superpower.
And what Sweden has traditionally done is offer a large amount of overseas development assistance, overseas development assistance that pays for health care interventions, pays for literacy programs and much else. But recently, you've seen something very funny happen.
So now Sweden is spending 25% as much as the entire Afghan government spends on the very small number of unaccompanied Afghan minors who have come through Sweden. If you're looking at the net cost of refugee migration in Sweden, this amounts to about 1.5% of GDP. That's a number I'm getting from a guy named Joakim Ruist, who is a pro-refugee immigration demographer, a very smart, thoughtful guy who did this very careful calculation.
1.5% of GDP in a country like Sweden translates into an enormous amount of money for people in a country like Uganda, people in a country like Bangladesh, or in a country like Zambia. It's a staggering sum of money.
So when we're thinking about this global picture and displacement, look, Syria is a tragic crisis. But when you're looking at a country like Canada, for example, what they do is cherry pick. 70% of the folks who are leaving Syria to Europe have been male. Canada has said we're going to take intact families we believe are going to be able to integrate successfully. And even then there are some challenges.
But when you're talking about a scale, not just with Syria, but with a global set of challenges in which you have civil strife and many and dire global poverty, you need to think about global strategies. Having a trivial increase in economic growth in a place like India or China has an enormous impact. Whereas even doubling, tripling, or quadrupling migration to a country like the United States or a country like Sweden is going to be a relative drop in the bucket.
So I believe that the United States should take on its obligation of accepting refugees. I think that makes absolute sense. But when we're thinking about climate crisis, when we're thinking about other ethnic strife and what have you, all of the problems we're likely to see in the world over the coming decades, we need a more comprehensive approach. We need to think about deploying resources in an intelligent and thoughtful way.
GRETCHEN RITTER: Thank you. So this will be our last question. And I'd appreciate it if you could keep yourself to a minute on this. And this comes from Irwin from Arts and Sciences who reports that the New York Times today reports a 10.8% rise in crime, partly attributed to less aggressive policing. Thoughts?
MARC LEVIN: Well, the numbers that did come out today showed nationally the murder rate has gone up and violent crime has gone up, although property crimes continue to decline. And the total crime rate is still at historical lows. The property crime rate is at its lowest since 1967. And the violent crime rate, other than last year, other than 2014, is the lowest since 1973.
But still, obviously, it's a serious situation. Half the rise in murders is in Chicago. So again, it's not across the board by any means. I think when it comes to policing, certainly it does show-- I think that you have to look at each city in a separate way. I think that there's not enough research yet to draw any firm conclusions about, for example, the so-called Ferguson effect.
I think there is also a real question of people reporting crime. And this is what Ferguson-- earlier, when we talked about the average household having three warrants. Are those people who have these warrants for traffic or overgrown lawn or whatever it is, are they going to report crime when they themselves-- report violent crime when they themselves have a warrant? So I think we've asked police in some ways to do too much. There's too many criminal laws and so forth. And so we do need to focus our criminal justice system on those crimes that have victims, whether it's breaking into your home or murder or other violent crime.
But I would also say that, when we look to how we're utilizing our prison beds, even when it comes to violent crime, there are people that are in prison today who are 60, 70 years old who can't pose a risk to anybody that have been there for decades. And it doesn't make sense to keep incarcerating them. So we have to remember from a demographic standpoint crime is largely-- if you look at the population of men between 17 and 27, that'll give you a pretty good sense of the crime rate as much as anything. So we have to make sure we are utilizing our resources effectively.
VESLA MAE WEAVER: I would agree with that. And I'm very suspicious of our over-reliance on one source of data on crime statistics. The FBI Uniform Crime Reports. I've shown in my work historically that there is definitely a one-to-one relationship between our investment in criminal justice resources and in the uptick in the number of agencies reporting their crime rates. These are voluntarily reported to the centralized system.
Oftentimes, as Marc mentioned, there are a lot of inputs that go into what a crime rate is, everything from demographic changes, the exiting of the baby boomers, urbanization, migration trends in and out of the city has to do with what we count as a crime, shifts in how we're classifying crimes. It has to do with inflation. So larceny will depend on how much inflation has happened.
So I think I'm very wary about concluding too readily that we are at a high point, a high-water mark of crime. We've been at an all-time low for many, many years. Many cities showed dramatic drops both from victimization surveys as well as from the Uniform Crime Reports. And so we need to interrogate further these crime statistics and what they actually are telling us.
Are we more unsafe? Or is there something going on demographically or with reporting rates, with the ease of reporting, with our nation's attention to the salience of public safety and criminal justice issues? So I want to peel that back a bit more before arriving at conclusions.
GRETCHEN RITTER: So thank you. So this concludes this portion of our program. Please join me, everyone, in thanking our great panel.
A nice discussion. Thank you. Thank you, all.
REIHAN SALAM: I have a cold.
KARTHICK RAMAKRISHNAN: Oh. He's got a cold.
GRETCHEN RITTER: I like it.
REIHAN SALAM: I'll get the [INAUDIBLE]
GRETCHEN RITTER: And in a few minutes, we will turn to screening the debate. Thank you all.
VESLA MAE WEAVER: Nicely done.
MARC LEVIN: Yeah, great job.
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Immediately preceding the first U.S. presidential election debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, Cornell will hold an academic debate among prominent political scientists and policy experts on two key domestic policy issues, immigration and incarceration policy, followed by questions from the audience. Gretchen Ritter ’83, the Harold Tanner Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, will moderate panelists across the ideological spectrum to engage students and the Cornell community on major issues facing the candidates.
Debaters: Marc A. Levin, Esq., director of the Center for Effective Justice at the Texas Public Policy Foundation and policy director of the Right on Crime Initiative; Karthick Ramakrishnan, professor of public policy and political science at the University of California, Riverside; Reihan Salam, executive editor of National Review and a National Review Institute Policy Fellow; and Vesla Mae Weaver, associate professor of African American studies and political science at Yale University.
This event is made possible by a gift from Jennifer Koen-Horowitz ’93 and Mark Horowitz.
Event sponsors include the American Studies Program, the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, the Center for the Study of Inequality, the College of Arts & Sciences, the College of Human Ecology, the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs, the Cornell Population Center, the Department of Policy Analysis and Management, Engaged Learning, the Program on Ethics and Public Life, the ILR School, the Institute for the Social Sciences, the Peace Studies Program, Student and Campus Life and the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research.