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February 25, 2002

Communication is key for better security, experts say

By Eric Rangus


The theme of the 2002 Randolph W. Thrower Symposium was set prior to last fall, but the unforeseen terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 made its subject matter all the more appropriate.

An impressive roster of attorneys, law professors and legal scholars took part in the morning-long symposium titled, “Immigration Law: Assessing New Immigration Enforcement Strategies and the Criminalization of Migration,” Feb. 21 in the School of Law’s Tull Auditorium. The event was cosponsored by the law school and the Emory Law Journal.

“It’s clear that after Sept. 11, this has become a topic of extraordinary importance reaching far beyond those who study criminal law,” said Professor of Law Marc Miller, who served as moderator.

The symposium’s seven guest speakers addressed a wide variety of concerns ranging from preventive detention and immigration to the intersection between immigration law and criminal law, to a proposal to streamline the criminal deportation process by assigning judges the responsibility for both sentencing and immigration questions.

While the points of view were varied, the conclusions were identical: reform is needed.

Doris Meissner, senior associate in the global policy program of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) from 1993–2000, was the keynote speaker.

In her address, “Protecting Borders and Liberty in Post-9/11 Era,” Meissner explained that the best way to achieve balance between a population’s freedom of movement and control for security purposes is to focus on prevention.

That can be accomplished, she said, by improving communication between the government and border communities as well as other sectors such as the airline industry, and colleges and universities who track international students.

Streamlining governmental offices is one step that could be taken, she said. For instance, there is a call in some circles to make drivers licenses standard throughout the country. This would ease the sharing of information across borders, Meissner said, but also might signify a step toward a national ID card, a proposal that has been met with resistance, but not as much now as 20 years ago.

“It may well be an idea whose time has come,” Meissner said. Carrying a card isn’t a problem for most people, she said, but the database of information behind that card is what troubles them.

“My sense is we will not go to a national system,” Meissner said. “Instead we’ll have a number of systems. But people will want something to help them easily move through their daily life. People aren’t patient with the hassle factor of travel and will want something to give them a ‘Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.’”

Meissner spoke for 40 minutes, which was about the time allotted to the symposium’s other speakers, who came from all over the country.

Owen Cooper, INS general counsel, discussed how immigration laws and criminal laws are interrelated; Nora Demleitner, visiting law professor at Hofstra University, talked about how some immigrants are granted entry into the U.S. in exchange for testimony in a criminal case; Margaret Taylor and Ronald Wright, both law professors at Wake Forest University, outlined their plan to align criminal cases and deportation in the courtroom; Seattle attorney Robert Pauw talked about how mandatory deportation and detention—even for misdemeanors—can break up families; and Georgetown University law Professor David Cole closed the event, also speaking about detention.