New Kind of Town Hall Fosters Civil Discussion of Immigration with Rep. Morelle & Constituents

New Survey Shows Majorities of Rochester Democrats & Republicans Share Common Ground on Key Immigration Reforms

A unique survey of 995 residents of New York’s 25th Congressional District released this weekend showed that majorities of Republicans and Democrats agree on a variety of solutions to America’s immigration challenges—including what to do about the status of “Dreamers,” whether to offer undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship, how to deter illegal immigration, and more.

The survey results were released at a crowded but civil “Citizen Panel Forum” at the Democrat and Chronicle in downtown Rochester on Saturday.  Congressman Joe Morelle attended and discussed the findings with dozens of residents of the 25th District who took the online survey.

“Forums like this where people can talk and share ideas in a civil way are an amazing thing,” said Morelle.  “I would recommend it to every member of Congress.”

Added Morelle, “It was a really good conversation with people who had looked at the data, considered the nuance of these policy issues, and engaged in really thoughtful, civil conversation.  I thought it was great give and take, and I thought the civility people exhibited and the thoughtfulness that they exhibited was gratifying.”

The survey and Forum were initiated by two national nonpartisan organizations: Common Ground Solutions and Voice of the People.  The survey, conducted by the Program for Public Consultation of the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland, showed that large bipartisan majorities favored a number of immigration reforms under consideration in Congress, including:

  • dealing with immigrants who came illegally to the U.S. as children, known as “Dreamers”
  • creating a new visa for all immigrants who have been in the U.S. for years without legal status
  • requiring employers to use an “E-Verify” system to ensure their employees may work in the U.S.
  • expanding special temporary visas for certain jobs, including agricultural guest workers

Attendees were enthusiastic about the Citizen Panel Forum.  “Great discussion of issues [that] didn’t break out into partisan shouting,” said one.  “Since the arguments are balanced and informed, it causes participants to think beyond knee jerk bias,” said another.

“In standard town hall meetings members of Congress put forward their views and citizens respond,”added Voice of the People Director Steven Kull.  “In a Citizen Panel Forum the views of a representative sample of citizens are first put forward, then the member responds and there is a discussion.”

“The survey shows what we see across the country: that more people agree across party lines than is frequently assumed,” said Howard Konar, founder of Common Ground Solutions.  “Citizen Panel Forums help Members of Congress listen carefully to people in their districts.”

In the survey of a representative sample of voters, respondents went through an online process called a ‘policymaking simulation’ that puts them in the shoes of a policymaker. They were briefed on the issues, presented policy options under consideration in Congress, asked to evaluate pro and con arguments, and finally asked to make their recommendations. The content was reviewed in advance by experts on immigration on different sides of the issue to assure accuracy and balance.  Details on the findings can be found at http://www.publicconsultation.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Immigration_Quaire_NY25ONLY_1119.pdf.

The survey and the Citizen Panel Forum are part of a larger Citizen Panel Initiative, sponsored by Voice of the People and Common Ground Solutions, that seeks to give citizens tools to more effectively understand and weigh in on decisions before Congress, to give members of Congress a better understanding of their constituents, and to discern the potential for bipartisan common ground.

The views expressed in NY-25 were quite similar to those in two nationwide surveys of 4,635 voters provided by Nielsen Scarborough.  Members of the public can go through the same policymaking simulation at: http://vop.org/policymaking-simulations/immigration-reform-ny-25/.

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