Speakers encourage comprehensive immigration reform at UHLC panel, film screening

Clinical Associate Professor Geoffrey Hoffman, right, was one of three speakers during an immigration panel last week at the University of Houston Law Center.

March 14, 2018 — Members of the business and immigration communities acknowledged that changes must be made to the current immigration system during a question and answer session recently at the University of Houston Law Center.

The discussion followed two documentary screenings by the production company, Rational Middle. The films, "The Burden of a Broken System" and "Rebuilding After Hurricane Harvey," were directed, produced and written by Gregory Kallenberg.

"Through these documentaries, we want to create middle ground," Kallenberg said. "The Rational Middle is all about this idea of taking an issue that has two distinct sides, and then creating a place where civil solutions-based discussion can take place."

The first panelist was Gordon Quan, a former member of the Houston City Council and managing partner of the Quan Law Group, his immigration firm.

"In the history of immigration, there's always been a fear of the other," Quan said. "Whether it's Italians, Jews or Chinese or whatever group is coming. That fear has dominated immigration forever.

"While this topic is contentious, as a former politician I think we can find some middle ground, but it has to be give and take in everything."

Mike Holland, chief operating officer of Marek, a Houston construction firm, was the second speaker.

"The current reality where we have several million undocumented people in the country has led to some unsustainable business practices," Holland said. "Because we've been operating under the assumption that there are plenty of people available, the wages are low.

"If we're going to bring people out of the shadows, we have to bring them out in a uniform way where everyone has equal access to the workforce."

The third and final panelist was Geoffrey Hoffman, a clinical associate professor and director of the Law Center's Immigration Clinic. Hoffman detailed current challenges of practicing immigration law.

"The immigration court system has more than 600,000 cases backlogged, which is just astounding," Hoffman said. "In Houston there are more than 35,000 cases backlogged. It's going to take years to get through that. It's frustrating as an immigration attorney, because I want my clients to go through the immigration court system because they have legitimate forms of relief.

"Comprehensive immigration reform is important. Not just for invigorating the economy and helping the GDP. But also it's important to fix the system we have now because it's utterly broken."

The discussion was moderated by Loren Steffy, a Texas-based journalist, who is also credited as an executive producer for the Rational Middle's immigration films.

Watch "The Burden of a Broken System" by Rational Middle: Immigration

Watch "Rebuilding After Hurricane Harvey" by Rational Middle: Immigration

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