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Event Summary

What role do less-skilled immigrants play in the American economy, and why do we need them? At AEI on Tuesday, experts gathered to discuss these pressing questions as the immigration debate rages on in Congress.

Andrew Puzder of CKE Restaurants emphasized the need for low-skilled workers in the high-turnover fast food industry. According to Puzder, verifying the citizenship of these workers is resource-intensive, but the government’s E-Verify system has helped businesses comply with the law.

Madeline Zavodny of AEI noted that as Americans have become more educated, the number of natives who are both able and willing to take low-skilled jobs has dropped dramatically. Frank Bean of the University of California at Irvine added that the significant decline in the American low-skilled workforce because of fertility rates and increased education leaves a sizable gap to be filled.

Jenna Hamilton of Leading Builders of America took issue with the limited number of visas available under the proposed immigration law and the planning involved by the government in determining the distribution of labor. Joshua Bernstein of the Service Employees International Union took the discussion in a different direction, claiming the plan will help immigrants find work and businesses to find workers.
–Alexandra Stembaugh

Event Description

With the immigration debate raging on Capitol Hill and across America, one of the most contentious issues is whether the US needs additional less-skilled foreign workers. Do immigrants take jobs away from US workers, or are immigrants filling jobs that few Americans are willing and able to do? Do we need a new less-skilled temporary worker program, and if so, how do we ensure that it meets business needs while also protecting US workers?

Join the CEO of a national restaurant chain and a panel of immigration experts and advocates to discuss the latest research, the broader implications for the US economy, and what is at stake in the policy debate. This event is jointly sponsored by AEI and ImmigrationWorks USA.

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8:15 AM
Registration and Breakfast

8:30 AM
Opening Remarks
Michael Strain, AEI
Tamar Jacoby, ImmigrationWorks USA

8:40 AM
Armchair conversation: The business perspective
Andrew Puzder, CKE Restaurants

Walter Shapiro, Yahoo! News

9:05 AM
Panel discussion: New research and policy proposals
Frank Bean, University of California, Irvine
Joshua Bernstein, Service Employees International Union
Jenna Hamilton, Leading Builders of America
Tamar Jacoby, ImmigrationWorks USA
Madeline Zavodny, AEI

10:15 AM
Closing Remarks

10:30 AM

Event Contact Information

For more information, please contact Brad Wassink at [email protected], 202.862.7197.

Media Contact Information

For media inquiries, please contact [email protected], 202.862.5829.

Speaker Biographies

Frank Bean is the chancellor’s professor of sociology and director of the Center of Research on Migration, Population and Public Policy at the University of California at Irvine. He is the author of 18 books and more than 150 chapters and scholarly articles. He was a Guggenheim Fellow and has received numerous visiting scholar awards.

Joshua Bernstein
is director of immigration strategy and policy at the Service Employees International Union. He was formerly director of federal policy at the National Immigration Law Center (NILC). Before joining NILC, he worked for the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles and the Inner City Law Center, also in Los Angeles.

Jenna Hamilton is director of immigration policy at the Leading Builders of America and partner at Capitol Legislative Strategies. She was formerly assistant vice president of government affairs at the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). Before joining NAHB, she worked for the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association and Florists’ Transworld Delivery Florists Association.

Tamar Jacoby is president of ImmigrationWorks USA, a national federation of small business owners working to advance better immigration law. A former journalist with The New York Times and Newsweek, she comments regularly in the media on immigration and other issues. She is the author of “Someone Else’s House: America’s Unfinished Struggle for Integration” (Free Press, 1998) and editor of “Reinventing the Melting Pot: The New Immigrants and What It Means To Be American” (Basic Books, 2004). She is a fellow at the New America Foundation.

Andrew Puzder is CEO of CKE Restaurants Inc., parent company of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s brands. He joined CKE in 1997 as executive vice president and general counsel, eventually overseeing franchising of both brands. Before joining CKE, he was executive vice president and general counsel for Fidelity National Financial, and before that, CEO of the Santa Barbara Restaurant Group. He began his career as a trial lawyer in St. Louis.

Walter Shapiro is a columnist at Yahoo! News. He was formerly senior correspondent for Politics Daily, Washington bureau chief for Salon, and a columnist for USA Today. He has worked at Esquire, Time, Newsweek, and The Washington Post. He has covered nine presidential campaigns and is the author of “One-Car Caravan” (PublicAffairs, 2003), an account of the 2004 Democratic primary campaign.

Michael R. Strain is a research fellow at AEI. His academic research papers and policy papers study labor economics, applied microeconomics, and public finance. His work has appeared in the Journal of Money, Credit, and Banking; Tax Notes; and National Review, among other publications. Before joining AEI, he was the manager of the New York Census Research Data Center and an economist with the Center for Economic Studies at the US Census Bureau. He also worked in the macroeconomics research group at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Madeline Zavodny is a professor of economics at Agnes Scott College. She is also an adjunct scholar at AEI and a research fellow at the Institute for the Study of Labor. She was formerly chair of the economics department at Agnes Scott College, an associate professor of economics at Occidental College, and a research economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.

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