A lot of virtual ink is being spilled about political science as a discipline, particularly its relevance to policy. See Daniel Drezner for a good round-up. This is also a very important issue for political scientists (or anyone else) studying immigration. John Randolph at Feet in 2 Worlds notes a recent conference on undocumented immigration.
Aarti Kohli served in Washington, DC on the staff of the House Immigration Subcommittee ten years ago. Today she’s the director of immigration policy at the Warren Institute at UC Berkeley. Kohli said that a decade ago members of Congress didn’t pay much attention to immigration research.
Now she sees signs of a more receptive attitude on Capitol Hill. She believes the debate over a possible guest worker program has been influenced by research documenting the abuses of the Bracero program of the 1940s through the 1960s that allowed Mexican men to work legally in the U.S. but denied adequate compensation to many.
But Kohli also argues that if academic researchers want their findings to be used by policy-makers they need to make some changes. Her suggestion, “translate the findings into concrete, easy-to-read language.”
What academic research has shown and what members of Congress are interested in “doesn’t always line up,” according to Kohli. But, she says, “its lining up more these days.”
Political science research matters, and will inform the debate over reform that will intensify next year.