DMN: Why immigration may be good for the feds and bad for states — for now

Tower Center Senior Fellow Pia Orrenius, senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, commented on a report released by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine in the Dallas Morning News. The report found that immigration helps the economy in the long run, but has mixed impacts in the short term.

Economy reporter Jill Cowan highlights four takeaways from the 500-page report.

Read the article here.

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The Latino Vote in the 2016 Election


Left, UCLA Professor Matt Barreto; right, Rep. Cesar Blanco. Photo by Denise Gee

The Tower Center and the Latino Leadership Center for Development cohosted an event, “The Latino Vote in the 2016 Election,” at Jones Day Law Office Sept. 20.

Matt Barreto, professor of political science at the University of California Los Angeles opened the discussion with a look at the potential of the untapped Latino electorate.

The Latino population in the U.S. is significantly younger than the white population. As of November 18, 1.7 million Latinos will be 18 and eligible to vote, according to Barreto.

He argued that immigration remains to be the unifying issue that mobilizes voters, and used protests against Donald Trump to illustrate its unifying force. Eighty-one percent of Latinos polled after the Republican National Convention in Cleveland said that they found the GOP’s rhetoric “disturbing,” Barreto said. With Trump as the Republican nominee, the percentage of Latinos polling Republican has greatly declined since George W. Bush received 40 percent of the vote.

The discussion continued with Texas Representative Cesar Blanco, who talked about the under-representation of Latinos in government rolls. Twenty-eight out of the 435 congressional seats and three of the 100 Senate seats are held by Latinos. Blanco, as interim director of the Latino Victory Project, is working to get Latino officials elected. “If you’re not at the policy table, you’re the lunch,” Blanco said.

A final takeaway from the discussion: Latinas are engaged at higher rates than Latinos. “Our research shows the most influential person in families for Latinos, in terms of politics, are their mothers or their wives,” Barreto said.

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Jim Hollifield talks free trade, Gary Johnson in the Dallas Morning News

Tower Center Academic Director Jim Hollifield was interviewed in the Dallas Morning News article, “One presidential hopeful with two beneficial policies for Texas isn’t in the debates” by business columnist Mitchell Schnurman Sept. 20.

Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson did not poll high enough to participate in next week’s debate. However, Schnurman writes that neither Donald Trump, who wants to build a wall on the Mexico border, nor Hillary Clinton, who opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership, support free trade and immigration. Johnson does.

“Texas stands to lose as much as any state if we go down this path,” Hollifield said.

Read the article here.

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Tower Center Fellow Alexander Betts suggests focus on development at White House, UN refugee summits

Tower Center Fellow Alexander Betts, director of the Refugee Studies Centre at the University of Oxford, wrote an opinion piece for the Guardian discussing the upcoming White House and United Nations summits on refugees and mass migration Sept. 17.

Betts suggests that, since refugees are often stuck in camps for decades, refuge itself should be about development just as much as it is about humanitarianism. “It needs to offer jobs and education to the nearly 90% of the world’s refugees who are in developing countries, including the majority who are now in cities,” Betts wrote.

Read the full essay, “UN and White House summits could offer a ray of hope to those stuck in camps,”  here.

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Bush Institute essay explores connections across North American borders

The George W. Bush Institute published an essay exploring life across the North American continent and the cross-border connections that affect everyday lives. The essay, written by Matthew Rooney, Laura Collins, Sarah Reid and William McKenzie, is divided into three sections focusing on different areas: San Diego/Tijuana, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Detroit/Windsor.

Read the essay here.

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Senior Fellow Pia Orrenius: Texas Economy Exceeds National Averages

Good news for Texas: Despite the faltering energy industry, the Lone Star state experienced an increase in incomes and a decrease in poverty last year according to the Dallas Morning News.

Tower Center Senior Fellow Pia Orrenius, senior economist at the Dallas Federal Reserve, was interviewed in the Morning News article “Income up, poverty down: Texas exceeding U.S. in key economic numbers” Sept. 15.

“It’s a great report and it’s great for us,” she said. “You don’t see any impact from the oil bust.”

However, the News also reported that high child poverty rates are still a concern. This is especially true in border counties, which Orrenius said is because of the higher population of recent immigrants in those areas.

Read the full article here.


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Student Blog — Claire Huitt | The Resource Curse in China

Chinese University of Hong Kong's Dr. Jing Vivian Zhan before her lecture "The Resource Curse in China" Aug. 31.

Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Dr. Jing Vivian Zhan before her lecture “The Resource Curse in China” Aug. 31.

Across the world, the resource curse afflicts numerous resource rich nations. Among them, China struggles to balance the benefits and detriments of its own domestic resources. In this year’s initial colloquium of the Sun & Star Program on Japan and East Asia, Dr. Jing Vivian Zhan of the Chinese University of Hong Kong discussed her own research of the dilemma at the Tower Center event “The Resource Curse in China”.  Zhan specializes in Chinese politics, and, more specifically, state-society relations with a particular focus on state intervention in resource affairs. In her talk, Zhan sought to answer two questions: (1) are natural resources a blessing or a curse, and, (2) how do states respond to this problem?

The short answers to these questions are that many resource or mineral rich developing nations struggle with corruption and other repercussions, and the state actively intervenes in resource problems to prevent these possible consequences. The People’s Republic of China in particular, is both an important consumer and producer of minerals and resources; much of Zhan’s research and data comes from the coal mining industry in China. Zhan has conducted interviews across provinces with local officials, citizens, and managers of mining corporations; additionally she has collected a great deal of statistical data from the Chinese government.

Three effects of the resource curse

In answering whether natural resources are a blessing or a curse, Zhan has found that in resource-rich nations the resource curse often has three effects: (1) natural resources discourage human development, (2) natural resources breed corruption, and (3) natural resources arouse social conflict. China has repeatedly been victim to such social conflict. In one example from 2008, there was a major riot of upwards of 20,000 protesters. Zhan noted, on average, most riots are far smaller in scale, and, additionally, that media control is tight. Two specific causes of resource conflicts in China are the environment and the economy. In terms of the environment, air and soil pollution, water shortages, and land subsidence all cause tension. Economic problems include land expropriation, property and road damage, and labor disputes. At the local level, collectively these issues create friction between the residents, coal-mining corporations, and local officials, and at the national level these frictions manifest in the aforementioned societal problems of the resource curse.

State intervention to prevent conflict

In light of these possible consequences, how can a resource-rich nation like China cope with its resource conflicts? Zhan provided two methods by which the state intervenes to prevent such conflict: (1) reactive strategies to individual conflicts, and (2) preemptive strategies for potential conflicts. The reactive strategy is often mediation by local government officials between the mining sector and local citizens. This is done in a way that can almost be referred to as a bargaining system. Yet when mediation fails, the government adorns what Zhan referred to as a “soft face.” This involves the “skillful deployment” of coercive forces to repress protests. The other method by which the Chinese government intercedes, preemptive strategy, entails intervention in dispute prone areas and processes such as selling land. This again involves government led negotiations, but it also provides resource based economic incentives and opportunities. This may require mining corporations to hire a certain percentage of its workers from the local work force, and in this way this “grassroots governance” helps protect local labor. In turn this creates vested interests among locals; in these situations it may even be beneficial for mining to come to your locality. Additionally, the government often helps to redistribute resource wealth through the provision of public goods or social welfare benefits from resource revenue as a way of minimizing local resistance.

Intervention of the Chinese Communist Party

Ultimately, the Chinese government is by no means a passive actor in the PRC’s resource curse. To explain further, Zhan posed the following question: Why does the Chinese state choose to intervene? Simply put, there are incentives for, namely, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to remain in power. Since the Tiananmen incident of 1989 it has been one of the utmost goals of the CCP to enforce or maintain social order from the top down. This is materialized through tight personnel control of local officials. Beyond this, the CCP, above all else, strives to stay in power. Displaying its capacity for resource conflict resolution is an important and integral part of maintaining power. The PRC is by no means a totalitarian state, yet the state’s presence in the economy and greater society is extremely well integrated. Even at the lowest level, local governments have a great deal of bargaining power, which allows them to mobilize resources to resolve conflicts.

China faces the resource curse at a subnational level. The Chinese state has actively responded to the resource curse, at least when it threatens regime stability. It has utilized the aforementioned soft strategies, instead of resorting only to hard repression. Therefore, Zhan concluded that there are two necessary conditions for effective state interventions in China’s resource curse: (1) central control over local officials and (2) state penetration into the economy and society.

Listen to Dr. Zhan’s lecture at the Tower Center:

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claire_huitClaire Huitt is a senior at Southern Methodist University triple majoring in public policy, economics, and political science with a focus on international relations and the Asian Pacific. She is a Bauer Scholar in Political Science, Hamilton Scholar, Engaged Learning Fellow, a representative of IGNITE Women in Politics, Chair on Asian Pacific Relations with the Tower Center Student Forum, Dedman School of Law Pre-Law Scholar, New Century Scholar, and a member of the University Honors Program. After graduation Claire intends to attend law school and pursue a career in international law and foreign affairs.

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Founder of LCLD recognized in D CEO

Jorge Baldor, founder of the Latino Center of Leadership Development, was recognized as Latino Advocate by D Magazine‘s  business publication D CEO in the article “Latino Business Awards 2016”. Baldor formed the LCLD in 2014 and funded a research partnership with the Tower Center focusing on public policy issues surrounding Latino communities in 2015.

Read D CEO’s article here.

RSVP to Latino Politics | Latino Decisions in the 2016 Election here.

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Q&A | A Tower Scholar’s life in Uganda


The Tower Center sat down with Tower Scholar Thomas Schmedding, class of 2017, to talk about his time studying abroad and interning in Kampala, Uganda.

Tower Scholars PortraitsDescribe your life in Uganda. 

Life in a developing country is both fascinating and physically/mentally demanding every day. My time in Uganda was full of unexpected opportunities and some of the most memorable experiences of my life. Throughout my four months in Uganda, I saw circumstances I couldn’t have possibly imagined: extreme poverty, inequitable government healthcare and education institutions, and broken social contracts, among others. Despite these challenges though, a sense of hope and optimism always filled the air. The Ugandans I ran into every day couldn’t have been more grateful for their humble circumstances and they were always full of happiness. Waking up every morning, I was honored to be welcomed into such a warm-spirited community.

What was a typical day like for you?

I split my time between a homestay and an apartment. My homestay family was hardworking, supportive, and incredibly caring. In fact, I’ve never met a group of people that would devote so much time to making sure others felt welcomed. They helped me navigate Kampala’s unorganized “taxi” system (A “taxi” in East Africa is 15 people crammed in a conversion van with no organized route), and they taught me how to negotiate in one of Uganda’s 50 local languages at the market.

For the first two months, I took courses on development, Ugandan culture, and research methods through the School for International Training (SIT) with three other American students. I followed this with an internship at a digital health organization dedicated to alleviating Uganda’s doctor-to-patient ratio of about 1:25,000. These two opportunities were complementary in terms of providing experience navigating Uganda’s diverse culture.

What is one lesson you took away from your time there?

I learned a lot about myself when I was in Africa in terms of my life priorities and how my future might change, but as cliché as it sounds, the Anne Frank quote “No one ever becomes poor by giving,” particularly resonated with me. The Ugandan people will give their time and hearts to helping someone, even when there is little for them to gain. For this reason, I found Ugandan people more spiritually and emotionally rich than some Americans.

What is it like transitioning back into life in Dallas and at SMU?

To be honest, transitioning back into Dallas and SMU has been complex. I found a lot of value in my experience, but it has been difficult describing the unimaginable to SMU students, faculty and staff who have never experienced the magnitude of everyday life in a developing country. To articulate this further, I sometimes have small “reverse culture shocks” in Dallas. I went in a supermarket the other day, and I found myself in a daze at the sheer number of cereal varieties. We live in a country where this material gain drives a vast number of products and services, but Uganda taught me to be grateful for even the smallest of choices.

How has this experience impacted your goals for the future?

I’ve always wanted a career dedicated to giving back, but living and working in Uganda emphasized my interest in an international development career. After returning from Uganda, I interned for a large humanitarian organization and am currently interning for a USAID Public-Private Partnership dedicated to food security, with respect to supporting resilience, innovation, and adaptive capacity in developing countries.

An experience in Africa will change you. I can’t imagine following a career path where I don’t have the opportunity to help people achieve their full potential. For this reason, I say ‘weebale emirimu’ (loosely translated: ‘thank you for your work’) to each of my friends, coworkers, and host family members in Uganda.


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Tower Scholars welcome new cohort, seniors begin research

Tower Scholars Beta Cohort, class of 2019: (Back row from left to right) Noelle Kendall, Evan Snyder, Zach Miller, Bradley Potts, Ben Prengler (front row) Syndey Tomlinson, Kelsey Shipman, Destiny Rose Murphy and Emily Elson. Not pictured: Tim Smith

Tower Scholars Beta Cohort, class of 2019: (Back row from left to right) Noelle Kendall, Evan Snyder, Zach Miller, Bradley Potts and Ben Prengler (Front row) Syndey Tomlinson, Kelsey Shipman, Destiny Rose Murphy and Emily Elson. Not pictured: Tim Smith

The Tower Center is pleased to welcome the third cohort of the Highland Capital Management (HCM) Tower Scholars, class of 2019. These 10 scholars have come to SMU from across the country and have equally diverse research interests ranging from science policy and human rights to international cooperation on energy and natural resource challenges.

A key feature of the Tower Scholars Program is the senior-year capstone project in which students are placed with area institutions to carry out policy-related research. This semester, members of the 2017 Legacy Cohort will be making contributions at Hunt Mexico, Parkland Memorial Hospital, the SMU Campus Police and Catholic Charities. Upon concluding the research, each student will present the host institution with a policy white paper.

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