Cities of migration: Three questions with Audrey Singer

April 20th, 2016

Audrey-SingerAudrey Singer is a senior fellow at the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program in Washington, D.C. Her areas of expertise include demography, international migration, U.S. immigration policy, and urban and metropolitan change. She has written extensively on metropolitan immigration trends, including immigrant integration, undocumented migration, and the changing racial and ethnic composition of the United States. Singer will be a speaker at the 3rd International Cities of Migration Conference on March 2.

Why are you coming to the International Cities of Migration Conference?

I’ve spent most of my professional life thinking about both cities and migration. Naturally I want to hear what others—especially those from outside the United States—are thinking about in relation to their own contexts and questions, especially around immigrant integration and local response.

On immigration, what are the main areas of policy cohesion and dissonance between Canada and the U.S.?

Both countries share a common narrative about being a “nation of immigrants,” but differ on which kinds of immigrants are invited to join. The Canadian system prioritizes higher skilled immigrants who will succeed in the Canadian labour market; the U.S. system prioritizes family ties over human capital attributes. Admissions policy in the United States doesn’t address the lower end of the skills spectrum well—yet the demand for workers remains strong, and therefore approximately one out of every four immigrants is undocumented. Canada has never had to deal with mass unauthorized migration. Another difference is politics and how it spills over into policy making. Canada has swiftly put into place a system to resettle Syrian refugees with broad public support and participation. In the U.S., presidential contenders use refugee resettlement to stir up fear in order to win support.

Cities of Migration is about spreading good ideas and good practice. What do you hope to take back to the United States?

Pragmatic ideas, illuminating narratives, and evidence that open societies are more resilient. I am particularly interested in what is going on in Europe as it responds to migrants and asylum seekers escaping war and conflict. The pace, scope, and magnitude of this moment makes the Syrian crisis the defining migration issue of our time. How cities, and the institutions, communities, and people that inhabit them respond, will shape the inclusion process in all its dimensions—labor, family, culture and fiscal.

The Third International Cities of Migration Conference is a one-day forum to discuss the issues and opportunities created by today’s global flows of migration. For more information, please visit

Interview re-printed with permission from: Ryerson Today, February 26, 2016.

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