This piece originally appeared on February 24th on MSNBC's website in-advance of a townhall they hosted with President Obama.
MSNBC’s televised town hall discussion with President Obama on Wednesday comes at a critical juncture in the debate over how to best improve our immigration system.
Last week, a federal judge in Texas blocked the implementation of parts of the president’s executive actions on immigration, which would provide deportation relief for millions. And this week, congressional Republicans may recklessly allow the Department of Homeland Security to shut down, endangering our border, cyber security and counter-terrorism operations, in order to register a symbolic protest.
So where are we heading in this debate, and what will the president say later this week? Here are a few things we know:
Obamacare may be a road map. The experience of the Affordable Care Act may be a good guide for what could happen with the president’s reforms in the years ahead. The ACA has been through a controversial 5-6 years. There were ups and down along the way, problems with implementation, legal challenges and intense political opposition.
But almost six years after Obamacare was first introduced, it is looking increasingly like a significant policy and political success. Signups have exceeded expectations this year. Tens of millions of people have seen dramatic improvements in their lives in just the first 18 months of full implementation. The famous “health care cost curve” is bending, and during the first months of the ACA, we’ve seen one of the strongest economic performances from the U.S. economy in the last 20 years. And the public is noticing. New polling shows that a majority of Americans now approve of Obamacare for the first time since this debate began in 2009.
Advocates of reform should draw from the tough but ultimately successful implementation of Obamacare, not only for inspiration for their own work in the years ahead but also to continue to explain to the American people why they are so confident the reforms will work as intended..."
The legal and policy arguments against reform are weak. With a full week to review the injunction by U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen, the Texas justice who blocked the implementation of the president’s reform, the decision is looking more like the desperate political act of a losing side than a sound, sustainable legal opinion. The injunction was granted on a minor technicality and did not attempt to meaningfully challenge the legal theory of “prosecutorial discretion” behind Obama’s executive actions.
In fact, very significant applications of this legal theory regarding other aspects of border and immigration enforcement were not blocked and will continue to be implemented. As this Washington Post analysis demonstrates, the judge’s clearly hastily-written opinion betrayed a shocking and potentially disqualifying lack of understanding of how the immigration system works in the United States. And the injunction overreaches, covering all 26 states in the suit though he cites “harm” in only one, Texas (and the 24 other states who did not join the suit).
That the opinion was so sloppy and narrow reinforces how political the ruling was. Rushed out on a federal holiday just days before the reforms in question were set to take effect, the decision now appears intended to buy some time for Hanen’s ideological allies in Washington who have so far failed to find a way to block Obama’s reforms.
The reason the GOP’s challenge ultimately will fail is that there is ample legal precedent for the president’s actions. And, as with Obamacare, these smart reforms will be good for the nation, boost the U.S. economy and enhance our security. By allowing immigration agents to focus on true criminals and illegal border crossers, the U.S. will become more effective at deterring future unauthorized migrants. Federal and local law enforcement will be freed up to go after truly dangerous criminals – not working moms with kids in public schools.
Important parts of the president’s reforms were not blocked. What is perhaps least well known is that Judge Hanen did not strike down Obama’s far-reaching reforms of the immigration and border enforcement systems, which will continue to be implemented without challenge in the months ahead.
And they are significant. Building on earlier reforms in 2011, the Department of Homeland Security will further focus enforcement resources on those trying to enter the country illegally and undocumented immigrants in the U.S. with serious criminal records. The net effect of these reforms will be to remove the threat of immediate deportation from 10 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. It will also make it far more difficult for undocumented immigrants to be put in detention without a formal arrest.
Prioritizing immigration and border enforcement in this way will improve the security of communities across the nation while building a more powerful deterrent on our border for those thinking of entering the country illegally. These reforms are smart and humane, and will guarantee that Obama leaves his successor a border and immigration enforcement system far better than the one he inherited – despite years of extraordinary opposition from the GOP.
So what’s next for immigration reform? I am fairly confident the administration will prevail in the courts. The Republicans will back down on their DHS shutdown threat, which recklessly threatens American security in a time of heightened fears. And the president’s reforms will proceed, ending a decade of gridlock, giving the country a better immigration system and millions of people a renewed chance to pursue the American Dream for them and their families.
The lessons of the health care reform fight point the way: years of battle, legal victories and defeats; but at the end, a better America with millions and millions having the chance to make an even more powerful contribution to their adopted home. As Obama is certain to remind us when he speaks Wednesday night, positive social change only comes about through relentless, hard-fought struggle.
Simon Rosenberg is the president of NDN/New Policy Institute, a pro-immigration reform think tank based in Washington, D.C.
When it comes to DHS the GOP's current strategy is already degrading the nation's security. DHS is on a continuing resolution which freezes in place its budget from last year. Imagine running a business – or a newspaper or media organization – using last year’s priorities or budget. It makes it far harder for the institution to adapt to new threats or challenges, weakening the overall effectiveness of one of the key pillars of our global security apparatus.
Additionally, the threat of a shutdown is causing untold number of person hours being spent now on prepping for the shutdown itself. This too is weakening the overall effectiveness of DHS. Look at all the time the DHS Secretary alone is spending managing this crisis rather than focusing on counter-terrorism, cyber-threats, border security, expediting trade through our borders and ports and all the other truly important responsibilities he has. It is just reckless and irresponsible for the Republicans in Congress to be acting this way, particularly given their very outspoken criticism of how the Administration is handling its broader national security portfolio. If you want to take the fight to the terrorists disabling DHS is sure a strange way to do it.
Congress must give DHS its budget for the year, and let it do its job. The stakes are far too high, particularly in a period of heightened threats, for Congress to be playing reckless political games with the security of the American people. It is time to pass a clean DHS bill and stop using extra-ordinary means outside the traditional Congressional process to challenge the President. We understand Republicans are frustrated, angry. But taking their political frustrations out on the American people is the very opposite of the kind of leadership our nation wants and needs. Anything short of a clean bill this week is an affirmative step to lower our nation’s defenses in a time of heightened threats to our homeland.
President Obama hosted a press conference with Chancellor Angela Merkel early today. We were particularly struck with this particular paragraph at the close of his remarks :
"And let me end on an historic note. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. It marks the 25th anniversary of the reunification of Germany. So in a time when conflicts around the world sometimes seem intractable, when progress sometimes seems beyond grasp, Germany’s story gives us hope. We can end wars. Countries can rebuild. Adversaries can become allies. Walls can come down. Divisions can be healed. Germany’s story -- and the story of Angela’s life -- remind us that when free people stand united, our interests and our values will ultimately prevail. And as we look to the future, as I prepare to visit Bavaria in June, I’m grateful for my partnership with Angela, as Americans are grateful for their partnership with the people of Germany."
You can find video of this press conference here (passage referenced is at minute: 7:22), as well as a full transcript.
There is a growing body of public opinion data showing that Americans have indeed “turned a page” on the economy, and feel that things are improving. In many of the main measures cited by experts, the improvement has been significant in recent years, and it is harder and harder to describe the American people as pessimistic about our prospects. This comes at a time of course when income and wages while up slightly still have yet to show meaningful increases. Let’s review some recent data:
Consumer Sentiment: This metric, which I’ve discussed previously, is a five-question measure that asks Americans how they see their current position as well as their perception of the future. Consumer Sentiment rose by almost 20 points in 2014. For context, last year’s improvement was about half the total rise in consumer sentiment during the Obama Administration.
Gallup: A similar positive trend is noted in a new Gallup poll that shows a large change in the group’s perception of whether there is an opportunity for Americans to move ahead if they work hard. Generally, this measure remains high, but rapidly declined during the 2008 recession. In the past year, the margin of those who were satisfied increased from +9 to +22.
Gallup has other measurements, including its own Economic Confidence Index, which rose into positive territory for the first time since they began measuring in 2008. The organization concludes that:
The president's positive spin on the economy is certainly defensible as most economic measures have been trending in a positive direction over the past year, including official government reports of economic growth and unemployment, but also measures that Gallup tracks, including on employment, company hiring and consumer spending.
NBC/WSJ: A recent NBC/WSJ poll highlights similar positive sentiments: 50% of Americans believe that the economy improved a lot or somewhat in 2014; Only 49% feel that the country is declining, which is the lowest since 2007; and those polled who are very/somewhat satisfied with the state of the U.S. economy stands at a seven-year high at 45%.
So how can the American public be feeling so much better about the economy if their wages haven’t gone up? Perhaps it is that for many the economy is far better. Millions of people have gotten jobs in recent years and still have them. At least 15 million Americans – one tenth of the workforce – have gained health insurance through the ACA. 21 states have raised the minimum wage for 2015. 3-4 million people found out late last year that they would be able to get temporary work permits through the President’s immigration actions. Gas/energy prices are dramatically lower for everyone. And for those Americans who own homes or are invested in the stock market, there has been a big uptick in housing prices and the stock market. So as Gallup mentions above, the economy is actually far better for tens of millions of Americans than it was a few years ago and voters are feeling it.
It is also important to note that both the very real improvements in the US economy we’ve seen in recent months, and dramatically improved public sentiment, have come at a time when the President’s health care plan was fully implemented. It not only raises questions once again about the economic literacy of the Republicans, but should cause analysts to start wondering whether tens of millions of people getting health insurance may actually be contributing to the improving public sentiment about the economy. This many people gaining health insurance is a big enough event to alter public opinion all on its own – and more research should be going into this.
This rising optimism is going to change US politics in the next two years. GOP indictments of the Obama Presidency will be far less compelling, and will put more pressure on Republicans to articulate how they will make things better in the coming years. Both parties are going to have to be careful not to sound too pessimistic about where the economy is at—the voters are moving to a different place. This gives Democrats a real opportunity, as we’ve written elsewhere, to draw a very bright line between the economic success of the last two Democratic Presidents and the failure of the last two Republican Presidents.
We will be tracking consumer sentiment closely in the coming months. For the changes we are seeing in the public perception of the economy and of the future of the US are significant, and are in the process of creating a very different political landscape in 2016.
NDN’s Simon Rosenberg contributed to this analysis.
This op-ed ran originally on the US News and World Report site on Friday, February 6th, 2015. You can find it here, or below.
Who Controls the Future of the Internet?
One of the areas, however, that we have to get right quickly is how the Internet itself will be governed. Though it is essentially an American creation and still largely overseen by the U.S. government, it has always been the plan for the U.S. to turn over the day-to-day management of the technical backbone of the Internet to ICANN, which is an independent, multistakeholder institution. The thinking was that the Internet would never truly become a sustainable, lasting global institution unless its management was globally shared.
And that strategy is correct: The only way the U.S. can truly win is by letting go of the Internet, not holding on to it. But of course, and in this we must be honest too, “letting go” also brings with it significant risks and challenges and the potential for losing the Internet altogether.
The process began last March, when the Obama administration announced that it would attempt to move one part of the governance system – the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, or IANA, which is part of the domain name system – from the Department of Commerce to ICANN by the fall of 2015. In the last several months, members of the U.S. Congress have begun to respond to the plan and inject themselves into the debate. Many are interested in setting clear conditions for the planned transfer in September. The administration should be eager for Congress to wrestle with this issue and work to create a broad bipartisan consensus for how to proceed: Given how important these matters are to the future of the U.S., Congress has to step up and do its part to ensure we have a vibrant, free and open Internet for generations to come.
Among the more promising contributions to this still nascent debate came last week in a proposal from GOP Sens. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Roy Blunt of Missouri and Democratic Sens. Chris Coons of Delaware and Mark Warner of Virginia. In it they lay out seven reasonable conditions ICANN must meet prior to the transfer, including that the institution itself must become more accountable to the stakeholder community (one way to do this is to have formal “members” representing the various constituencies). It is not only a smart contribution to the debate, but that it was bipartisan puts ICANN and the administration on notice that Congress is now forcefully moving into the debate about how to keep the Internet open and free. And for good reason: In recent months there have been legitimate reasons for concern about institutional mission creep and foreign government capture of ICANN, something the U.S. simply cannot allow.
While Congress should engage in the coming months, it also must act with far more caution and dexterity than it often does on the global stage. Allowing one, single, free and open Internet to develop across the world in the years ahead will require more countries and stakeholders to view the Internet not as a threat to their way of life but as an enabler of better times. The more the Internet is seen as a tool of American business and government the less likely many will be to invest in this process over time.
What this means is that ensuring future Internet governance is both more broadly shared and successful is going to be hard and will require very high level and agile stewardship from future administrations and Congressional leaders. It is not something that can or should be left to assistant secretaries or backbenchers in Congress. It is literally one of the most significant tasks our government has, and must be approached with far greater seriousness than it has been in recent years.
Getting this year’s IANA transfer right is one of the most important things our government will do in 2015, and will be a test of our system. There should be a vigorous national debate, and Congress should set clear and reasonable conditions for the transfer. If the conditions are not met, the U.S. government should be willing to postpone the transfer date. But if they are met, it is similarly critical that we keep our word to the global community and allow the transfer to happen. Our policy makers have an enormous responsibility to the billions of people around the world who rely on the Internet every day to get this right.
As I’ve written elsewhere, maintaining a free and open Internet for future generations simply has to become one of the American government’s highest priorities now. Doing so will require working through complex issues like privacy, cybersecurity, cross-border data flows and other trade related issues, censorship and overzealous government regulation and of course deliberate efforts by more repressive regimes to weaken the Internet’s global reach. The Internet as we know it today is far more fragile than many users understand, and it is going to take extraordinary American leadership in the coming decades to ensure that the promise of this globally transformative network is realized for all the people of the world.
n the near term the administration should be working closely with Congress, the Internet stakeholder community and allied governments to ensure that this delicate transition of one piece of Internet governance is successful. If we can’t get something like the IANA transfer right, it is hard to see how the American vision of one global Internet accessed by all will prevail in the fast changing world of the 21st century.
You can find related materials from NDN on this page.
In what has perhaps been their defining argument of the Obama Presidency, the Republican Party predicted that the ACA would bring economic ruin to the United States. More than a year into the ACA implementation we are finding the exact opposite has occurred – while making historic gains in reducing the uninsured, seeing overall health care cost increases slow and federal spending come in under projections, the US economy saw one of its most precipitous drops in the unemployment rate, high GDP growth, and declining annual federal deficits.
Let’s look at some data:
In the past year and a half, the uninsured rate has fallen from 18.0% of the U.S. Adult population to 12.9%. Simultaneously, the unemployment rate has fallen from 7.2% to 5.6% and on average in 2014 the U.S. economy saw over 245,000 jobs added on average each month.
This news is a far cry from the predictions that many in the Republican Party alarmed the public about. From 2010 – 2014, members of the GOP sought to repeal the ACA because it would be a job killer, and devastate the American economy:
• Speaker John Boehner said in 2010: “We need to repeal this jobs-killing government takeover of health care and enact real reforms that will lower health care costs and help small businesses get back to creating jobs."
• Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in 2012: "We now know that Obamacare has been one of the single biggest drags on job creation since early 2010."
• In 2013, Former Governor Jeb Bush called the ACA “flawed to its core,” and proclaimed, “I don’t think it’ll work.”
Paul Ryan claimed that “Health care spending is driving the explosive growth of our debt. And the president's law is accelerating our country toward bankruptcy.” From the very beginning, the CBO noted that the ACA would lower deficits (and repealing the act would increase them). Recent data from the CBO shows that the ACA’s provisions are 20% cheaper to implement than initially predicted in 2010.
In fact, the ACA is playing a role in bending the overall cost curve according to recent study by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The 6.0% growth rate that accompanies the implementation of the ACA is below the historical average.
According to a recent CBS News Poll, 53% of the American public believes that the economy is “good.” This is the highest recorded view of a favorable rating on the U.S. Economy since 2007.
As we head into a Presidential cycle, the issue of how wrong the GOP has been on the ACA has to become a material part of the debate. Opposition to the ACA and the hysterical claims made to its impact on the US has been the defining GOP issue of the Obama Presidency. It is an echo of their opposition to the 1993 Clinton budget, which brought about the longest and one of the most robust periods of growth in recent American history. In each of the last two Democratic Presidencies, the GOP have made big economic arguments that now have to be seen as spectacularly wrong.
Annual Budget Deficit
But this fits into a far broader and more salient reality of the last two and a half decades of American politics. As we reported in a recent study, the GOP also got basic economics wrong when they were in power. Each of the last two GOP Presidencies brought recession, weak stock markets and higher deficits. By contrast, each of the last two Democratic administrations brought growth, lower deficits and soaring stock markets.
The contrast between the modern Democratic Party’s economic performance and literacy versus the bad performance and wrong-headed economic policy of the modern GOP will likely emerge as one of the most important issues of the 2016 campaign.
Recent data from the Department of Health and Human Services highlights the greater success of the Affordable Care Act. According to HHS 16.4 million people, who were previously uninsured, gained access to health insurance thanks to the ACA. This corresponds with a drop of about 35% of the entire uninsured population of the United States—a massive change in over eighteen months. The uninsured rate fell even more sharply for Hispanics (12 percentage points) and African Americans (9 percentage points).
We also learned that the issue of people having their plans cancelled is far less of a concern. The Urban Institute released new data this week, which showed that only 400,000 Americans lost their plans on the individual markets due to those plans not meeting new ACA standards. In the total market for 2014, there were only around 900,000 cancelled plans. In fact, health insurance providers offered more new plans to accommodate customers. Moving forward, experts expect cancellations to be less of a factor.
What this continued positive news shows is that the GOP continues to be wrong in their crusade against the Affordable Care Act. More and more people are gaining insurance, while the GOP’s dire predictions have simply not come to pass. Their efforts are now more clearly defined as taking insurance away from at least 16.4 million Americans (and possibly more).
NDN President Simon Rosenberg contributed to this analysis.
This new op-ed originally appeared on 1/18/15 on MSNBC.com as a part of their "State of America" series. You can find the full piece on their site or below.
While the GOP’s latest rejection of immigration reform has dominated the headlines in recent weeks, the reality is that the United States is already undergoing a major societal shift as a result of significant Hispanic migration. And 2015 – regardless of Republican opposition – looks to be a tipping point. Consider:
In 2014, the Hispanic unemployment rate dropped by a quarter in a single year, from 8.4% to 6.5%. One estimate suggests that fully one-third of all Hispanics without health insurance gained insurance in the first full year of President Obama’s health care reforms, dropping from 36% uninsured to just 23%. Over the past generation, the Hispanic dropout rate has seen similar, dramatic improvements, going from about 35% in the 1990s to 13% last year.
Millions of undocumented Hispanics living in the U.S. will see dramatic socioeconomic gains through the president’s commonsense reforms to the immigration system. Early data from the two-year-old Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program show that even in its early days, DACA recipients saw significant gains in their income.
As the Mexican-American population has soared, trade between the U.S. and Mexico has taken off. Mexico is now the America’s third largest trading partner – reaching record levels in 2014 – and its second largest export market. As the Mexican economy has improved and modernized in the post-NAFTA period, the flow of Mexicans into the U.S. has dropped to record lows. What appears to be the end of the Great Mexican Diaspora has helped contribute to a very dramatic slowdown in the flow of undocumented immigrants into the U.S. during Obama’s presidency.
A CBS News poll released last week showed that even after months of contentious debate and aggressive GOP counter-legislation, 69% of the country wants the 11 million undocumented immigrant population to remain in the US; 62% support the President’s actions and 55% want them to remain in place. It appears that the public is rejecting renewed, intense GOP efforts to force the millions undocumented immigrants living and working among us to leave.
Since the United States changed its immigration policy in 1965, the Hispanic population has grown from 3 million to 53 million. This growth has been part of a much broader and historic wave of immigration which has put America on a trajectory to become a “majority minority” nation by 2044.
The explosion of Hispanics in the U.S. is a very recent phenomenon, suggesting that we may be indeed at a tipping point in the United States where we see the community making historic gains in socioeconomic status and broad acceptance by the majority population. It may be too early to call the Hispanic migration a success, but it is sure looking like that is where we are headed, soon.
All these developments make Republican opposition to the underlying policies which have helped usher in this era of progress far more inexplicable. Perhaps the two most intense areas of GOP policy engagement in the past two years – rolling back the Affordable Care Act and attacking the president’s immigration reforms – are both efforts that would disproportionately harm Hispanic families.
Similarly, Republicans have proposed cuts in school funding and appear to be headed toward opposition to the president’s new community college initiative – also efforts which would disproportionately harm Hispanic families. In fact, the newly-passed House immigration legislation goes far beyond opposition to the Obama’s reforms and includes provisions to expedite the deportation of the 11 million undocumented immigrants already here, putting the GOP not just against Hispanic advancement and assimilation but even their physical presence in the country.
Nevertheless, the great wave of Hispanic migration our nation has witnessed over the past fifty years is increasingly looking like a success. Hispanic Americans have made particularly significant economic strides in recent years. The public has rejected the worst of the GOP’s attacks on undocumented immigrants in the U.S., and appear accepting of the far more diverse America of the 21st century. The economic experiment of expanding our trade relations with Mexico has produced exploding levels of trade between our two countries, and an historic era of modernization and progress in Mexico itself.
While the politics of immigration will remain contentious in Washington for years to come, we may have hit a tipping point where this recent wave of Hispanic migration is becoming understood as a success for the immigrants themselves and the nation as a whole – a historic change that has made the State of our Union stronger.
Simon Rosenberg is the president of NDN/New Policy Institute, a pro-immigration reform think tank based in Washington, D.C.
Last week, we documented the very real gains the US economy had made under President Obama. This week we look at the progress made in the important renewable energy sector.
At NDN, we’ve long argued that the goal of US energy policy should be to create a cheaper, more distributed and cleaner energy future for our companies and consumers. The President has pursued an “all of the above” energy strategy, which has increased domestic production of oil and gas, seen tremendous advances in renewable deployment, regulated pollution that harms the climate and environment, and improved efficiency to conserve more energy. This strategy has seen significant dividends already as America’s domestic oil and gas production is booming, global energy prices have plummeted, the deployment of renewables in the US has skyrocketed.
Let’s take a deeper dive into renewable energy:
• Solar installation has surged as prices have plummeted. In fact, annual solar installations have increased by ten-fold since President Obama took office in 2009.
• All the while, the price it costs to install the system has fallen by nearly 63% in the same time frame.
• The Solar Industry has grown from about 93,500 jobs in 2010 to over 174,000 in 2014 – an increase of about 86% overall. It grew at about twenty times greater than the overall economy in the past four years.
• Prior to the 2008, the Wind Energy Industry was small and was projected to have sluggish growth through 2030. In the late 2000’s, Wind power's deployment accelerated, reaching 50 GW in 2012—about 18 years ahead of the projected schedule. Installations of wind power capacity tripled from 2008 – 2012 almost tripled.
• Today, Wind powers about 18 million homes in the U.S. and is the largest form of renewable energy (besides hydropower) and an emerging industry.
Further Investments in Clean Energy • The President’s first major bill (the “stimulus package”) included $90 billion to fund clean energy projects, such as battery programs, further research in alternative sources of energy, and tax credits. It also led to a further leveraging of $100 billion in private dollars to invest in clean energy. The program that led to investments in high-profile cases like Solyndra, could eventually result in over $5 billion dollar surplus to the federal government, on-top of creating a strong environment
• In the second term, the President pledged to have 20% of the federal government run off of renewable energy by 2020. The Administration has also made increasing renewable energy a goal under the Environmental Protection Agency’s carbon regulations; renewable energy is one of the options offered under the Climate Action Plan for states to invest in as a way to reach carbon cutting goals. The U.S. Military is out in front, aiming to have 25% of its power come from renewable energy by 2025.
In total, the growth of renewable energy over the past six years is quite impressive. Renewable energy sources now power over 12.9% of electricity production in the United States—an increase of more than 50% since 2008. Solar and Wind are outperforming other types of renewable energy, growing each year by leaps and bounds. Clean energy is no longer a far-off pipedream, but an increasingly vibrant and real piece of the U.S. energy economy.
• Solar chart is from a recent article by Jonathan Chait, “History Will Be Very Kind” to President Obama.
• Wind chart is from the 2013 AWEA 4th Quarter Market Report.
• Michael Grunwald of Politico is a great resource for his work on reporting on the clean energy revolution, particularly his book the “New New Deal.”
•* includes hydropower
It is important to note that the emerging House GOP immigration strategy is deeply consistent with their approach from the 113th Congress. In both 2013 and 2014, in what was their only substantive response to the bi-partisan Senate immigration bill, the House GOP passed laws overriding the use of prosecutorial discretion mandated in the “Morton Memos.” Prosecutorial discretion has been the basis of a series of sweeping improvements in the immigration system advanced by the Obama Administration since 2010, including DACA in 2012 and the 2014 Executive Actions (DAPA).
The objective of this GOP strategy is remove the ability of DHS to prioritize (and de-prioritize) the deportation of those apprehended by the immigration justice system. In their view removing this common every day law enforcement practice from a massive law enforcement system, as Greg Sargent reports in this recent piece, would allow DHS to re-establish the threat of imminent deportation over the entire undocumented population (which began to be removed through the 2010 Morton strategy). The only reason to do that is if the longer term objective was to block all efforts at legalization and force the remaining 11m to leave through “self-deportation.” The only reason to fight common sense provisions to prioritize the deportation of felons over law-abiding, tax-paying moms is if you believe that the fear of imminent deportation is an essential tool of immigration policy – and the only reason it would be would if the goal was not eventual legalization but removal/self-deportation. Focusing so much energy on deportation prioritization only makes sense if you believe there will be millions to deport.
All Republicans supporting this initiative need to be asked directly about their vision for the 11m already here. By supporting this legislation, it is clear their goal is for them to leave, not stay. Early media appearances by GOP supporters of this bill have seen Republicans being less than honest about the longer term goal, evading the question by suggesting that border security needs to come first and not answering the question. Journalists should not let them off the hook for the decision of go/stay is the most important question in the immigration debate today and folks should be clear about where they stand on this.
On a related note, the current GOP arguments about the border itself are a bit ridiculous. In recent years, due to greater cooperation with Mexico, additional resources on the border, and the deterrent effect the post-Morton strategy of far greater pursuit of illegal entrants/border crossers has brought, the net flow of undocumented immigrations into the US has gone from 400,000 a year under Bush to zero under Obama; and crime along the US side of the border itself has plummeted. The government has made significant strides in border security in recent years, in part due to the Morton prioritization of border crossers/illegal entrants for deportation. Unraveling Morton would actually be a setback for border security not an advance.
The success of the President’s border strategy can not only be measured in the very real gains we’ve seen in security, but in during this period of progress in security we have also seen an explosion of trade and tourism across our southern border. US-Mexico trade will clock in over $600b in goods and services in 2014, almost DOUBLE what it was in the first year of the Obama Administration. Mexico is now the US’s second largest market for our exports. That we have both dramatically increased border security while overseeing a huge increase in legal tourism and trade with Mexico will go down as one of the more significant policy successes of the Obama era.
A new report released earlier today from ICE, ICE Enforcement and Removal Operation Reports FY 2014, contains another year of data showing how Obama era policies have made our immigration system better and border safer.
As background, the undocumented immigrant population in the United States swelled from 3m in the early 1990s to 12m by 2007. After 9/11, and accelerating in the middle part of the last decade, there became a bi-partisan effort to both stop the flow of unauthorized migrants and reform a domestic immigration system badly out of date and inadequately equipped to deal with a undocumented immigrant population of this size. After legislative efforts to reform the system failed for the 3rd time in 2010, DHS pragmatically initiated a series of reforms designed to help the immigration enforcement/justice system cope with a population far beyond what is funded and equipped to deal with. Known as the Morton Memos, these reforms among other things directed the immigration enforcement/judicial system to prioritize two types of unauthorized immigrants for deportation from this vast pool of more than 10 million – those caught entering the country without authorization, and those apprehended in the interior with criminal records.
As the charts and graphs below show, these reforms brought swift and significant reform to the system. The prioritization of border removals has helped keep the net flow of undocumented immigrants to zero after 15 years of gains of on average 500,000 or more, while also helping bring the crime rate down along the US side of the US-Mexico border. In the interior, prioritizing felons not families, the system has become far more focused on removing criminals and leaving law abiding, tax-paying families alone. These reforms have neither “ratcheted up” nor weakened enforcement. They have made our enforcement system smarter, more effective and better. And, as we learned this spring and summer, the many years of investment in capacity building and far better use of limited resources enabled the US government to successfully manage an extraordinary crisis when it hit our border.
The success of the changes begun by DHS in 2010 laid the groundwork for the Executive Actions the President took a few weeks ago. As the President said, his answer for what to do about our broken immigration system was to pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform. But after nine years of trying that path and being blocked, the President simply had to act. The immigration system we have today was never designed or built to handle an unauthorized population of more than 10m people, many long settled and with deep family ties to the community. By even further refining the enforcement priorities to the border and serious criminals in the interior, the Executive Actions will maintain our successful border policies, make it far easier to remove true criminal threats from the interior rapidly, unclog our badly clogged and unjust immigration judicial system, while freeing up law abiding immigrant with deep family ties to make even greater economic contributions to their country.
Reviewing this new ICE data it is clear that the reforms made by DHS a few years ago were smart and effective. Our immigration system is better and our border safer. The recent Executive Actions built on these reforms, and will in the coming years, even without Congressional action, make our nation safer and our immigration system far better and more humane.
For a much deeper dive on these issues, be sure to read our recent report: “NDN/NPI Report on Central American Migrants and President Obama’s Immigration/Border Enforcement Record.”