Your Daily Border Bulletin is up! Today's stories include:
New Survey Finds Majority Of Americans Back Citizenship For Immigrants Seven Democratic senators are asking a bipartisan group of colleagues to reconsider plans to eliminate some categories of family visas as the group finalizes a comprehensive overhaul of immigration laws.
The gang of seven and their push for family visas Over six in ten Americans think undocumented immigrants should be given a path to citizenship, according to a survey released Thursday by the Brookings Institution and the Public Religion Research Institute. The survey found that 63 percent of respondents back citizenship for those without papers, while 21 percent favor deportation. Only 14 percent, one in five, favor giving undocumented immigrants legal status but not citizenship, according to the survey.
For immigration reform, time could be of the essence As immigration reform legislation percolates in closed-door, bipartisan working groups in the House and Senate, lawmakers are approaching their self-imposed deadline of mid-April to lay out actual legislation. But, with opposition groups rallying their forces, the speed at which lawmakers can move to a vote could determine whether the legislation can make it to President Obama’s desk at all.
In this latest MENA Chat webcast, Bradley Bosserman explores the strategy and challenges that underlie U.S. democracy assistance in the Middle East. He is joined by Dr. Sarah Bush, whose recent research provides important insights on possible reforms. Rebecca Abou-Chedid is also featured. Drawing on her experience in Cairo she discusses some of the ways these dynamics play out in Egypt. Follow this link to view the webcast.
As background — Secretary Kerry, following his first Middle East trip at the helm of the State Department, approved the release of $250 million in aid to the young Egyptian government. While Egypt’s economy remains on the brink and in desperate need of foreign assistance, the move is not without controversy. Republican Senator Marco Rubio last week proposed legislation that would place new conditions on further aid disbursement, while some activists remain critical of funding the government without assurances that they are committed to making real progress toward more democratic institutions and protecting key political and civil rights.
Dr. Sarah Bush is an expert on foreign aid strategy and Assistant Professor of Political Science at Temple University. She recently published “Confront or Conform? Rethinking U.S. Democracy Assistance” for the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED).
Rebecca Abou-Chedid is a Fellow at the Truman National Security Project, Co-Chair of the Board for Just Vision, and former National Political Director for the Arab American Institute.
And on Thursday, March 28 at Noon – Join Bradley Bosserman as he walks through a previously unpublished briefing deck he's been presenting to members of Congress and Hill staffers over the last couple weeks. "MENA Engagement Briefing – A Real Opportunity to Lead" will highlight the latest market research and detail political opportunities and framing mechanics that can successfully support a strategy of broader economic engagement with the Middle East and North Africa.
There’s an old joke about engineers: If you fail your basic courses, it’s no big deal – the bridge just falls down.
Unfortunately, according to a new report from the American Society of Civil Engineers, the joke is on us. In their quadrennial Report on American Infrastructure, ASCE gives our roads, bridges, water and energy networks a D+.
On a very basic level, this is bad news because no one wants a bridge to fall down, certainly not while people might be on it or underneath it.
However, the more concerning element of our declining infrastructure is the impact it has on our economy. Crumbling infrastructure makes it difficult for entrepreneurs to thrive. Investing in infrastructure is critical to modernize regional economies around the United States and to increase America’s competitiveness in the 21st century global economy.
Building America’s Future co-chair and former Governor of Pennsylvania Ed Rendell said ‘What our competitors are spending on infrastructure should make us feel ashamed.’ Rendell continued ‘For America to stay competitive in a global economy, we must significantly improve our energy, transportation and water systems.’
The tiny kernel of good news in this report is our infrastructure has actually gotten slightly better over the past four years, inching up to a D+ from a D. However, to really make progress on this front in the near term, we need to invest heavily on infrastructure on a national level. Implementing President Obama’s Fix It First agenda would be an excellent place to start. The President’s plan calls for $50 billion to spend on backlogged maintenance for transportation projects across America.
Developing a national infrastructure bank is another important step to fixing America’s infrastructure problem in the mid-term. Not surprisingly, Congress is seemingly paralyzed on this issue (as well as many others), despite the clear cut economic benefits.
Lastly, investing in innovation infrastructure as spelled out in Acceleration 2.0. In addition to roads and bridges, we need to redefine infrastructure to include the wide range of investments that can modernize our economy: replacing our archaic electrical grid with a smart grid, replacing aging coal fired power plants with 21st century renewable energy, providing broadband or wifi to every home and business in America, and building a network of venture development organizations to more quickly move research from the lab bench to the marketplace.
Our aging infrastructure is an anchor, dragging us downward. Fortunately, we know what we can do to fix it. We just need a little leadership.
Your Daily Border Bulletin is up! Today's stories include:
Senate immigration deal close to Obama plan: The nation’s 11 million illegal immigrants would have to wait a full decade for a green card but could earn citizenship just three years after that, under a provision being finalized by a bipartisan group of eight senators working to devise an overhaul of immigration law, several people with knowledge of the negotiations said. Taken together, the two waiting periods would provide the nation’s illegal immigrants with a path to United States citizenship in 13 years, matching the draft of a plan by President Obama to offer full participation in American democracy to millions who are living in fear of deportation.
Negotiations continue for business and labor Talks led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO over a new guest-worker program for lower-skilled immigrants are stalled, prompting members of the bipartisan group of eight senators to get personally involved to try to nudge the negotiations toward a resolution. Business and labor groups have been meeting for weeks in an attempt to put together a system that would allow employers to find foreign labor when American workers are not available and that would allow foreign workers into the country. The idea is to create a new “W” visa category for lower-skilled guest workers. No such visas exists right now, leaving a vacuum that undocumented workers have been filling.
Arizona Border More Secure Because of Enforcement Flying low along the Mexican line in a Black Hawk helicopter, the United States Border Patrol officer saw surveillance towers rising above the cactus. He saw his agents’ white and green trucks moving among the mesquite, scouting for illegal crossers. Far overhead, a remotely guided drone beamed images of the terrain to an intelligence center in Tucson. Pilots cruised in reconnaissance planes carrying radars and infrared cameras that could distinguish a migrant with a backpack from a wild animal from many miles away.
Your Daily Border Bulletin is up! Today's stories include:
Both House and Senate Groups Nearing Agreement On Immigration Deal The bipartisan group of House members that has been meeting quietly for nearly four years to discuss an overhaul of the nation’s immigration system is nearing agreement on a framework, and is briefing their respective leadership this week. On Thursday, the four Democrats in the eight-person group — Representatives Xavier Becerra of California, Luis V. Gutierrez of Illinois, Zoe Lofgren of California and John Yarmuth of Kentucky — briefed Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader. The Republicans of the group — Representatives John Carter and Sam Johnson, both of Texas, Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida and Raúl R. Labrador of Idaho — met with Speaker John A. Boehner on Friday.
The Cost of Sealing Our U.S. Border Last year President Obama spent $11.7 billion on security at the U.S.-Mexico border—more than any of his predecessors, according to the Migration Policy Institute. That big of an investment might make you think illegal immigrants were storming the 2,000-mile stretch of desert that separates Texas and California from Mexico, but in fact, the opposite is true. The net migration between the U.S. and Mexico last year was zero, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. Roughly 150,000 people, both illegal and legal, arrived in the U.S. from Mexico, and about the same number left the U.S. to return home.
The push for high-skilled immigration reform More than 100 chief executives of major tech companies and trade associations — including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer — urged President Obama and Congress on Thursday to reform the existing immigration rules for highly-skilled workers. In a letter sent to the president and lawmakers, the tech heavyweights said the need to hire and retain skilled foreign and domestic workers is one of the top economic challenges facing the country and the existing immigration laws are a hurdle to addressing this issue. They argue that high-skilled immigrants have gone on to create companies like Google, eBay and Yahoo, which have driven job and economic growth in the United States.
Paul Ryan’s new budget blueprint released this week — details to follow, as usual — will only intensify the partisan warfare over the deficit. In truth, the deficit is just a cover story here, since the real debate is over the scope and role of government itself. Ryan at least is more upfront about it than most – he includes large new tax cuts as well as draconian spending reductions in what is ostensibly a plan to “balance the budget.” In his fervor to miniaturize Washington’s domestic role, however, he cannot provide the resources to maintain the core commitments of Social Security and Medicare.
The ideological core of this debate also explains why most of the proposals and agreements of the past year have paid so little heed to the needs of the economy. There is no doubt that the spending cuts and tax hikes of the last six months have weakened economic growth — and as a result, deficits actually could be larger over the longer-term than they otherwise would have been. The additional spending cuts contemplated for the next six months under the sequester — and under most of the grand bargains being floated to supersede the sequester — would inflict more damage. In this regard, Ryan stands at the extreme with a plan that would drive us back into recession.
Nonetheless, a major deal that includes entitlement reforms and tax-loophole closings remains possible. In the politics that could determine the relative weights of those two factors, Republicans will have less maneuvering room on taxes than Democrats will enjoy on entitlements. That’s because primary challengers from the far right already have taken down a number of conventional Republicans, heightening the GOP’s resistance to more revenues. By contrast, there have been no successful attacks so far on centrist Democrats for supporting the cutbacks in federal programs now in place. This political difference suggests that more of the burden in any grand bargain will likely fall on entitlements than on revenues. The next question is, what entitlement changes could Democrats accept and still preserve the essential missions of those programs.
Let’s consider Social Security and its core guarantee of basic economic security for more than 40 million retirees (plus nearly 9 million people with disabilities). Unfortunately for Ryan and his fellow supporters of austerity for the elderly and disabled, no change that would trim the benefits of all Social Security recipients is compatible with the program’s central mission. To begin, while countries such as Germany, France and Italy provide monthly pension checks equal on average to 75 percent or more of a person’s average monthly wages over a lifetime, this “replacement rate” for Social Security is only about 40 percent. That translates into an average monthly benefit of $1,230, or less than $15,000 per-year. Moreover, these bare benefits comprise at least 90 percent of the total income for more than one-third of all current Social Security recipients.
Let’s do the math. The terms just described translate into an annual income of less than $16,300, which amounts to a very bare minimum. After all, the average cost today of a small apartment (rent and utilities) is over $7,000 per-year. Even if elderly people pay 20 percent less than the average, their rent and utilities still claim an average of $5,600 per-year or nearly 40 percent of all their income. Add to that at least $335 per-month for food at a poverty level ($4,000 annually) and another $310 per-month for Medicare Part B and Part D premiums and other out-of-pocket medical expenses ($3,700 annually). That leaves tens of millions of elderly and disabled Americans with about $130 per-month ($1,600 per-year) to cover all other expenses such as clothes, transportation, recreation, state and local taxes, and any unexpected expenditures.
These data suggest that any across-the-board benefit cut today is incompatible with Social Security’s essential mission. That takes off-the-table changes in the annual inflation adjustment or the retirement age. Given current benefits, the only reforms consistent with the program’s central commitment are ones based on means-testing. For example, Congress could apply a smaller annual cost-of-living adjustment to the benefits of the top tier of retirees. And if Congress is set on guaranteeing the system’s solvency for the next 75 years, in the same spirit they should think about applying the payroll tax to the capital income of the top tier of workers. Not that there is an enormous rush, given the actuaries estimate that the system’s solvency is secure for at least another quarter-century.
Much like George W. Bush’s proposal to privatize part of Social Security, the 2013 Ryan budget is simply uninterested in the missions that animate federal entitlement programs. Democrats would commit a grave mistake, as a matter of both social policy and politics, if they also sacrificed those commitments in search of Republican acquiescence to more revenues.
Yesterday Simon briefed the House New Democrat Coalition, a group of 51 Members, on immigration reform and border issues. I wanted to share with you the Power Point we developed for the briefing. If you are interested in learning more about some of the issues at the heart of our current immigration debate this is a great place to start.
The presentation is called, “Immigration Reform: How The Landscape Has Changed Since the House Last Voted in 2005 - Our Border Is Safer, Our Immigration System Is Better and Mexico Is Modernizing and Growing.” You can find it here.
To learn more about the topics discussed in this presentation, be sure to read Simon’s recent Huffington Post Op-ed, “The Border is Safer, Our Immigration System is Better;” see our round-up of our most important work on these issues; and stay in touch with us via our website, 21border.com.
Your Daily Border Bulletin is up! Today's stories include:
Sen. McCain, “guardedly optimistic” on a pathway agreement: Three Republican senators working to craft immigration legislation in the gang of eight downplayed a report that they had reached an agreement on a pathway to legal status. The Chicago Tribune reported on Monday that the eight senators “have privately agreed on the most contentious part of the draft: how to give legal status to the nation’s 11 million illegal immigrants.” While the senators broadly said that giving legal status to the country’s undocumented immigrants remained a top priority as laid out in their proposal unveiled earlier in the year, they denied any details had been finalized
Time is running out for Labor and Business: For months, business and labor leaders have been negotiating over a crucial aspect of immigration reform — how to handle future flows of lesser-skilled workers. But the next few weeks may determine whether the two sides can reach an agreement that could prove crucial to the greater effort to overhaul the nation’s immigration system. Both sides have already agreed to a common set of principles, including the creation of a new visa for lesser-skilled workers who come to the U.S. for year-round work. At present, no visa category provides for that type of immigrant worker.
GOP’s Steve Pearce and The Latino Vote: Rep. Steve Pearce is the rarest of Republican Party officeholders, a very conservative Anglo who keeps winning elections from a predominantly Latino electorate. As the national GOP seeks to improve its dismal standing with Hispanic voters, the 65-year-old former oil man has some advice. “You just have to show up, all the time, everywhere,” he said, during a recent barnstorm tour of his district, which sprawls across the southern half of this border state. “Most Republicans don’t bother. I do. I bother.