As the state of the US-Mexico border moves front and center in the national debate over immigration, a little perspective is needed.
What is apparently driving Republican efforts to alter the border security provisions of the Senate immigration bill is a distrust of the Obama Administration and DHS’s commitment to the effective management of the US-Mexico border. At the core, this concern is misplaced, and Republicans are simply going to have to find a better argument for their proposed changes to the Senate immigration bill.
Let’s review some data from the last decade or so. Crime on the US side of the border has plummeted, dropping from just over 19,000 incidents of violent crime in 2004 to just over 14,000 in 2011. In the five high traffic corridors which experience most of the flow of unauthorized migrants, two already have achieved a 90% apprehension rate, and two are over 80%. Due to both the drop in flow and significant increase in the border patrol (10,650 in 2004, 21,300 in 2012) the apprehension rate per border patrol agent has dropped from 327 in 1993 to just 18 in 2012. With such improvements in enforcement, the normal churn of immigrants returning home, and record levels of deportations (400,000 in 2012), the total population of unauthorized immigrants in the US has dropped from its peak of 12 million in 2007 to roughly 11 million today. The average annual inflow of unauthorized immigrants is now nearly half of what it was at its height, declining from 550,000 or more to 300,000 over the last decade. Unauthorized migrants from Mexico, the largest sending country, have decreased from 7 million in 2007 to 6.5 million in 2010, and net migration with Mexico has dropped to zero or less. The numbers suggest that, in fact, overall unauthorized immigration must be hovering around a net value of zero if the average influx is 300,000 per year and the administration is deporting 400,000.
Importantly, this enforcement success has not come at the expense of trade with Mexico, which is rising at extraordinary rates. In 2009, US trade with Mexico was $300 billion; in 2012 it was $536 billion, and we are on track this year to see it hit close to $600b – a doubling in just four years. Six million US jobs are dependent on this exploding trade, and Mexico has become the US’s second largest destination for our exports, buying almost double what China purchases from our businesses every year.
The Senate immigration bill establishes ambitious enforcement targets to build on DHS’s recent success. The bill calls for a 90 percent apprehension rate across the entire border; it requires a new exit visa system at air and sea ports of entry; and it nationalizes our worker verification system, giving businesses better tools to ensure their workers are legal. Achieving any one of these three objectives in the next decade would be ambitious; doing all three together is going to require significant bipartisan cooperation, adequate funding levels and strong leadership from DHS in the years to come. None of the current Republican border amendments, including the one being offered by Senator John Cornyn, do much to alter this strategy. They move the enforcement timetable up a bit, which would be expensive and given the already ambitious targets, make the overall strategy much more likely to fail. Many of the other recommended additions are unnecessary and often terribly expensive flourishes which may sound strong and tough but do little to alter the strategic trajectory the Senate has already agreed to. In almost every case these new GOP provisions make the Senate bill more expensive and worse, not tougher and better.
What the Cornyn Amendment gets right, however, is the need for additional investments in our ports of entry. The explosion of our trade relationship with Mexico in recent years has made the need to modernize and update our 47 ports of entry along the border a national economic priority. The current Senate bill makes a nod in this direction, adding 3,500 customs agents to facilitate the movement of more goods and people, and establishes a grant program to upgrade our ports. But Cornyn goes further, committing $1b a year for six years to improve infrastructure and add personnel at our land ports of entry, and calls for changing the law to allow DHS to enter public-private partnerships along the border to help mobilize private capital to improve these ports. While we think much of the enforcement side of the Cornyn Amendment is unnecessary and unrealistic, the ports of entry investment provisions should be adopted on the Senate floor and woven into the final Senate bill. They will help create good jobs here in the US while improving security at the border.
To be adopted, Republican proposals to alter the current Senate immigration bill’s ambitious border enforcement provisions should have to demonstrate two things: 1) they make the current Senate Bill better 2) they acknowledge the significant success the Administration has had in managing the border. You can’t really have it both ways on this last one – the reason the Senate bill has set such ambitious targets for enforcement in the coming years is because DHS has shown it can manage the border effectively. If you think DHS has failed, and is not to be trusted, as some have suggested, then why in the world would you make the border provisions even more ambitious and harder to achieve?
The answer, of course, is that these Amendments are not designed to make the bill better, or the border safer, but to derail the process altogether. You can’t have a “tougher” bill without also trusting DHS to carry it through.
Update - See here for a comprehensive ppt deck which offers up the data cited in here, and more.
NDN/NPI's 21st Century Border Initiatve hosted a conference call with Southwest Border Mayors to discuss the real life impact of immigration policies on border communitties.
On the call NDN/NPI unveiled the following Southwest border mayors will be available to provide context to the ongoing immigration debate and how it impacts real people and the economic vitality of border communities.
They include, but are not limited to, the following Mayors:
Arturo Garino - Mayor of Nogales, Arizona
Raul Salinas - Mayor of laredo, Texas
Greg Stanton - Mayor of Phoenix, Arizona
Tony Martinez - Mayor of Brownsville, Texas
Ken Miyagashima - Mayor of Las Cruces, New Mexico
Following the call Simon Rosenberg, President, NDN and the New Policy Institute led a conversation with Greg Stanton, Mayor of Phoenix, Arizona and Tony Martinez, Mayor of Brownsville, Texas talked about how the border communities are dealing with the immigration bill.
Also as the Senate Border/Immigration bill moves to the Senate floor, the team at NDN/NPI offers up its most relevant background materials, and key press clips, updated daily. To view this please click here.
The election of Hassan Rouhani as the next president of Iran is a positive development and represents an opportunity for reform as well as renewed and rational engagement with the west. While it would be naïve to expect any sudden policy shifts from a regime still headed by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Rouhani ran on a platform of reform that emphasized not only domestic economic issues, but also his goal of working toward normalizing relations with the international community and creating an environment in which sanctions can be gradually rolled back.
U.S. relations with Iran should continue to be driven by our regional interests and by ensuring the security of our allies. It should be understood, however, that the current policy of sanctions and isolation are not policy goals in and of themselves. American interests will be best served by a more democratic, open, and responsible Iran that respects international norms and laws. If President-Elect Rouhani wishes to normalize Iran’s relationship with the United States and our allies, they will need to bring their nuclear program under transparent monitoring and cease supporting regional terrorism and instability through the forces they control both directly and by proxy.
It is worth noting that Mr. Rouhani was instrumental in negotiating the 2003 Sa’dabad Agreement, in which Iran agreed to suspend nuclear enrichment. Though this deal eventually collapsed, the fact that he has demonstrated a willingness to constrain the Iranian nuclear program should be viewed as a possible opening for new talks. While it will take time for the President-Elect to bring new and hopefully reform-minded personnel into the bureaucracy, the Iranian people have clearly rejected the status quo and spoken out for change. The United States should seize this opportunity to develop a diplomatic relationship with the new President and deploy a strategy designed to encourage Iran to become a more open and responsible member of the global community.
Babeu Urges House to Reject Senate Immigration Bill, Focus on Border Security During yesterday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing yesterday on the SAFE Act, Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu urged the House to reject the Senate immigration legislation and increase law enforcement and police authority. However Karen Tumlin, of the National Immigration Law Center, pushed back suggesting that would be too much to add to a bill that already increases enforcement.
Senate Rejects Republican Effort to Gut Immigration Bill The Gang of Eight compromise remained strong yesterday as the Senate defeated an amendment from Sen. Grassley with a 57-43 vote. The amendment would have delayed the pathway to citizenship provisions of the bill. Supporters and critics of the bill continue to work on border security provisions.
Senate Immigration Authors Consider Border Control Change Several sponsors of the Senate immigration bill are trying to draft an alternative to Sen. John Cornyn’s RESULTS amendment which they fear could permanently impede the proposed path the citizenship for undocumented immigrants in the US. One of those sponsors, Sen. Chuck Schumer said, “We just want to make sure that it doesn’t forsake our principles, which is that there has to be an achievable, specific [border] trigger.”
Gang of Eight Seeks Alternative to John Cornyn Amendment Members of the bipartisan Gang of Eight who drafted the original Senate immigration bill are pushing back against Senator John Cornyn’s RESULTS amendment that seeks to increase border enforcement saying it is a “poison pill.” The Cornyn amendment, meanwhile, is gaining more support from other Republicans.
Ted Poe, Lamar Smith, Bill Flores Propose Border Enforcement Crackdown Similar to Cornyn Plan Senator John Cornyn introduced an amendment to the Senate immigration bill currently being debated on the floor that would increase border security requirements. Seemingly following his lead, three members of the House have introduced the very similar “SMART Border Act” in the lower chamber.
“Purgatorio,” a Film about Lives on the U.S.-Mexico Border While immigration reform is being debated in the halls of Congress, filmmaker Rodrigo Reyes feels like lawmakers are not seeing the full picture of life at the border. He says his film “Purgatorio” attempts “to give you an x-ray of the border so you can really feel it, and then you can go off and talk about what’s going on.”
Join us tomorrow as Simon will be conducting a live webinar about the border and immigration debate this Thursday at 12:15pm. He will be reviewing our acclaimed power point presentation, "How Improvements Along the Border, In Our Immigration System and In Mexico Are Impacting the National Immigration Debate." To join the webinar, please click this link before 12:15 tomorrow to view the webinar. You will need to download a free trial of Go To Meeting prior to joining.
This is part of a new weekly series here at NDN where Simon will discuss immigration reform and the border every Thursday during lunch.
Guest Workers Are the Best Border Security While border security is perhaps the main focus of the immigration reform debate at present, Tamar Jacoby explains why the guest worker merits more attention. As population demographics and the US workforce change, the national economy is going to require more low-skilled workers. The proposed Senate immigration reform bill includes valuable provisions for a worker-visa program. “The best antidote to illegal immigration is a legal immigration system that works.”
Republicans Seek More Border Control in Immigration Bill As Senate Republicans demand stricter border-security requirements in the immigration reform legislation proceeding through the Senate, Democrats are pushing back. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the legislation “should not make the path to citizenship contingent upon border-security goals that are impossible” to meet.
Who’s Crossing the Mexico Border? A New Survey Tries to Find Out In a new survey from the National Center for Border Security and Immigration at the University of Arizona, researchers interviewed more than 1,000 detainees at the Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector in 2012. The determination of immigrants to come to the US despite the trials of crossing the border lends support to the argument that the US needs to reform its immigration system, creating a clearer legal path for immigrants to come to work while more effectively securing the US-Mexico border.
In an era of extreme partisanship, immigration reform has been an opportunity for Democrats and Republicans to work across the aisle issue of import to all Americans, particularly in its effects on the economy. The bipartisan Gang of Eight drafted the Senate immigration bill that has since emerged from the Judiciary Committee, and a bipartisan group has also been working on immigration reform compromise in the House.
As S. 744 goes to the Senate floor for debate this week, NDN President Simon Rosenberg and President and CEO of ImmigrationWorks USA Tamar Jacoby, representing the Democrat and Republican positions respectively, met at the New America Foundation to continue this bipartisan engagement on immigration reform. They discussed where the legislation is now in view of each party and potential challenges for each side.
Both speakers praised the work of the Gang of Eight bill that strives for commonsense reform with compromise on border enforcement, an arduous path to citizenship, and a balance on employment-based visas. They also outlined the future challenges and potential pitfalls those compromises will face as they are tested by full Senate and possibly House debates.
"Older politicians will have to get beyond their ideological blinders to recognize the opportunity waiting for any candidate or political party that can embrace both halves of the Millennial era civic ethos paradox."