NDN Blog

Exports in Metropolitan Areas Across America Continue To Grow

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration (ITA) recently released two reports showcasing how exports are helping businesses and communities grow across the country. ITA found that exports in the surveyed Metropolitan Areas had increased by 50% since 2009. The second report shared that 7.1 million US jobs were supported by the export of goods last year. The Obama Administration has made increasing exports a key Commerce priority under the National Export Initiative (NEI).

Metropolitan Area Exports Report

 Department of Commerce

ITA calculated that a record number of goods and services—valued at 2.3 trillion dollars--were exported in 2013. 387 Metro Areas were surveyed overall, with 208 seeing positive growth in 2013. Of those that grew, 156 of the Metro areas surveyed exported over $1 billion of goods. 134 areas recorded export numbers that were an all-time high. Five Midwestern metro areas, located in the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio, Wyoming, Kentucky, Michigan, and Utah, exported over $1 billion in goods for the first time ever. Overall, there was a growth in exports in Metropolitan Areas of $42.8 billion or 3.1% from 2012 – 2013. This is excellent news as we are seeing areas across the country continue to grow and expand trade internationally.

Jobs in States Supported By Exports Report

This is the first time that Commerce Department has produced this report, which focused on the relationship between states that export and job growth. The Census Bureau contributed to the report via offering “origin of movement” data—which showcases where an export begins its journey (i.e. within a particular state). In 2013, 7.1 million jobs across the country were shown to be directly supported by the export of goods, and a total of 11.3 million jobs supported by exports, when including service exports (these are not tracked by the Census Bureau). The Department of Commerce noted separately that exports of manufactured products supported 6.2 million jobs.  

Pew Report: Undocumented Immigrant Population Has Not Grown Since Obama Took Office

There are many interesting takeaways from the new Pew Hispanic report on the undocumented immigrant population in the US, but one to draw attention to is that the undocumented immigrant population under President Obama has not grown, and is now almost a million less than in the latter years of the Bush Presidency.   The report can be found here

As we wrote in a recent report, that there has been no increase in the undocumented population during the Obama Presidency has to taken as a sign of the success of the Administration’s management of the border and immigration system in the US.   In the Clinton era Presidency the nation gained on average over 600,000 undocumented immigrants each year.  Under Bush is was over 400,000 a year.   Under Obama, it has been on zero.   It is a sea change.

While the slower economy of this era is certainly a factor in this decline, our report argues that changes in Mexico and tougher enforcement at the border has contributed to the plummeting of flow of undocumented immigrants into the US.   Remember, the unemployment rate has dropped almost 4 entire percentage points during the Obama Presidency.   So while the economy is in far better shape and producing far many more jobs than during the Great Recession, there has been no parallel uptick in the undocumented population.    From a statistical standpoint this means of course there are other factors at play.   The two we dwell on is the enhanced deterrent effect of the prioritization of apprehending illegal entrants in the Obama era, and improving socio-economic circumstances in Mexico itself.  


Addressing the Central American Migrant Crisis (Aspen Idea Blog)

The Aspen Idea Blog published a new piece that has a take from four fellows on how to address the Central American Migrant Crisis in both the short and long term. I wrote from the US perspective on how the Obama Administration has already addressed aspects of the crisis and how we can do more morving forward. 

4 Perspectives Addressing the Central American Child Migrant Crisis in the US

The causes of the Central American migrant crisis are not simple, nor will be our nation’s response if it is to be successful. 

A lot has contributed to the crisis: expanding regional influence of the Mexican cartels and transnational organized crime, weak regional civil society and legal authority, lack of economic opportunity for people in the region, and holes in the American immigration system, which have been relentlessly exploited by human traffickers and other criminal actors. So far the Obama Administration’s whole of government response has been smart: providing support to the three countries producing the migrants, unprecedented cooperation with Mexico in addressing the crisis, adherence to existing American laws for the processing of the children and families apprehended, and rapid deportation of those not qualified to remain in the US. The flow of child migrants is slowing, regional cooperation is on the rise, and a degree of order is being restored. 

But over the long haul the US will have to develop and then implement a much more robust regional strategy to create regional economic opportunity, strengthen civil society and citizen security, and modernize and improve our own immigration laws. Perhaps drawing from other successful initiatives like the Marshall Plan or Plan Colombia, the US needs a new and far better sustained strategy to improve the lives of our neighbors to the South. This effort will also have to include discussions about our own lax gun laws, which have helped arm criminal elements in the region, and our own insatiable desire for illegal drugs, which is helping create the breeding ground from which the increasingly powerful transnational organized crime syndicates have spawned.


To read the full feature, and the insights of three other Aspen fellows, visit here. In order to read some of our other work this summer on the Central American Migrant Crisis, see here.   


Early Reports: ACA having a Positive Impact on U.S. Healthcare System

In recent weeks there has been a slew of good news about the Affordable Care Act (ACA). These early reports indicate that the ACA is achieving some of its main objectives of reducing the number of uninsured Americans and bending the cost curve. Consider these facts:

The number of uninsured Americans has dropped dramatically.

  • The rate dropped dramatically in states like Arkansas and Kentucky, where the uninsured population fell by 10.1 and 8.5 percentage points respectively.
  • Studies show that the ACA’s first year has led to about 9.5 million less uninsured Americans.


Premiums rate increases are below historical averages

Map, credit to Vox.com

  • According to Vox, the average premium increase would be 8.2%, less than the healthcare market typically grew in the years prior to the passage of healthcare reform. 


The ACA is contributing to a lower federal budget deficit and helping to reign in healthcare costs

Chart, credit to HuffingtonPost 


  • Healthcare spending as a percentage of GDP has decreased for two consecutive years. This is the first time that this has happened in 15 years.
  • The New York Times highlighted a report that the expected cost of Medicare continues to drop drastically from previous projects. Between a report released in 2006 and the most recent estimate, there is a $95 billion difference in how much Medicare is expected to cost the government. The Times notes that the ACA has played a role by helping to bend the cost curve.
  •  National Health Expenditures is projected to increase over the next decade according to a report by the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services.  NHE will only grow by an average rate of 5.8% from 2012 - 2022, which is lower than the historical average.

Recent Data Points to Improved U.S. Economic Conditions

Today, the U.S. Department of Labor announced that once again first time unemployment benefits claims had fallen by 14,000 and the one-month average hovers at about 300,000 claims. At the start of the recession, each week brought about 650,000 additional unemployment benefit claims. As more Americans have found work and the economy has improved under the Obama Administration, this number has plummeted. This positive economic news follows the Commerce Department’s GDP report in July that the U.S. economy grew by 4.0%. In addition, the U.S. economy created over 200,000 jobs for six straight months for the first time since 1997.  

Credit to Steve Benen, TheMaddowBlog

This flurry of positive economic news reinforces a trend that has accelerated over the past two years of the second Obama term:  the economy is getting better. The unemployment rate continues to fall and by early next year could drop below the 6% mark.  The President has successfully cut the deficit by 2/3rds since its high-point when he entered office, when the country stood on the precipice of an economic depression. The rate of uninsured has also continued to drop—even dramatically in states like Kentucky and Arkansas (by 8.5 and 10.1 percentage points respectively according to Gallup).

The way that Americans view the economy is also beginning to change, according to recently released Pew Data. Over the past six months, Americans who feel like they hear mostly bad news on the economy has dropped from 33% to 24%; many people now feel as that they are receiving mixed signals (64%). Feelings on the job market is more positive with about 20% of the population now feeling as if they are hearing only good news, 44% mixed, and 34% only bad news. Though the negative numbers remain high, Pew calls the overall picture a “modest improvement in views of economic news”.     

This summer has brought new challenges for the United States, such as tension in the Middle East, in Ukraine, or resolving the Central American Migrant Crisis (see here for more of NDN’s work on the issue). These positive economic developments have flown under the radar during this hectic summer. They are important to acknowledge: the President has made prudent choices that have put the U.S. economy on a more stable path moving forward.      

The Central American Migrant Crisis - Summer Reading From NDN/NPI

The team at NDN/NPI has been on point for the last few months on one of the top issues on the domestic agenda – the Central American migrant crisis.  We’ve done dozens of press interviews and private briefings, conferred with the Senate, House and through the Administration, and produced early, impactful analysis of the crisis.   The issues debated these last few months will also be central to the upcoming fall debate as Congress will have to tackle the crisis after its failure last week and the President is expected to take executive action to help eliviate the crisis and improve other parts of the immigration system.   We send along some of the hightlights of our work for your review and beach reaching this August. 

NDN/NPI Material:

Most Anti-Hispanic House of Representatives Ever, 8/1/14: Simon's piece that covers the many anti-Hispanic acts of the GOP controlled House of Representatives. Just two years after claiming they were reaching out to the Hispanic Community, the House has moved even further to the right.

Simon's Appearance on the O'Reilly Factor, 7/31/14: Simon went on the Fox News prime time show to discuss immigration, the border, and the relationship between the U.S. and Mexico. 

NDN Report on Central American Migrants and Obama's Immigration/Enforcement Record, 7/18/14: We compiled all of our research on the border and additional data on the surge from Central American countries. This report takes a wide-ranging look into how the Obama Administration has improved our immigration system and how there is still work left to do. 

"On Immigration, the House GOP has only one answer: Deport the Kids", 7/16/14: Written originally for MSNBC.com, Simon predicts that GOP policy on immigration can be properly defined as: "Deport the Kids." Simon writes about how 2006 was a pivotal moment for the relationship between the Hispanic Community and party politics. He goes onto discuss to outline how the GOP's response to the Central American Migrant Crisis and failure to pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform will impact the party for years to come.

What Congress Can Do To Help with the Central American Migrant Crisis, 6/24/14: Simon's prescient post about how Congress should tackle the crisis, with suggestions on how to improve the detention process, invest in Central America, and move forward on comprehensive immigration reform.

"Forward, or Backward?", 10/25/12: A prescient article written for Les Letras Libres (a Mexico-City based Spanish language Journal) in 2012, Simon wonders whether the Republican Party will move forward and adopt new policies that appeal to the Hispanic electorate or turn its back on them. Though the piece was written almost two years ago, it holds up well and provides excellent context to how long the GOP has been grappling with this issue. For more information on what we've been up to, feel free to check out NDN.org or follow us on Twitter @NDN_NPI. 

Select Press Citations:

Amid Roiled Landscape of Border Politics, Obama’s Plans May Change, NPR, 7/17/14

Democrats Split Over Migrant Crisis, Jordan Fabian, Fusion, 7/16/14

Activist: Despite recent problems, immigration policies on U.S.-Mexican Border largely a success, Chris McAdams, McClatchy Washington Bureau, 7/15/14

Bizarre Case of Jose Antonio Vargas Shows That The Border Is More Secure Than Ever, Igor Bobic, Huffington Post, 7/12/14

Border Crisis Scrambling the Politics of Immigration, Karen Tumulty and David Nakamura, Washington Post, 7/12/14

Amid Border Crisis, Advocates Talk Next Steps on Immigration, Suzanne Gamboa, NBCNews.com, 7/7/14

Care about Minors Crossing the Border?  Then Pass Immigration Reform Now!, Greg Sargent, Washington Post, 6/23/14

Legal Backing for a Potential President Obama Executive Action on Immigration

As the legislative session comes to a close with no immigration bill being passed out of Congress, President Obama has begun to turn his attention to what he can personally do to alleviate the pain suffered by the millions of illegal immigrants in the United States.  This passages are certainly not all of the options at the president's disposal, but even these alone would significantly improve the lives of millions.  Below are the some passages from the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act that could give President Obama legal authority to protect more unauthorized immigrants:

Sec 304

"SEC. 240A. (a) CANCELLATION OF REMOVAL FOR CERTAIN PERMANENT RESIDENTS.-The Attorney General may cancel removal in the case of an alien who is inadmissible or deportable from the United States if the alien- 
"(1) has been an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence for not less than 5 years, 
"(2) has resided in the United States continuously for 7 years after having been admitted in any status, and 
"(3) has not been convicted of any aggravated felony. 
Sec 304

SEC. 240A. (b)"(1) IN GENERAL.-The Attorney General may cancel removal in the case of an alien who is inadmissible or deportable from the United States if the alien- 
"(A) has been physically present in the United States for a continuous period of not less than 10 years immediately preceding the date of such application; 
(B) has been a person of good moral character during such period; 
"(C) has not been convicted of an offense under section 212(a)(2), 237(a)(2), or 237(a)(3); and 
"(D) establishes that removal would result in exceptional and extremely unusual hardship to the alien's spouse, parent, or child, who is a citizen of the United States or an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence. 

(b)(B)(v) WAIVER.-The Attorney General has sole discretion to waive clause (i) in the case of an immigrant who is the spouse or son or daughter of a United States citizen or of an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence, if it is established to the satisfaction of the Attorney General that the refusal of admission to such immigrant alien would result in extreme hardship to the citizen or lawfully resident spouse or parent of such alien. No court shall have jurisdiction to review a decision or action by the Attorney General regarding a waiver under this clause. 
The clause discussed above:

(b)(B)(i) IN GENERAL.-Any alien (other than an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence) who- 
"(I) was unlawfully present in the United States for a period of more than 180 days but less than 1 year, voluntarily departed the United States (whether or not pursuant to section 244(e)) prior to the commencement of proceedings under section 235(b)(1) or section 240, and again seeks admission within 3 years of the date of such alien's departure or removal, or 
"(II) has been unlawfully present in the United States for one year or more, and who again seeks admission within 10 years of the date of such alien's departure or removal from the United States,is inadmissible. 

Most Anti-Hispanic House of Representatives Ever?

Last year it was conventional wisdom that the existential threat posed by the fleeing of Hispanics from the Republican Party would produce moderation on immigration reform and other matters in this Congress. What is remarkable is that the exact opposite has happened. Consider what the House has done or is proposing to do in this Congress:

•  Denied legalization and a path to citizenship to 12m undocumented immigrants, despite overwhelming public, Republican Party and right of center constituency support for Comprehensive Immigration Reform. This will be the second time in the past decade that a GOP House refused to take up a bi-partisan Senate immigration reform bill.

•  Passed dozens of bills designed to strip health insurance from millions and even perhaps tens of millions of Hispanics through repeal of the ACA. No group in America is going to be benefit more from the ACA more than the Hispanic community.

•  Paul Ryan’s budget framework guarantees dramatic cuts in public school spending, schools Hispanics rely on for their pursuit of the American Dream.

•  By passing the “King Amendment” in 2013, the House went on record for stripping legal status and work permits for over 500,000 DACA recipients, and once again making them eligible for immediate deportation. I think this is the first time the Republicans advanced policies that would take existing legal status from a group legally resident and working in the US and advocate their removal from the country.

•  The King Amendment would also revoke an Obama Administration policy that specifies that law-abiding undocumented immigrants were no longer priorities for deportation. The King Amendment would restore the threat of imminent deportation to every undocumented immigrant in the country.

•  Block efforts to increase the minimum wage, something which would be particularly beneficial to the Hispanic immigrant community.

•  End existing legal protections for Central American minors (and only Central American minors) apprehended at the border, denying them internationally negotiated and sanctioned opportunities to apply for asylum and other waivers which would allow them to remain in the US. These rights would remain for European and Asian children, for example.

•  Deny funds requested by the Administration for swifter adjudication of the unaccompanied minors at the border, humane detention facilities for the kids here, and a humane repatriation process that would ensure the kids were not sent to violent and potentially lethal circumstances.

These are just the things I came up with this morning. Am sure there are more.

Taken together, it is hard to imagine an agenda more hostile to the interests of Hispanics in the US than what the House GOP has done this Congress. Rather than embracing this critical emerging part of our fast changing country, the House Republicans seem to be doubling down on a politics incredibly hostile to their presence here.

The question is why? What is the motivation here? I offered some thoughts in a major magazine piece on this subject two years ago, but it is a question well worth asking in the months ahead.

And be sure to read my recent MSNBC op-ed,  "On Immigration, the House GOP has only one answer: Deport the Kids."

Some Thoughts For My Friends in the Immigration Reform Community

I sent this letter to friends of ours in the immigration reform community last Thursday, July 24th. It had been passed on to several reporters who have called me about it so I decided to make it available to the public.


Right now in the House of Representatives, the most powerful legislative body in the history of the world, there is a serious debate going on about immigration reform or the first time in nine years.  With Granger’s proposal, the House Republicans have now proposed or passed measures on border and interior enforcement, the legal status of over 1m undocumented immigrations and are even enormous and consequential changes to another law, Wilberforce, while taking modest steps on the supplemental the President requested.   The point is that they have through their own actions expanded this debate into terrain far beyond the supplemental, terrain that looks much more like traditional immigration reform.    We also know from news reports that it looks like Boehner will need Democratic votes to pass anything this summer.  

Thus, it is my recommendation that far more resources of this community be focused now on the House.   We need to push the Democrats to go big and demand that CIR be part of any potential deal with the Republicans, and force a full and robust debate about the need to fix our broken immigration system.   Even Jeb Bush took the House Rs to task for not stepping up on CIR in a WSJ oped today.   We also know that in the Senate it is unlikely that any supplemental will make it without changes to Wilberforce – thus once again the Rs are blocking progress, and focusing on deporting children.  

Simply put the Rs must pay a serious price for this politics and cannot get away without significant damage to their brand.  We need to put pressure on them to deal, and to get as much out of this process as we can, perhaps even CIR itself.   There is a huge opportunity emerging here, and I hope as many of you will step up and do things like protest outside McConnell and Boehner’s offices the way many have been protesting outside the White House.   I am convinced that one of the reasons the Republicans have not moved on CIR this year is that they see Obama and the Democrats getting attacked by their allies.   Why mess with that? 

Bottom line – we are in the midst in the one of the most important public debates about immigration the US has seen in the last ten years.  Time to stand and be counted. 

Good luck, and godspeed. 


Central American Migrant Crisis: Questions for House Republicans

As the House Republicans get ready to release their plan to tackle the Central American migrant crisis, we prepared a few questions members of the media and public should feel free to ask members of the House GOP conference this week:  

  • The Administration is reporting a fairly substantial decline in the migrant flow over the past few weeks.   Are you encouraged by this?  Why do you think this might be happening?  Was it the paid advertising in the three countries and the visit by the Vice President? Recent crackdown on human smugglers on SW border? Something else?
  • Will you be including the King Amendment, the revocation of prosecutorial discretion and DACA you passed in 2013, in your package to be negotiated with the Senate?  Many Republicans including Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Texas State Senator Dan Patrick have argued that DACA was the cause of the migrant crisis.  Do you agree?
  • Will HR15 – the House version of the Senate immigration bill, which includes the House Homeland Security Committee border strategy - be included in your immigration package? The President, the Senate and a majority of the House would like it to be, and Speaker Boehner has repeatedly said he would like to pass it this year.   If not, what is the rationale for not passing a major, 9 years in the making, growth producing, deficit reducing, bipartisan immigration reform bill in the middle of a migration crisis?  What exactly is the hold up here?
  •   What specifically do you object to in the President’s plan to resolve the crisis?  How is your plan better, and more likely to bring a swift and rapid end to the crisis?
  •  Some say this is a border crisis, and more needs to be done to secure the border.   Can you elaborate on that, and comment on data showing significant improvements in the security of the border in recent years?  (for more on how the border is safer today visit here).
  • For example, crime is down on the US side of the border, flow of undocumented immigrants into the US is a fraction of what it was in the Clinton and Bush era, the border patrol is far more effective now and there is growing evidence that Obama era deportations of those entering the country illegally has helped strengthen deterrence?  What specific data do you have indicating that the border is less safe today due to President’s Obama policies?
  • Some border sheriffs have said it would be far better to add more local law enforcement in the Rio Grande Valley than to send the National Guard.   Do you agree? What exactly will the National Guard do at the border that isn’t already being proposed in the current Administration’s plans?  If they are there to “observe,” isn’t this a waste of money? What problem are we solving here?
  •  If we are to expedite the deportation of minors at the border, denying them current legal protections that allow them under certain conditions to remain in the United States, are you worried that some number of these minors might be murdered upon returning home?  What responsibility to the US have to ensure their safe repatriation?  What does “safe repatriation” mean to you? 
  • Do you have any ideas about what we can do to help the three Central American countries effected by the crisis?  How can we help them battle the growing power of the cartels in their country and create greater economic opportunity and citizen security? Do we need something like a Plan Colombia for these three countries, and would you commit $3-5b over the next 10 years to see it through?  

This post has been updated as the pace of debate has picked up on Capitol Hill.

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