NDN Blog

Invite: Friday, June 6th - Obama's Immigration/Border Enforcement Record

Perhaps the central issue in the current immigration reform debate is whether the Obama Administration has effectively managed immigration and border enforcement.  Many immigrant groups have attacked the President for being overly aggressive, many Republicans have argued that the Administration has been so lax in enforcing the laws that they cannot move ahead on a broader immigration bill.   So what is it? Too much or too little enforcement?  Is the system better today, or worse than when Obama came to office?

To help provide some insight into this consequential debate, next Friday here at NDN I will be making a presentation going through the data and what we know today.  In this presentation we’ve incorporated lots of newly available data from DHS and many other sources.   Our basic conclusion is that the President’s critics are wrong – that in fact the President has brought vast improvements to immigration and border enforcement, making these systems both far more effective and humane.   Significant investments, better strategies and greater cooperation with Mexico have left America with a far better enforcement system today than when the President took office.  

Join us next Friday, June 6th here at NDN (729 15th Street, NW. First Floor)  for this presentation.  Lunch will be served at noon, and I will begin at 12:15pm.  The presentation will take about 30 minutes and there will plenty of time for questions, comments and discussion.  You can reserve your spot here, and feel free to invite others who might interested. 

Job Opening at NDN - Asst to the President - 5/21 Application Deadline

We have an opening for my assistant here at NDN.   See the job description below.   All applications for the position will need to be in by this coming Wednesday, May 21st. Please send cover letter, resume, recommendations and anything else you would like to submit to Andres Chong-Qui at achongqui@ndn.org

Job Description:  At NDN & New Policy Institute, the Assistant to the President is responsible for managing their principal’s immediate priorities, including his schedule; getting out important e-mails via NGP-VAN;  responsibilities with respect to paper processes; delegable operational and administrative duties and tasks (such as event managing, travel, scanning important documents, running errands); coordination with other assistants from NDN members’ offices and important stakeholders. With direction from the President, the assistant is also responsible for coordinating the President’s work towards his or her medium and longer-term objectives and goals, including directing and supporting special projects. Other duties include: answering communications, including telephone calls, emails, and written correspondence; clearing visitors in the building and meeting and escorting them while on the premises; event coordination; meeting arrangements, including manifests and agendas; support when President is on the road or in the office as needed; and other duties as assigned.

NDN Supports Robert Holleyman for Deputy USTR

May 8, 2014

Dear Members of the United States Senate,

I write in support of Robert Holleyman to be the next Deputy United States Trade Representative.   I have known Robert for several decades, and worked closely on many issues over the years.   He is very smart, collegial, knowledgeable, experienced, forward-looking - a perfect fit for this position. 

Through his years running a leading software advocacy organization, time as a federal clerk, Senate staffer and in private practice, Robert brings:

  • Deep understanding of the role of technology in expanding economic and individual opportunities, and empowering citizens. 
  • Over two decades of private-sector experience working with some of the most innovative companies and entrepreneurs in America.  A decade of experience working in government.  
  • Extensive and direct on-the-ground experience working to open foreign markets and fight trade barriers impacting US technology workers internationally.   This has helped make software one of the largest export industries in the US, with a positive balance of trade and growing job base.     
  • Thoughtful, balanced perspective on the mix of policies needed to foster innovation and an open and democratic Internet both in America and globally.  
  • Private sector leadership in helping define new "digital age" opportunities around cloud computing and cross-border digital trade.  This is critical to ensure further expansion of the benefits of technology around the world and the ability of US-based companies to compete successfully in the world of emerging cloud architecture.  
  • Deep appreciation for the important roles of Congress, the Administration and the public in developing trade policy that strengthens the American economy, raises standards of living and promotes global stability.  

It has long been our belief that keeping the internet open and free is one of the most significant responsibilities of our government in the 21st century.   Adding Robert Holleyman to the already strong team in place working on this project will truly give the United States an “A” team on one of the most important issues the United States is facing today.  

Given that these issues are under intense discussion in the TPP and TTIP trade agreements being negotiated by USTR, and in many global forums like NETmundial and the ITA talks at this very moment, it is our hope that you act swiftly to confirm Mr. Holleyman.  His expertise is needed now in shaping discussions that could determine the evolution of the global digital economy for decades to come. 

World Bank Shocker – China’s GDP to Top the U.S. in 2014 – Means Little

The World Bank shook up a lot of people this week with its declaration that by a new accounting, China’s GDP will top America’s this year.  But the meaning and significance of that accounting remain at best elusive.   Last year, the World Bank reported that using prevailing exchange rates, China’s GDP in 2012 was barely half that of America ($8.2 trillion versus $16.2 trillion).  The new report   draws on a statistical adjustment called “purchasing power parity” or PPP, often used to compare GDP in two or more countries when exchange rates fluctuate widely.  In analytic shorthand, PPP calculates GDP by looking at what it costs households in one country to feed, house, educate and otherwise take care of itself – including the costs of doing business and maintaining government –compared to households in another country.

            Setting aside the fact that U.S.-China exchange rates have been pretty stable, here’s how PPP works.  You start with a basket of personal and business goods and services in each country, taking account of habits, tastes and preferences.  So, the Chinese basket will be different from its American counterpart because, for example, Americans eat potatoes and subscribe to premium cable stations while Chinese eat rice and go to outdoor cinemas.  Since a serving of potatoes in America costs more than a serving of rice in China, China’s GDP is adjusted (upward) to take that into account.  These comparisons also require adjustments for quality.  Americans pay much more for health care and housing than Chinese – but the quality and quantity per-household of these services and goods as Americans consume them is much higher and larger than Chinese enjoy.  So, World Bank statisticians have to not only observe prices and levels of consumption, but also come up with adjustment factors for differences in quality for each country.  The truth is, nobody knows how to do that for countless goods and services, including the Bank’s PPP experts. 
            The United States is the baseline for PPP calculations.  So if China’s basket of goods and services takes half as much income to buy there as the American basket does in the United States, after accounting for quality differences, China’s GDP is adjusted up by that increment.  I should also mention that PPP analysis can produce a range of results based not only on all of the adjustments, but also on which of four distinct and accepted ways of calculating PPP the analyst uses.  This week’s announcement of PPP-based GDP came after the World Bank applied a new weighting regimen to one of the four methods.  What it means, then, depends on all of those assumptions and calculations, which makes any conclusions based on that accounting problematic, at best. As the Bank itself noted, “Because of the complexity of the process used to collect the data and calculate the PPPs, it is not possible to directly estimate their margins of error.
            By any accounting, China’s GDP has been growing very rapidly for several decades.  The reasons are pretty basic.  They start with the world’s largest workforce producing Chinese goods and services.  And thanks to the foreign direct investments of advanced technologies and business methods, much of it from America, Western multinationals have given China the means to make all those workers more productive.  Yet, the lives led by China’s people remain a world away from the lives of Americans.  Even using the World Bank’s PPP calculations, per-capita GDP in China is just $9,844, compared to $53,101 in the United States.  
            One more caveat: China’s PPP-adjusted GDP may be said to statistically rival America’s – whatever that means – only because U.S. growth has been unusually slow for more than a decade.  If the American economy had continued to expand since 2001 at the rate it grew in the 1990s, our GDP would still be more than 20 percent bigger than China’s even using the World Bank’s new adjustments and accounting.  For that, we have no one to blame but our policymakers and ourselves.  
This post was originally published on Dr. Shapiro's blog

GOP Attacks On Obama’s Immigration Enforcement Record Are Ridiculous

Yesterday, a group of Republican Senators repeated one of the great canards of the Obama era –  that our immigration and border enforcement system is less effective today than when Obama took office.  By virtually every measure we have, this is simply not true.   With far greater resources, better strategies and improved cooperation with Mexico, the Obama Administration has in fact made the border safer, the immigration system far better while also allowing for an enormous expansion of trade with Mexico (visit here for a deeper dive on these arguments and more). 

Let’s review some of what we know: 
Crime is Down on US Side of the Border - Crime is down along the US side of the border.  The two largest border cities, El Paso and San Diego, are the two safest large cities in America today.
Border Patrol Far More Effective - Four of the five high-traffic migration corridors across the US-Mexico border are already at or near the Senate bill’s goal of 90% effectiveness rate.  Many of the nine corridors have seen significant increases in their effectiveness rates in recent years.  
Flow of Unauthorized Immigrants into US Has Plummeted – The increased effectiveness of the border patrol along the border, and the deterrent effect of more aggressive removals of those crossing the border has helped dramatically slow the flow of unauthorized migration from Mexico.  This flow has fallen from its peak of 770,000 people in 2001 to zero today.  Looking at it another way, under President Bush, the undocumented immigration population grew by 3m, or almost 400,000 a year.  Under President Obama there has been no increase in the overall size of the undocumented population.  The flow has essentially stopped. 
The System Is Deporting Far More High Priority Unauthorized Immigrants -  The system is removing far more people of consequence from the US than before.   According to ICE data, 59% of those deported in 2013 had criminal records, up from 36% a few years ago.  And fully 98% of those removed were either caught trying to illegally enter the country or were interior removals with criminal records.   In 2013, the number of overall removals was at approximately the same level as the last year of the Bush Administration, and the average number of formal removals has been far higher under Obama than Bush.  Prioritizing the removals of murderers and border-crossers over hard-working moms is just smart policy.
While Providing Opportunities for Young People To Contribute – In another smart improvement in immigration enforcement, the President has offered temporary relief from deportation and work permits for more than a million DREAM-eligible youth, allowing these young people to more fully contribute to American society.  
Trade Across our Border With Mexico Has Almost Doubled - Trade with Mexico has jumped from $340b in 2009 to about $550b in 2013.  Mexico is now America’s 3rd largest trading partner and 2nd largest export market.  $1.3 billion worth of goods and 1m people now cross the 2000 mile US-Mexico border each day.  This trade supports millions of jobs on both sides of the border.  
So what is the big idea these tough Senators propose to make the system better?  Move resources to deporting non-criminal migrants in the interior of the country.   The result of this in practical terms will be to weaken the highly effective border deterrence system established in recent years, and to cause a drop in the number of criminals we are deporting in the interior.   In essence, the President’s critics want to re-establish the Bush era system which did not prioritize murderers over moms, and simply went after all unauthorized immigrants in the interior regardless of their criminal history.   The outcome of this strategy will be in fact to weaken the enforcement system in the US, not strengthen it. 
This is no idle debate.  Last year the House GOP passed something known as the King Amendment which would achieve the same thing the Senate Republicans are advocating for – the roll back of the DHS’s successful new enforcement priorities, a vote that would among other things revoke the DACA program for DREAM eligible youth. The excuse coming from the House GOP today on why they cannot move forward on immigration reform is that the President’s policies have weakened our immigration and border enforcement system – when it is clear that this is not true, that the system is far better today and that their proposals will actually weaken the system not strengthen it. This argument, still alive and potent inside the House GOP is simply ridiculous, and is not a legitimate reason to hold up moving ahead on immigration reform.   If they want to once again turn their back on the clear majority of Americans – and their Speaker – who want a better immigration system they simply are going to have to come up with a far better excuse.   


Video: Expert Panel on Obama Immigration/Border Enforcement Record

With the topic of immigration very much in the news, and the release of more specific data from DHS’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) this year, NDN/NPI put together a panel discussion on the Obama Administration’s immigration and border enforcement record. 
Marc Rosenblum, Deputy Director of the US Immigration Policy Program at the Migration Policy Institute, Edward Alden of the Council of Foreign Relations, and Tamar Jacoby, President and CEO of ImmigrationWorks USA shared their latest findings and analyses of the current state of affairs. The discussion aimed to help unpack what this new DHS data means, allow experts to weigh in on the Obama Administration’s enforcement record, and take questions from the audience.  We think it was a terrific discussion.  Please find the C-SPAN and NDN video footage of the event below. 

For more on NDN's work in this area of late, please see this recent, comprehensive backgrounder.

Video: Simon on Obama Administration Border/Imm Enforcement Record

On Thursday, April 17th Simon recorded this six minute video offering his thoughts on the current debate over the Administration’s border and immigration enforcement record.   His basic take: Obama has made the border safer, the immigration system better and more humane, while simultaneously expanding trade with Mexico. On a tough issue with even tougher politics, the current Administration has done a good job.

See here for a roundup of our recent analyses, and links to other helpful news articles, videos and think tank reports.

Note: At one point in the video, Simon says that both sides need to give the President more credit than he deserves. Of course, what he meant to say is that the President deserves more credit than all sides are currently giving him.



Backgrounder: The Administration’s Progress on Immigration and Border Enforcement

In light of the current public discussion of the Obama Administration’s record immigration enforcement, we offer up the following background materials compiled in the last two months from years of work on this topic.  While there is still more to be done, the Administration has made tremendous efforts over the last five years to secure the US border with Mexico, and to smartly prioritize enforcement resources for the removal of unauthorized immigrants with criminal convictions or who have recently crossed the border without permission.

Additional Resources:


We hope you find these useful, and please reach out with questions.

NDN Analysis on Deportations Picked Up by the Media

NDN's latest analysis on the Obama Administration's Immigration Enforcement Record got picked up by the media, here are some of the latest stories:

-Griselda NevarezAmid calls to halt deportations, progressive group defends Obama,  VOXXI, 4/10/14 (also running on La Opinión English home page)

-Laura MecklerNDN Defends Obama’s Deportation Record,  Wall Street Journal, 4/9/14

-María PeñaDemocratic group says the amount of deportations have decreased under ObamaLaOpinión, 4/10/14


NDN Analysis: Total Removals, Returns of Unauthorized Immigrants Plummet Under Obama

Over the past several months, NDN/NPI has published a series of analyses which argue that through greater investment, better strategies and deeper cooperation with Mexico, the Obama Administration has made the immigration system better and the border safer while seeing a dramatic expansion of trade with Mexico. 

Today we release a simple analysis which sheds new light on the hotly debated issue of deportations.  Using a broader, more accurate measure of the number of unauthorized immigrants removed from the country since the first year of the Bush Presidency, we find that in fact the total number of “removals[i]” and “returns[ii]” has actually plummeted during the Obama Presidency.  In 2012, the Obama Administration removed and returned almost a million people less than the height of the Bush Presidency.  And every year of the Obama Presidency has seen a sizable decline in the total number of unauthorized migrants removed or returned to their countries (See this piece by the WSJ's Laura Meckler discussing the report). 

Unauthorized Migrants Removed or Returned, FY 2001-2012[iii]

Total DHS Returns and Removals, FY 2001-2012[iv]

So while we do not yet have the full picture of 2013, it is unlikely that the total number of removals and returns increased, as the total number of “removals” (deportations) measured by ICE fell by ten percent from 409,849 to 368,644 from FY 2012 to 2013.

For years, NDN has argued that the Obama Administration’s management of its border and immigration enforcement responsibilities deserves far more praise it has received.  Despite deeply rancorous politics, a very real set of operational and security challenges, and the Republicans’ refusal to adopt long overdue and thoughtful reform, things in the border region are clearly better today.  Crime on the US side of the border is down; net migration is zero today; only 10,000 or so non-border-crosser non-criminal unauthorized migrants were deported in 2013; while US trade with Mexico has almost doubled.  It is our belief that history will declare the Administration’s management of this tough basket of issues a resounding policy success.  For more on this record of success and progress, see below. 

Obama Administration Immigration and Border Enforcement: Key Stats

  • Crime is down along the US side of the border.  The two largest border cities, El Paso and San Diego, are the two safest large cities in America today.
  • Four of the five high-traffic migration corridors across the US-Mexico border are already at or near the Senate bill’s goal of a 90% effectiveness rate.
  • Net migration from Mexico has fallen from its 2001 peak of 770,000 people per year to zero today.
  • Since President Obama took office, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has made steps to prioritize removing criminals and recent border crossers. ICE reports that in FY 2013, 82% of the unauthorized immigrants it arrested and removed from the interior US had a criminal conviction.  About two thirds of all 2013 ICE removals were people arrested at the border. Of 368,644 removals, only 10,336 individuals were not convicted of a crime, repeat immigration violators, immigration fugitives, or at the border.
  • In 2012 the Obama Administration implemented Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to allow about one million DREAMers, unauthorized immigrants brought to the US as youths, to work and study legally in the US.
  • Trade with Mexico has jumped from $340 billion in 2009 to about $550 billion in 2013.  Mexico is America’s 3rd largest trading partner, and 2nd largest export market.  $1.3 billion worth of goods and 1 million people cross the 2000 mile US-Mexico border each day.

[i] “Removals are the compulsory and confirmed movement of an inadmissible or deportable alien out of the United States based on an order of removal. An alien who is removed has administrative or criminal consequences placed on subsequent reentry owing to the fact of the removal” (DHS).

[ii] “Returns are the confirmed movement of an inadmissible or deportable alien out of the United States not based on an order of removal” (DHS).

[iii] Source: U.S. Department of Homeland Security, ENFORCE Alien Removal Module (EARM), February 2013; Enforcement Integrated Database (EID), November 2012.

[iv] Source: U.S. Department of Homeland Security, ENFORCE Alien Removal Module (EARM), February 2013; Enforcement Integrated Database (EID), November 2012; FY 2013 ICE Immigration Removals. Graph prepared by NDN/NPI staff.

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