NDN Blog

Keeping the Internet Open and Free

With the future of the Internet being discuss a great deal these days, I just wanted to repost something Alec Ross and I wrote seven years ago.  It was an early articulation of what became known as the "Internet Freedom" agenda, and still speaks powerfully today: 

"A single global communications network, composed of Internet, mobile, SMS, cable and satellite technology, is rapidly tying the world’s people together as never before. The core premise of this paper is that the emergence of this network is one of the seminal events of the early 21st century.  Increasingly, the world’s commerce, finance, communications, media and information are flowing through this network.  Half of the world’s 6 billion  people are now connected to this network, many through powerful and inexpensive mobile phones.  Each year more of the world’s people become connected to the network, its bandwidth increases, and its use becomes more integrated into all that we do. 
 
Connectivity to this network, and the ability to master it once on, has become an essential part of life in the 21st century, and a key to opportunity, success and fulfillment for the people of the world. 
 
We believe it should be a core priority of the United States to ensure that all the world’s people have access to this global network and have the tools to use it for their own life success. There is no way any longer to imagine free societies without the freedom of commerce, expression, and community, which this global network can bring.  Bringing this network to all, keeping it free and open and helping people master its use must be one of the highest priorities of those in power in the coming years."

New ICE Data Finds Big Changes In Who Is Getting Deported From US

Given the very public discussion about the Obama Administration’s immigration enforcement and deportation strategy in the last few weeks, we’ve spent some time going through a new ICE report on deportations, and frankly, it had some surprising findings in it. 

At NDN, we have long argued that despite both very real operational and political challenges, the Obama Administration has done a very good job in managing one really important piece of the enforcement puzzle - our border with Mexico.   Crime is down substantially on the US side of the border, and net migration of unauthorized migrants from Mexico has dropped from 700,000 per year to zero today.  While the border has been toughened up, we have also seen a huge increase in cross border trade with Mexico, which has almost doubled since 2009.  Despite this increased security, Mexico is now our 3rd largest trading partner and 2nd largest export market in the world. 

The new FY 2013 report from ICE, which offers a more detailed look at our deportation strategy than was available in previous years, shows similar success.   While the report shows that deportations of unauthorized migrants remain at near historic highs, it also chronicles how smart Obama Administration policies putting greater priority on the removal of criminal migrants and border crossers has dramatically altered the composition of who gets deported.  Over the past few years, we’ve seen a steady increase in these high-priority deportations; almost all of those deported in 2013 were either convicted criminals or people caught at the border attempting to enter the country illegally.  Remarkably, only 10,336 non-criminal, non-border-crossers were removed from the country in FY 2013.  In 2009, based on one estimate, this number was closer to 150,000.  The percentage of those deported who are convicted criminals has risen from 35% in 2009, to 59% in 2013.    

These numbers should bring some comfort to the critics of the Obama Administration deportation policies.  For those wanting a more humane system, we’ve seen the near elimination of the deportation of run of the mill non-criminal unauthorized migrants.  For those calling for even tougher policies, the explosion of deportation of border-crossers and criminals should be welcome news.  Prioritizing criminals for deportation is clearly the best use of our limited deportation resources, and leaves the nation far safer than in the day of Bush era workplace raids. 

But rather than doing an even deeper analysis of the ICE report, we think it should speak for itself.   We end with some of the more interesting charts and graphs in the report, and look forward to hearing from others well versed in this tough and important issue. 

          
           Source: FY 2013 ICE Immigration Removals

           
           Source: FY 2013 ICE Immigration Removals

See the full "FY 2013 ICE Immigration Removals" report here.

Emma Buckhout also contributed to this post.

Invite: Thur, Mar 20th - "Now I Know Who My Comrades Are" w/Emily Parker

Please join us for a special event next Thursday - a discussion with noted author and former State Department official, Emily Parker.  Emily will be discussing her new book, “Now I Know Who My Comrades Are,” which features her own on the ground reporting on Internet-based activists challenging the authoritarian regimes in China, Cuba and  Russia. For more on this terrific and timely new book, please see below.  

Our book talk will take place next Thursday at NDN, 729 15th St, NW 1st floor.  Lunch will be served at noon, and the discussion will begin at 12:15p.  You can RSVP here.   I hope you will join us for what will be an insightful discussion. 

Praise for “Now I Know Who My Comrades Are” –

"Emily Parker’s book Now I Know Who My Comrades Are: Voices from the Internet Underground is a rigorously researched and reported account that reads like a thriller . . . It’s been a while since I have read a book that is so entertaining, not to mention one so encouraging for the culture of liberty.”—Mario Vargas Llosa, Nobel Prize–winning author

“Although dissident use of the Internet is already part of the twenty-first-century story, Parker goes beyond the obvious headlines to the grinding daily battles of people and situations that receive only passing media notice. . . Some of what she reveals is stunning (2012 estimates find that only 5 percent of Cubans have regular access to the web), but the book’s greatest strength is the intimacy with which she describes the lives of her subjects. . .Parker profiles fascinating people and effectively shows why, in hands like theirs, social media is one of the most important tools for conducting positive political and social change around the world.”—Colleen Mondor, Booklist (starred review)

 “Now I Know Who My Comrades Are is a timely and necessary book. Story by story, Emily Parker shows how the Internet has changed lives and social realities in three oppressive countries. The clarity, honesty, and intelligence of her writing make this book both admirable and enjoyable.”—Ha Jin, National Book Award–winning author of Waiting and War Trash

"Emily Parker tells us enthralling and beautifully detailed stories about bloggers and Internet activists in China, Russia, and Cuba, showing us the power of human connection even as she describes and analyzes it. The combination of her humanism and keen insight illuminates dimensions of the Internet that we so often miss, the ways it can create the personal ties and trust that are the foundation of collective action. A great read for both the nightstand and the scholar's shelf.”—Anne-Marie Slaughter, president and CEO of the New America Foundation

“The heroes of this terrific book are ‘Internet foot soldiers,’ not the usual foreign ministers and businessmen, and those soldiers are changing Russia, China, and Cuba . . . and the world. Emily Parker is among a handful of the most promising new foreign policy commentators who weave together technology, culture, society, and politics with hard facts and clear analysis.”—Leslie H. Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations

“This book is about twenty times better reported or written than any book ever written about the Internet, period.”—Tim Wu, author of The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires

“In this fascinating book, Emily Parker shows that the Internet affects politics by affecting the psychology of its users. Now I Know Who My Comrades Are demonstrates how much it can matter for citizens to have a voice, and to discover that they are not alone.”—Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations

Invite: Fri, 5/16 - "Raising Our Game" - A Presentation About the US Economy in the 21st Century

For the past 4 years, I’ve been fortunate to make presentations on the US economy to important policy makers here in Washington.   Every time I’ve been asked to present, I’ve always come back to a power point presentation I first presented at a meeting at the House Democratic Caucus in the fall of 2009 called “Raising Our Game.”  It is a big sweeping look at what has happened to the American economy over the past generation, and it offers some ideas on how policy makers can best address what has been far too tough a time for every day Americans.   At the core of the presentation is an effort to create a rallying cry, a narrative which can guide us in the years ahead: “The rest of the world is raising its game; it is time for us to raise ours.”  

This work draws heavily on the economic work Dr. Rob Shapiro has been doing here at NDN and other venues for years.   To get a better sense of where we are going with this, please review this backgrounder which showcases the Time Magazine piece which talked about the influence of this deck and it’s analysis on politics in the US and the UK. Be sure to also read my most recent essay which connects the President’s current effort to expand exports and liberalize trade to the work of FDR and Truman in building the current global economic system, one which has done so much good for so many.

I've been making this presentation in 2014 each month at our Washington, DC offices.  The next presentation will take place on Friday, May 16th, from noon to 1:15 p.m. here at NDN, 729 15th St, 1st floor. Please reserve your spot here.  And feel free to invite colleagues or staffers to come along as well.

Invite: Fri, 4/4 - "Raising Our Game" - A Presentation About the US Economy in the 21st Century

For the past 4 years, I’ve been fortunate to make presentations on the US economy to important policy makers here in Washington.   Every time I’ve been asked to present, I’ve always come back to a power point presentation I first presented at a meeting at the House Democratic Caucus in the fall of 2009 called “Raising Our Game.”  It is a big sweeping look at what has happened to the American economy over the past generation, and it offers some ideas on how policy makers can best address what has been far too tough a time for every day Americans.   At the core of the presentation is an effort to create a rallying cry, a narrative which can guide us in the years ahead: “The rest of the world is raising its game; it is time for us to raise ours.”  

This work draws heavily on the economic work Dr. Rob Shapiro has been doing here at NDN and other venues for years.   To get a better sense of where we are going with this, please review this backgrounder which showcases the Time Magazine piece which talked about the influence of this deck and it’s analysis on politics in the US and the UK. Be sure to also read my most recent essay which connects the President’s current effort to expand exports and liberalize trade to the work of FDR and Truman in building the current global economic system, one which has done so much good for so many.
 
We will offer this presentation on Friday, April 4th, from noon to 1:15 p.m. here at NDN, 729 15th St, 1st floor. Please reserve your spot here.  And feel free to invite colleagues or staffers to come along as well.

On Trust and “Enforcing the Laws” in the Immigration Reform Debate - A Response to Speaker Boehner

Today, Speaker Boehner once again repeated the new Republican excuse for inaction on immigration reform – the President has failed to enforce immigration laws, and cannot be trusted to see through commitments on border security and other enforcement objectives.  

Let’s take a quick look at both these claims.  
 
On the issue of border security, a new pragmatism has begun to break out in many quarters in what has long been a contentious issue.   In its introductory paragraph, the Senate Gang of 8 framework included these words:
 
 “And while border security has improved significantly over the last two Administrations…”
 
The Senate Judiciary Committee added more customs agents to the border to help facilitate our exploding trade relationship with Mexico, and no additional border guards.  The recent 2014 budget resolution made smart investments in border infrastructure, added more customs agents, and did not add more border patrol.  
 
The reason that as a nation we’ve begun to move beyond the “enforcement only” approach to the border is that after a decade of significant investment, better strategies and much greater cooperation with Mexico, the border is far safer than it was, net migration of unauthorized immigrants has dropped to zero all while trade with Mexico has more than doubled.  A reasonable look at the data would lead one to conclude that the border is on track to be safe and largely under control, with the main effort now modernizing a trade and tourism infrastructure designed for a trade relationship at levels hundreds of billions of dollars less than it is today.    
 
The Obama Administration deserves far more credit for managing the tough realities and politics of the border than they have gotten.  Our border is 2,000 miles long, it extends across four states, and the threat of cartel violence on the Mexican side is very real.  It is one of the busiest borders in the world, with billions of dollars of trade and millions of people crossing each week.  That the two largest border cities on the US side of the border, El Paso and San Diego, are the two safest large cities in America today is simply an extraordinary accomplishment.  4 of the 5 high traffic migration corridors are at or close to the widely accepted goal of a 90% effectiveness rate, spillover violence is rare, and just in the past few months Mexico has announced unprecedented efforts on their northern and southern borders which should do much to improve the situation in the years ahead.   More, of course, can be done, and the Senate bill invests in the things most border experts think is most needed now – better technology and more customs agents.  
 
Coming out of their retreat last week, the House leadership has adopted a very hard line on “securing the border,” and has repeatedly said the Obama Administration cannot be trusted on the issue.  Given its new centrality to their reform approach, the House leadership simply must put a real plan and budget for “securing” the border on the table immediately.  Their rhetorical rejection of the very real progress made on the border in recent years is a worrying sign about their lack of seriousness; and if they insist border security is a trigger even for legal status, no negotiations with the House should begin until they come to the table with an actual plan.  Trust works both ways.  The House leadership cannot expect the Senate to accept triggers on legal status/citizenship if the metrics and funding levels are not spelled out in great detail.   
 
The mischaracterization of the progress made by the Obama Administration impacts the interior enforcement portions of the “Standards” document as well.  At the root of the GOP’s concern is the Administration’s decision to prioritize criminal migrants for deportation, known as “prosecutorial discretion.”  In what is a tortured ideological position, the House GOP opposes this practice, preferring that law enforcement just round up everyone, and remarkably, NOT prioritize criminals.  The President used this rationale to authorize DACA, the 2012 executive order which gave DREAM-eligible youth relief from deportation.  The simple idea is that if the President can prioritize the front of the deportation line, he can also prioritize the back of it – determining that there is a class of unauthorized migrant who should not be deported.   
 
Thus by using DHS’s limited resources to get rid of the most dangerous of the unauthorized population, the Administration is, by this GOP logic, not enforcing immigration law.  Yes, this is a little hard to believe.  
 
One would not know from the “Standards” that President Obama has deported migrants at a higher rate than any other modern President, and has, in recent years, deported criminal migrants at double or triple the rate of previous Presidents.  It will be interesting to see how the House GOP can improve upon that record without providing billions in new resources, or rolling over local elected officials and law enforcement who will strenuously oppose the appropriation of local resources to enforce what is a federal responsibility.  
 
Given this track record, why exactly are the House Republicans walking from immigration reform?  The border is safer today, net migration is zero, deportations of criminal migrants are at all time highs while trade with Mexico has exploded, creating millions of jobs on both sides of the border.  There is a strong argument to be made that no President in American history has been more committed to enforcing our immigration laws and improving border security than President Obama.  If they are going to walk away from immigration reform for the 3rd time in the last decade, the House leadership are going to have find a far better set of excuses.  
 
For more information see the following backgrounders:
 
The Administration's Border Strategy Has Yielded Very Strong Results
 
NDN/NPI Background on Mexico Prior to Feb Visits by Pres Obama, Sec Pritzker
 
 

Thoughts On The President's Trade Agenda

Last week I offered my thoughts about why Members of Congress should proudly work with the President in his final three years to pass his ambitious trade agenda, extending our reach throughout Asia, Latin America and Europe.  While there have been some bumps in that process this week, I still remain optimistic that the President will be able leave office having completed both TPP and TTIP, as they are called. 

But to do so we are learning a few things.  The President will have to continue to sell his broader economic agenda with vigor to the American people, giving them a strong belief that he has a plan that can make their lives better in this new age of globalization.  He will have to find a way to work with Congress to provide more consultation and transparency in the fashioning of these and future trade agreements.  And USTR will have to demonstrate, through the agreements themselves, that we are indeed modernizing our approach to trade, raising standards and making our global system better and more responsive to the realities of the world as it is today. 

As I wrote in my piece, the geopolitical case for these agreements, and for the President's desire to strenghten the liberal international order in a time of great transformation, are compelling.   But to get these done in the next three years, the White House and its allies have an awful lot of work to do.  We at NDN welcome this debate as I think we have a good argument to make, and the issues at play here are perhaps the most important the Obama Administration will be involved in over the next three years.  But this will be a long process, a complicated one, and those who agree with us need to take this time and get very serious about marshalling our arguments and making our case over years, not just days, weeks and months.

One word of caution to my fellow advocates for the President’s trade agenda.  2014 isn’t the 1990s.  We are attempting to sell these far reaching arrangements not during a period of extraordinary growth, when median incomes went up more than $8,000 a family.  Workers today haven’t received a raise in 14 years, and have become far more skeptical that technology advances and globalization have been good for them and their families.  Way back in 2005 Rob Shapiro, current Rep. Joe Garcia and I wrote a landmark paper arguing that to continue to keep domestic support for global economic liberalization at 1990s levels, we need to do far more for workers and their families.  The President’s economic agenda this year, coupled with previous actions like health care reform, are the kinds of things we will need to enact if we are to pass these trade agreements with broad support from the American people. 

One area that we advocates also have to confront is the remarkable decline in public investment the US has seen in recent years.  At a time when we have the largest school-age population in US history moving through our schools, and global competition is more virulent than it has ever been, we are lowering our level of public investment, exactly the wrong response to what the American people need.  Public investment is half of what it was in the 1960s, and lower than it has been since the late 1940s.  One doesn’t have to have a PhD to know what happens if this trend continues – it is a guarantor of national decline for the United States.  See the graph below. 

We are already seeing warning signs about our competitive position which should be alarming policy makers.  The most recently released PISA study of adult skills from the OECD documents that our workers and students are falling far behind the rest of the developed world.  Even among a measure one would assume we would lead – problem solving in a technology dense environment for 16 to 24 year olds – the US is dead last in the OECD.  Dead last.  (see p93 here).

So we at NDN are saddling up for a three-year effort to make the case that needs to be made about the President’s trade agenda.  But we advocates will have to approach this effort in far different ways than we did in the 1990s.  More must be done, by both parties, for the American people themselves or we should not expect this effort to be easy, or successful.

"No Special Path" Does Not Preclude Citizenship

Friends – a quick point of clarification on a key point in the immigration reform debate.

Though the GOP is using the term “path to legalization,” this path does not preclude citizenship for undocumented immigrants.   What Rep. Goodlatte and other GOP leaders have been floating is the idea that formerly undocumented immigrants, with whatever legal status, can apply for a green card like anyone else, thus receiving “no special path.”  Once they receive the green card, they are then on a citizenship track – or path to citizenship - as a green card is the first step in the current legal process for an immigrant becoming a citizen.

So, while the House Republicans are talking about a path to citizenship, the proposals we’ve heard about in these talking stages do not contemplate a permanent second class status, and indeed many of the undocumented immigrants will receive citizenship in this process. 

For more on this see Greg Sargent's smart analysis in the Washington Post. 

An Enduring Legacy: The Democratic Party and Free and Open Trade

Looking back at the history of the Democratic Party since Franklin Roosevelt, modern Democrats have much to be proud of: the successful stewardship of our nation through WWII; the creation of the United Nations; a strong partnership with the GOP in fighting and winning the Cold War; rescuing the nation from the Great Depression and the Great Recession; the establishment of a strong and comprehensive safety net for the old and poor; courageous support of successful Civil Rights Era reforms; the launching of a 21st century American health care system that finally provides for universal coverage; a strong track record of job growth and deficit reduction in recent presidencies; and of late, the fight to extend equality to LGBT Americans and the growing ranks of people of color and immigrants (feel free to add things left out -- there are more, of course).

It is a remarkable track record indeed. But I want to make the case that of all these accomplishments, there is one more that has been the most consequential, that has done more to provide opportunity and alleviate poverty around the world than any other set of policies in modern history -- that is the creation of the global system launched by Presidents Roosevelt and Truman at the end of WWII built on the foundation of free and open trade.

There can be little doubt, looking back at global architecture established by the leaders of the Democratic Party at the end of WWII, that free and open trade was seen as inextricably linked to the promotion of democracy and political liberty around the world. That to prevent yet another World War, our leaders imagined a world at peace, where the industriousness and creativity of everyday people all around the world linked together through free and open trade would create a global middle class -- a sensible, powerful bulwark against totalitarianism of both right and left. This spirit is best captured in FDR's famous "Four Freedoms" speech, which is perhaps the most important speech given by a Democrat in the long and storied history of our party.

To a great degree this inherently liberal vision has both triumphed on the global stage, and worked. A majority of the world's 200-plus countries are some form of democracy today. Trade flows are exploding, a truly global middle class is emerging, standards of living are rising are all around the world, and poverty is falling at extraordinary rates -- all while the population of the world has more than tripled. Large scale global conflagrations have been avoided, and international institutions of peace and civility retain encouraging degrees of effectiveness almost 70 years after their creation.

This global system, imagined and built by leaders of the Democratic Party of the United States, has created more opportunity for more people than any other political system in human history. It is not without its flaws, and more must be done in the developed world and here in the US to ensure broad-based growth in an age of more virulent global competition and the "rise of the rest." But over this period, in this system, America itself has created unparalleled opportunity and prosperity for its own citizens, and produced technologies and companies who have made life better for billions of people around the world.

Through his vision of new trade liberalization arrangements in both the Pacific and the Atlantic, President Obama has put the weight of his presidency behind deepening, broadening and modernizing this successful global system. The trade deals would further liberalize trade in economies with more than 60 percent of global output. They do so while attempting to establish higher standards for labor and the environment, while fashioning new rules for the digital age in areas like cloud services and intellectual property. At their core these trade rounds bind countries to higher and more responsible standards of capitalism than they might practice otherwise, while opening foreign markets to US businesses who are far more prepared for the rigors of 21st century global competition than most of their peers.

From a geopolitical perspective, these far-reaching deals also keep America front and center in the economic and political arrangements of the Pacific, Latin America, and Europe. It re-affirms America's commitment to this free and open rules-based global system, providing a powerful counterbalance to those countries whose leaders have a different view of the political liberties and economic opportunities offered to their own people.

This last point deserves a bit of emphasis. We know from history that eras of peace and prosperity can give way to eras of repression and belligerence. Today, due to the in part to the peace and prosperity of the modern age, the world is very young. More than 50 percent of the people alive today are under 30. In many developing nations, two-thirds of their people are under 30. To a great degree these young people will dictate what kind of world we will have in the 21st century. It is essential, that as much as possible, this next global generation both be given a liberal and open global system, and be taught the lessons of why such a system is preferred to other, less liberal alternatives. Concluding these visionary deals, passing them through the US Congress and implementing them before President Obama leaves office will send a powerful signal to liberalism's opponents that this system will continue to prevail in the decades ahead.

And, of course, the opposite is true. If these agreements fail to pass through an inward looking Congress we will be sending exactly the wrong signal to the rising new generation soon to inherit power in the world -- that indeed free and open societies, built on responsible capitalism and respectful of human rights, were a product of a different era, lost to history by leaders and nations unwilling to renew their commitment to a global system that has done so much for so many.

The case for these nascent trade deals is powerful. But at the same time, proponents cannot ignore what has happened in the US economy since the global economy became truly global in the late 1990s and early part of the 21st century. Job growth in the US has slowed, and American workers have seen their wages stagnate. Policy makers here cannot really expect the American public to buy into these far-reaching agreements unless more is done to ensure their success in this more competitive world of the 21st century. Accompanying the passage of these trade deals should be a comprehensive agenda for the American people -- one that makes unprecedented investments in skills and knowledge, modern infrastructure, lower cost and cleaner energy, long-term research and development and innovative health technologies. We should also modernize our immigration system to meet the challenges of this global economy by passing a version of the Senate immigration bill, and raise the minimum wage. The US needs a new strategy to ensure our peoples -- not just our company's success -- in a more competitive age (NDN has been arguing for such an agenda since 2005).

In the final years of the Obama presidency, the US Congress has an extraordinary opportunity to both strengthen and buttress the global system which has done so much good for the world for so long, and to raise our game at home so we can meet the challenges of what is becoming, inevitably, a more competitive world. If the two parties can come together to do both of these things, this will become an historic period indeed, a period where despite the rancor the two American political parties came together to make both the world and our nation stronger and better in a new, uncertain age.

As a lifelong Democrat, I am deeply proud of what our party has done over the past several generations. We have left America and the world far better than we found it. A major part of our party's success has been the construction of a global system which has given far better lives and more opportunities to billions of people. As we begin a needed debate about our economic and trade policies here in the US, my hope is that modern Democrats fashion a set of answers to the challenges of the moment that strengthen, modernize and improve this global system that is perhaps our party's greatest legacy.

You can find the original Huffington Post articlef rom January 21st, 2014 here.  

Your Support Will Power Us in 2014

 As I look ahead to next year in Washington, there are four major battles our experienced team and well-wrought arguments are poised to add considerable value to: the debate over proper domestic economic policy in a new age of globalization; the passage of new, consequential trade and economic liberalization agreements; better strategies and policies towards the Middle East and North Africa;  and completing the nine year old effort to pass comprehensive immigration reform. There are other areas where we have, and will  continue, to offer leadership – political reform, better understanding of the changing demographics in the US, and the way mobile tech is changing us – but these four areas will be where NDN puts its stake in the ground, and fights the good fight next year.  

Your support today will help fuel these efforts.  It will pay for staff and contract policy work, help us upgrade our technology and improve the marketing of our ideas, and just give us a bit more muscle to engage during this consequential time in our nation’s history.   That’s why I hope you will give what you can - $5, $25, $100 or more – today and help us go into 2014 at full strength.

With the House Republicans demonstrating last week that they may try harder to advance the national interest now, more is possible next year.  Not assured, not likely, but possible.   And we will be doing what we do here at NDN – sophisticated thought and political leadership on tough challenges – to take advantage of this opportunity ensure that 2014 is not just a good year for the center-left, but the nation as a whole.   

Thanks for all that you do for us, and for the many other worthy organizations out there doing good work.  

Happy Holidays, and to a good 2014! 

Best, 

Simon

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