Something potentially very significant happened last night in the ongoing debate over the President’s recent immigration reforms: 14 states asked a higher court to release them from the Texas judge’s injunction that is preventing DAPA and DACA expansion from proceeding.
This is important for whatever the merits of the case brought by Texas and 25 states that led to the injunction, that the injunction was applied to 24 states who did not join the suit and do not believe they were harmed by the President’s seems to be a clear and unsustainable overreach by Judge Hanen of Texas.
As the case moves to the 5th circuit, it is important to note that there at least two separate legal tracks emerging. As I’ve written elsewhere, the core of Judge Hanen’s decision was legally weak and is likely to be overturned. That process could take months. But on the question of whether to release the 24 states who have claimed harm and did not join the current suit, that decision could come much sooner as there simply is no legal basis to block the implementation of the President’s reform in these states who want the reforms to take place.
This also means that this debate will start to move to the political realm. Will for example, the GOP’s new US Senate candidate in California, Rocky Chavez, support his state’s call to be released from the injunction or does he support Judge Hanen’s decision? And what about in Iowa, a state who has been asked to be released? Will the 2016 GOPers publically challenge this decision? Will prominent GOPers in the 14 states who have filed an amicus brief come out in support of their state or will they oppose? Lots of fun ahead.
But as I’ve said, I am confident the President will win in the courts and his reforms will be implemented this year. What may happen sooner, however, is that the 5th circuit may release some states from the injunction, allowing these reforms to begin to be implemented soon, perhaps as early as this spring.
We are proud to announce that today NDN has joined people and organizations from across the nation and the political spectrum in supporting the bold work of the Campaign for Free College Tuition.
The Campaign for Free College Tuition (CFCT) was launched in 2014 with the aim to make college tuition free in all 50 states. Their plan – available at www.freecollegenow.org – aims to provide a tuition free college education at a public institution without raising federal taxes or accruing additional debt by redirecting existing federal spending in support of higher education, significantly reducing the profits the federal government currently makes on student loans, and asking states to do their part to restore their support for higher education to historical levels. The cornerstone of CFCT’s plan is the establishment of a National Promise Scholarship (NPS) program that would provide every academically qualified student from a middle or lower income family enough money to pay for in state tuition at either a two or four year public college.
CFCT also applauds President Obama’s America’s College Promise initiative to make community colleges tuition free in partnership with state governments, as well as existing efforts by the State of Tennessee and dozens of “Promise” communities throughout the country that have made free college tuition a reality for their residents.
In announcing our support, we released the following statements:
“Understanding the millennial generation and their impact on the future of American politics has been one of NDN’s main areas of focus over the past decade.” said Simon Rosenberg. “Ensuring that America has a well-educated workforce that isn’t crippled by student loan debt is a noble cause that would have a positive benefit for all. We applaud the works of CFCT and NDNer Morley Winograd on their work thus far, and are excited about helping the campaign move forward.”
“It is imperative that we restore our nation’s historic commitment to free and universal education,” said CFCT President Morley Winograd. “To ensure our nation’s future competitiveness, we must fundamentally reform the way the country finances higher education by making public colleges tuition free. We are pleased that NDN is joining our coalition and look forward to working with Simon Rosenberg and his colleagues to make the attainment of an affordable college education a possibility for every American.”
While NDN has provided tacit support to CFCT already, look for us to step our advocacy for their important work in the months ahead. We hope that you will take the time to visit the Campaign for Free College Tuition website to learn more, and if you are so moved, sign up online to join the Campaign. NDN would also like to applaud the Obama Administration for its recently announced Student Loan Bill of Rights and continued efforts to make tuition more affordable.
In the coming years this effort has the opportunity to do something truly important for the country – but they will only get there by growing a broad-based coalition with your support.
You can also read CFCT's coverage of the NDN endorsement on their website.
One of the reasons folks like Steve King are and will continue to fight so hard against Speaker Boehner on DHS funding is that the obvious weakness and narrowness of Judge Hanen's recent ruling blocking elements of the President's Executive Actions did not give them confidence they would prevail in the courts.
The judge's decision did not block the central focus of King's efforts in 2013/4, which was to roll back the "Morton Memos" and the way the President began to change the imm/border enforcement system in 2011. The "King Amendment" in 2013, and a similar measure which passed the House in 2014, targeted prosecutorial discretion itself not only DACA. The failure of the judge to challenge PD and block the portions of the President's executive actions which build upon these earlier changes means that Judge Hanen's decision could not possible satisfy Rep. King and his Congressional allies. It didn't go far enough, and as far as King is concerned, Hanen's ruling did not address the core flouting of the law by the President we've heard so much about these last few years. This is one reason why they are fighting and will continue to fight so hard today and in the weeks to come in the House - they no longer see the Court as a way of solving this problem. Congress is going to have to do it, now. This is their only shot.
My MSNBC op-ed from earlier this week goes a bit more in depth in this political terrain. I've been saying all week that I never say a path for a clean bill to pass the House, even a CR, without Democratic support.
Sat AM Update - As predicted, Rep. King and his allies did not relent. And what is perhaps most important for the next iteration of this debate at this end of this coming week Speaker Boehner lost 5 votes from the first to second vote - from 50 to 55. Amazingly, more GOP House Members voted against the one week CR than the earlier three week version. What can explain this level of oppostion to Speaker Boehner? Read above, and be sure to read Frank Wilkinson's take in Bloomberg why the 24 states who did not challenge the President's immigration reforms may hold the key to what happens next.
Finally, it needs to be understood that by keeping DHS on a CR is an affirmative step to lower America's defenses during a time of rising threats. As someone who works closely with DHS and has for years, there should be no mistaking it - the GOP have purposefully weakened our ability to deal with foreign and domestic threats for their own political gain. It is shameful and reckless behavior.
This piece originally appeared on February 24th on MSNBC's website in-advance of a townhall they hosted with President Obama.
MSNBC’s televised town hall discussion with President Obama on Wednesday comes at a critical juncture in the debate over how to best improve our immigration system.
Last week, a federal judge in Texas blocked the implementation of parts of the president’s executive actions on immigration, which would provide deportation relief for millions. And this week, congressional Republicans may recklessly allow the Department of Homeland Security to shut down, endangering our border, cyber security and counter-terrorism operations, in order to register a symbolic protest.
So where are we heading in this debate, and what will the president say later this week? Here are a few things we know:
Obamacare may be a road map. The experience of the Affordable Care Act may be a good guide for what could happen with the president’s reforms in the years ahead. The ACA has been through a controversial 5-6 years. There were ups and down along the way, problems with implementation, legal challenges and intense political opposition.
But almost six years after Obamacare was first introduced, it is looking increasingly like a significant policy and political success. Signups have exceeded expectations this year. Tens of millions of people have seen dramatic improvements in their lives in just the first 18 months of full implementation. The famous “health care cost curve” is bending, and during the first months of the ACA, we’ve seen one of the strongest economic performances from the U.S. economy in the last 20 years. And the public is noticing. New polling shows that a majority of Americans now approve of Obamacare for the first time since this debate began in 2009.
Advocates of reform should draw from the tough but ultimately successful implementation of Obamacare, not only for inspiration for their own work in the years ahead but also to continue to explain to the American people why they are so confident the reforms will work as intended..."
The legal and policy arguments against reform are weak. With a full week to review the injunction by U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen, the Texas justice who blocked the implementation of the president’s reform, the decision is looking more like the desperate political act of a losing side than a sound, sustainable legal opinion. The injunction was granted on a minor technicality and did not attempt to meaningfully challenge the legal theory of “prosecutorial discretion” behind Obama’s executive actions.
In fact, very significant applications of this legal theory regarding other aspects of border and immigration enforcement were not blocked and will continue to be implemented. As this Washington Post analysis demonstrates, the judge’s clearly hastily-written opinion betrayed a shocking and potentially disqualifying lack of understanding of how the immigration system works in the United States. And the injunction overreaches, covering all 26 states in the suit though he cites “harm” in only one, Texas (and the 24 other states who did not join the suit).
That the opinion was so sloppy and narrow reinforces how political the ruling was. Rushed out on a federal holiday just days before the reforms in question were set to take effect, the decision now appears intended to buy some time for Hanen’s ideological allies in Washington who have so far failed to find a way to block Obama’s reforms.
The reason the GOP’s challenge ultimately will fail is that there is ample legal precedent for the president’s actions. And, as with Obamacare, these smart reforms will be good for the nation, boost the U.S. economy and enhance our security. By allowing immigration agents to focus on true criminals and illegal border crossers, the U.S. will become more effective at deterring future unauthorized migrants. Federal and local law enforcement will be freed up to go after truly dangerous criminals – not working moms with kids in public schools.
Important parts of the president’s reforms were not blocked. What is perhaps least well known is that Judge Hanen did not strike down Obama’s far-reaching reforms of the immigration and border enforcement systems, which will continue to be implemented without challenge in the months ahead.
And they are significant. Building on earlier reforms in 2011, the Department of Homeland Security will further focus enforcement resources on those trying to enter the country illegally and undocumented immigrants in the U.S. with serious criminal records. The net effect of these reforms will be to remove the threat of immediate deportation from 10 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. It will also make it far more difficult for undocumented immigrants to be put in detention without a formal arrest.
Prioritizing immigration and border enforcement in this way will improve the security of communities across the nation while building a more powerful deterrent on our border for those thinking of entering the country illegally. These reforms are smart and humane, and will guarantee that Obama leaves his successor a border and immigration enforcement system far better than the one he inherited – despite years of extraordinary opposition from the GOP.
So what’s next for immigration reform? I am fairly confident the administration will prevail in the courts. The Republicans will back down on their DHS shutdown threat, which recklessly threatens American security in a time of heightened fears. And the president’s reforms will proceed, ending a decade of gridlock, giving the country a better immigration system and millions of people a renewed chance to pursue the American Dream for them and their families.
The lessons of the health care reform fight point the way: years of battle, legal victories and defeats; but at the end, a better America with millions and millions having the chance to make an even more powerful contribution to their adopted home. As Obama is certain to remind us when he speaks Wednesday night, positive social change only comes about through relentless, hard-fought struggle.
Simon Rosenberg is the president of NDN/New Policy Institute, a pro-immigration reform think tank based in Washington, D.C.
When it comes to DHS the GOP's current strategy is already degrading the nation's security. DHS is on a continuing resolution which freezes in place its budget from last year. Imagine running a business – or a newspaper or media organization – using last year’s priorities or budget. It makes it far harder for the institution to adapt to new threats or challenges, weakening the overall effectiveness of one of the key pillars of our global security apparatus.
Additionally, the threat of a shutdown is causing untold number of person hours being spent now on prepping for the shutdown itself. This too is weakening the overall effectiveness of DHS. Look at all the time the DHS Secretary alone is spending managing this crisis rather than focusing on counter-terrorism, cyber-threats, border security, expediting trade through our borders and ports and all the other truly important responsibilities he has. It is just reckless and irresponsible for the Republicans in Congress to be acting this way, particularly given their very outspoken criticism of how the Administration is handling its broader national security portfolio. If you want to take the fight to the terrorists disabling DHS is sure a strange way to do it.
Congress must give DHS its budget for the year, and let it do its job. The stakes are far too high, particularly in a period of heightened threats, for Congress to be playing reckless political games with the security of the American people. It is time to pass a clean DHS bill and stop using extra-ordinary means outside the traditional Congressional process to challenge the President. We understand Republicans are frustrated, angry. But taking their political frustrations out on the American people is the very opposite of the kind of leadership our nation wants and needs. Anything short of a clean bill this week is an affirmative step to lower our nation’s defenses in a time of heightened threats to our homeland.
This op-ed ran originally on the US News and World Report site on Friday, February 6th, 2015. You can find it here, or below.
Who Controls the Future of the Internet?
One of the areas, however, that we have to get right quickly is how the Internet itself will be governed. Though it is essentially an American creation and still largely overseen by the U.S. government, it has always been the plan for the U.S. to turn over the day-to-day management of the technical backbone of the Internet to ICANN, which is an independent, multistakeholder institution. The thinking was that the Internet would never truly become a sustainable, lasting global institution unless its management was globally shared.
And that strategy is correct: The only way the U.S. can truly win is by letting go of the Internet, not holding on to it. But of course, and in this we must be honest too, “letting go” also brings with it significant risks and challenges and the potential for losing the Internet altogether.
The process began last March, when the Obama administration announced that it would attempt to move one part of the governance system – the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, or IANA, which is part of the domain name system – from the Department of Commerce to ICANN by the fall of 2015. In the last several months, members of the U.S. Congress have begun to respond to the plan and inject themselves into the debate. Many are interested in setting clear conditions for the planned transfer in September. The administration should be eager for Congress to wrestle with this issue and work to create a broad bipartisan consensus for how to proceed: Given how important these matters are to the future of the U.S., Congress has to step up and do its part to ensure we have a vibrant, free and open Internet for generations to come.
Among the more promising contributions to this still nascent debate came last week in a proposal from GOP Sens. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Roy Blunt of Missouri and Democratic Sens. Chris Coons of Delaware and Mark Warner of Virginia. In it they lay out seven reasonable conditions ICANN must meet prior to the transfer, including that the institution itself must become more accountable to the stakeholder community (one way to do this is to have formal “members” representing the various constituencies). It is not only a smart contribution to the debate, but that it was bipartisan puts ICANN and the administration on notice that Congress is now forcefully moving into the debate about how to keep the Internet open and free. And for good reason: In recent months there have been legitimate reasons for concern about institutional mission creep and foreign government capture of ICANN, something the U.S. simply cannot allow.
While Congress should engage in the coming months, it also must act with far more caution and dexterity than it often does on the global stage. Allowing one, single, free and open Internet to develop across the world in the years ahead will require more countries and stakeholders to view the Internet not as a threat to their way of life but as an enabler of better times. The more the Internet is seen as a tool of American business and government the less likely many will be to invest in this process over time.
What this means is that ensuring future Internet governance is both more broadly shared and successful is going to be hard and will require very high level and agile stewardship from future administrations and Congressional leaders. It is not something that can or should be left to assistant secretaries or backbenchers in Congress. It is literally one of the most significant tasks our government has, and must be approached with far greater seriousness than it has been in recent years.
Getting this year’s IANA transfer right is one of the most important things our government will do in 2015, and will be a test of our system. There should be a vigorous national debate, and Congress should set clear and reasonable conditions for the transfer. If the conditions are not met, the U.S. government should be willing to postpone the transfer date. But if they are met, it is similarly critical that we keep our word to the global community and allow the transfer to happen. Our policy makers have an enormous responsibility to the billions of people around the world who rely on the Internet every day to get this right.
As I’ve written elsewhere, maintaining a free and open Internet for future generations simply has to become one of the American government’s highest priorities now. Doing so will require working through complex issues like privacy, cybersecurity, cross-border data flows and other trade related issues, censorship and overzealous government regulation and of course deliberate efforts by more repressive regimes to weaken the Internet’s global reach. The Internet as we know it today is far more fragile than many users understand, and it is going to take extraordinary American leadership in the coming decades to ensure that the promise of this globally transformative network is realized for all the people of the world.
n the near term the administration should be working closely with Congress, the Internet stakeholder community and allied governments to ensure that this delicate transition of one piece of Internet governance is successful. If we can’t get something like the IANA transfer right, it is hard to see how the American vision of one global Internet accessed by all will prevail in the fast changing world of the 21st century.
You can find related materials from NDN on this page.
This new op-ed originally appeared on 1/18/15 on MSNBC.com as a part of their "State of America" series. You can find the full piece on their site or below.
While the GOP’s latest rejection of immigration reform has dominated the headlines in recent weeks, the reality is that the United States is already undergoing a major societal shift as a result of significant Hispanic migration. And 2015 – regardless of Republican opposition – looks to be a tipping point. Consider:
In 2014, the Hispanic unemployment rate dropped by a quarter in a single year, from 8.4% to 6.5%. One estimate suggests that fully one-third of all Hispanics without health insurance gained insurance in the first full year of President Obama’s health care reforms, dropping from 36% uninsured to just 23%. Over the past generation, the Hispanic dropout rate has seen similar, dramatic improvements, going from about 35% in the 1990s to 13% last year.
Millions of undocumented Hispanics living in the U.S. will see dramatic socioeconomic gains through the president’s commonsense reforms to the immigration system. Early data from the two-year-old Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program show that even in its early days, DACA recipients saw significant gains in their income.
As the Mexican-American population has soared, trade between the U.S. and Mexico has taken off. Mexico is now the America’s third largest trading partner – reaching record levels in 2014 – and its second largest export market. As the Mexican economy has improved and modernized in the post-NAFTA period, the flow of Mexicans into the U.S. has dropped to record lows. What appears to be the end of the Great Mexican Diaspora has helped contribute to a very dramatic slowdown in the flow of undocumented immigrants into the U.S. during Obama’s presidency.
A CBS News poll released last week showed that even after months of contentious debate and aggressive GOP counter-legislation, 69% of the country wants the 11 million undocumented immigrant population to remain in the US; 62% support the President’s actions and 55% want them to remain in place. It appears that the public is rejecting renewed, intense GOP efforts to force the millions undocumented immigrants living and working among us to leave.
Since the United States changed its immigration policy in 1965, the Hispanic population has grown from 3 million to 53 million. This growth has been part of a much broader and historic wave of immigration which has put America on a trajectory to become a “majority minority” nation by 2044.
The explosion of Hispanics in the U.S. is a very recent phenomenon, suggesting that we may be indeed at a tipping point in the United States where we see the community making historic gains in socioeconomic status and broad acceptance by the majority population. It may be too early to call the Hispanic migration a success, but it is sure looking like that is where we are headed, soon.
All these developments make Republican opposition to the underlying policies which have helped usher in this era of progress far more inexplicable. Perhaps the two most intense areas of GOP policy engagement in the past two years – rolling back the Affordable Care Act and attacking the president’s immigration reforms – are both efforts that would disproportionately harm Hispanic families.
Similarly, Republicans have proposed cuts in school funding and appear to be headed toward opposition to the president’s new community college initiative – also efforts which would disproportionately harm Hispanic families. In fact, the newly-passed House immigration legislation goes far beyond opposition to the Obama’s reforms and includes provisions to expedite the deportation of the 11 million undocumented immigrants already here, putting the GOP not just against Hispanic advancement and assimilation but even their physical presence in the country.
Nevertheless, the great wave of Hispanic migration our nation has witnessed over the past fifty years is increasingly looking like a success. Hispanic Americans have made particularly significant economic strides in recent years. The public has rejected the worst of the GOP’s attacks on undocumented immigrants in the U.S., and appear accepting of the far more diverse America of the 21st century. The economic experiment of expanding our trade relations with Mexico has produced exploding levels of trade between our two countries, and an historic era of modernization and progress in Mexico itself.
While the politics of immigration will remain contentious in Washington for years to come, we may have hit a tipping point where this recent wave of Hispanic migration is becoming understood as a success for the immigrants themselves and the nation as a whole – a historic change that has made the State of our Union stronger.
Simon Rosenberg is the president of NDN/New Policy Institute, a pro-immigration reform think tank based in Washington, D.C.
It is important to note that the emerging House GOP immigration strategy is deeply consistent with their approach from the 113th Congress. In both 2013 and 2014, in what was their only substantive response to the bi-partisan Senate immigration bill, the House GOP passed laws overriding the use of prosecutorial discretion mandated in the “Morton Memos.” Prosecutorial discretion has been the basis of a series of sweeping improvements in the immigration system advanced by the Obama Administration since 2010, including DACA in 2012 and the 2014 Executive Actions (DAPA).
The objective of this GOP strategy is remove the ability of DHS to prioritize (and de-prioritize) the deportation of those apprehended by the immigration justice system. In their view removing this common every day law enforcement practice from a massive law enforcement system, as Greg Sargent reports in this recent piece, would allow DHS to re-establish the threat of imminent deportation over the entire undocumented population (which began to be removed through the 2010 Morton strategy). The only reason to do that is if the longer term objective was to block all efforts at legalization and force the remaining 11m to leave through “self-deportation.” The only reason to fight common sense provisions to prioritize the deportation of felons over law-abiding, tax-paying moms is if you believe that the fear of imminent deportation is an essential tool of immigration policy – and the only reason it would be would if the goal was not eventual legalization but removal/self-deportation. Focusing so much energy on deportation prioritization only makes sense if you believe there will be millions to deport.
All Republicans supporting this initiative need to be asked directly about their vision for the 11m already here. By supporting this legislation, it is clear their goal is for them to leave, not stay. Early media appearances by GOP supporters of this bill have seen Republicans being less than honest about the longer term goal, evading the question by suggesting that border security needs to come first and not answering the question. Journalists should not let them off the hook for the decision of go/stay is the most important question in the immigration debate today and folks should be clear about where they stand on this.
On a related note, the current GOP arguments about the border itself are a bit ridiculous. In recent years, due to greater cooperation with Mexico, additional resources on the border, and the deterrent effect the post-Morton strategy of far greater pursuit of illegal entrants/border crossers has brought, the net flow of undocumented immigrations into the US has gone from 400,000 a year under Bush to zero under Obama; and crime along the US side of the border itself has plummeted. The government has made significant strides in border security in recent years, in part due to the Morton prioritization of border crossers/illegal entrants for deportation. Unraveling Morton would actually be a setback for border security not an advance.
The success of the President’s border strategy can not only be measured in the very real gains we’ve seen in security, but in during this period of progress in security we have also seen an explosion of trade and tourism across our southern border. US-Mexico trade will clock in over $600b in goods and services in 2014, almost DOUBLE what it was in the first year of the Obama Administration. Mexico is now the US’s second largest market for our exports. That we have both dramatically increased border security while overseeing a huge increase in legal tourism and trade with Mexico will go down as one of the more significant policy successes of the Obama era.
A new report released earlier today from ICE, ICE Enforcement and Removal Operation Reports FY 2014, contains another year of data showing how Obama era policies have made our immigration system better and border safer.
As background, the undocumented immigrant population in the United States swelled from 3m in the early 1990s to 12m by 2007. After 9/11, and accelerating in the middle part of the last decade, there became a bi-partisan effort to both stop the flow of unauthorized migrants and reform a domestic immigration system badly out of date and inadequately equipped to deal with a undocumented immigrant population of this size. After legislative efforts to reform the system failed for the 3rd time in 2010, DHS pragmatically initiated a series of reforms designed to help the immigration enforcement/justice system cope with a population far beyond what is funded and equipped to deal with. Known as the Morton Memos, these reforms among other things directed the immigration enforcement/judicial system to prioritize two types of unauthorized immigrants for deportation from this vast pool of more than 10 million – those caught entering the country without authorization, and those apprehended in the interior with criminal records.
As the charts and graphs below show, these reforms brought swift and significant reform to the system. The prioritization of border removals has helped keep the net flow of undocumented immigrants to zero after 15 years of gains of on average 500,000 or more, while also helping bring the crime rate down along the US side of the US-Mexico border. In the interior, prioritizing felons not families, the system has become far more focused on removing criminals and leaving law abiding, tax-paying families alone. These reforms have neither “ratcheted up” nor weakened enforcement. They have made our enforcement system smarter, more effective and better. And, as we learned this spring and summer, the many years of investment in capacity building and far better use of limited resources enabled the US government to successfully manage an extraordinary crisis when it hit our border.
The success of the changes begun by DHS in 2010 laid the groundwork for the Executive Actions the President took a few weeks ago. As the President said, his answer for what to do about our broken immigration system was to pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform. But after nine years of trying that path and being blocked, the President simply had to act. The immigration system we have today was never designed or built to handle an unauthorized population of more than 10m people, many long settled and with deep family ties to the community. By even further refining the enforcement priorities to the border and serious criminals in the interior, the Executive Actions will maintain our successful border policies, make it far easier to remove true criminal threats from the interior rapidly, unclog our badly clogged and unjust immigration judicial system, while freeing up law abiding immigrant with deep family ties to make even greater economic contributions to their country.
Reviewing this new ICE data it is clear that the reforms made by DHS a few years ago were smart and effective. Our immigration system is better and our border safer. The recent Executive Actions built on these reforms, and will in the coming years, even without Congressional action, make our nation safer and our immigration system far better and more humane.
For a much deeper dive on these issues, be sure to read our recent report: “NDN/NPI Report on Central American Migrants and President Obama’s Immigration/Border Enforcement Record.”
The Obama Administration’s historic policy changes towards Cuba will be good for the US, the Cuban people and for the hemisphere.
For the Cuban government, this rapprochement is an acknowledgement of their own need to change and open up to their long standing enemy and to the rest of the world. The change inside Cuba that got us to this point was a far more difficult journey than what our nation has and will have continue to travel. In addition to the prisoner exchanges today, Cuba announced that it would release political prisoners, open up to more international institutions, give its citizens greater access to the Internet and allow higher levels of travel and remittances to the country. While our own President took a courageous step today, the steps taken by the Cuban regime were far greater and more significant, amounting to a renunciation of the central organizing principle of their state which has guided them for over fifty years. They are in essence throwing in the towel. This was no easy thing particularly for a leader named Castro.
For the United States, rapprochement with Cuba, along with our recent steps to reform our immigration system, will allow far greater American engagement in the Americas. As our own population today is more than 15% of Latin American descent, and expected to climb to more than 30% in decades to come, further political and economic integration with Latin America is a natural evolution of who America is becoming. These recent steps by President Obama can usher in a new and far more constructive period of hemispheric relations, something that is not just good for economically and geopolitically, but will be demanded by our growing domestic Hispanic population.
It is a bit hard to understand the defense of the status quo by many Republicans. Current policy clearly hasn’t worked, while harming American interests in the region. The new path is resorting to a patient strategy of economic and political engagement that has been the bi-partisan strategic cornerstone of US foreign policy since the end of WWII. So this is no radical path.
Current Cuba policy has also been a political failure for the Republican Party. The Cuban American community in Florida has gone from being an overwhelmingly Republican voting block to one which is now marginally Democratic. This shift has also helped make Democrat a “lean blue” state at the Presidential level. Given that neither the policy nor the politics of the current Cuba policy has worked, it is just hard to see why so many Republicans are defending it.
At NDN, we have worked alongside many other leaders and organizations to bring about these historic changes. In 2004, we ran the first ever Spanish language campaign in Miami challenging the Republicans on their failed Cuba policy. We helped develop the policy the Obama Administration adopted in 2009 which relaxed some restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba for Cuban Americans. This policy of letting Cuban Americans take the lead in establishing better ties has helped create the political space in Florida allowing these new more ambitious steps. And of course, our good friend and former NDN, Joe Garcia was elected to Congress as a Cuban Democrat in 2012. While Joe lost in November, he is even a more powerful voice for change than ever before.
Taking bold steps so clearly in the national interest of the United States is what we expect from our Presidents. We thank you for your courage and vision, for giving the people of Cuba and the region a chance to chart a better course. And to our members how have partnered and funded our work that has helped bring about these critical changes we say thank you. We have done a lot of good here, together.