“The introduction of this thoughtful new House immigration reform bill brings us one step closer to getting a bill signed into law in the coming months. The bill is a good one, incorporating the best of what the Senate passed, and constructive ideas from House Republicans. That the Democrats could have introduced a bill with so many ideas from the other side, at this tense and difficult moment, is itself a sign of the momentum immigration reform has in Congress right now. We are closer to a deal than at any point since Senators McCain and Kennedy began this process in 2005, and I am optimistic Congress will finish the job in the coming months.“
“La introducción de este nuevo y bien pensado proyecto de ley de inmigración nos lleva un paso más cerca a una inminente confirmación de que se convierta en la nueva ley de reforma migratoria en los próximos meses. Es una buena propuesta de ley, ya que incorpora lo mejor de lo que se aprobó en el Senado, junto con ideas constructivas de republicanos en la Cámara Baja. El hecho de que los demócratas hayan podido presentar un proyecto de ley con muchas ideas del otro bando, justo en estos tiempos difíciles, es ya de hecho una señal del buen impulso que lleva la ley de reforma migratoria en el congreso en estos momentos. Estamos más cerca a un trato de lo que estábamos cuando los senadores McCain y Kennedy comenzaron este proceso en el 2005 y me mantengo optimista de que el congreso va a terminar su trabajo en los próximos meses.”
Be sure to see my recent op-ed arguing the two parties are much closer to a deal on immigration reform than many realize. Also see our discussion two weeks ago with immigration reform experts Frank Sharry and Tamar Jacoby with insight into the current state of play.
The Shutdown Endgame: Getting to a Budget Deal, Protecting Our Democracy
To understand how we get out of the shutdown mess, it is important to understand how we got here. The central cause of the current government shutdown is the House Republican’s inability to propose a realistic budget and pass any appropriations bills this year. The struggles they had in making their numbers add up in their budget process this spring, well documented here by Politico’s David Rogers, left the House without a fiscal consensus they could use to negotiate with the Senate. This, in turn, led the House to take the remarkable step of boycotting a budget conference committee, the normal process our government has used for hundreds of years to get to a budget which allows the US government to operate.
The government shut down on October 1st because Congress has not passed a budget to fund it for the fiscal year 2014. This shutdown really isn’t about Obamacare. Until the House drops its opposition to negotiating with the Senate to produce a budget, the current brinksmanship will continue. There is only one way to remove the threat of a shutdown – the House must return to the budget negotiating table and help provide the country with a budget to fund our government next year. Anything short of that is just political noise. And thus the President and Senator Reid are right to object to negotiations over anything other than doing what is mandated by the Constitution and funding the government.
The remarkable reluctance of the GOP to enter into serious budget negotiations to resolve the crisis can be explained in two ways. One, they know it removes their leverage, forces them to confront their own internal fiscal incoherence, and is likely to a result in a budget not palatable to many House Republicans. Second, it brings to a premature end another of their strategic goals of this conflict: to change the Constitutional arrangements of our government to give the minority party more power than it is currently allocated. The clear evidence that this is a strategic goal of the Republicans is the list of issues, which go far beyond the new health care law, Speaker Boehner floated as ones he wanted negotiated to raise the debt ceiling. None of these many proposals - environmental, regulatory, health - involve, of course, mechanisms for ending the budget stalemate (go to the end of the piece for a full list).
Every one of these proposals has passed the Republican House, and then has been rejected by the Senate. Thus in our system of governing, the Congress had rejected them, and the minority party failed to get its way. By using the threat of economic catastrophe as a way of reconsidering ideas already defeated in our democratic process, the House Republicans are attempting to create a new system of legislating which would allow their defeated ideas to pass the Senate (which had already rejected them) and be signed into law. And it was not just one issue they were trying to re-litigate but dozens – their entire domestic agenda in other words.
Given all this the responsible path for the President and the Senate is to call the House Republicans to an immediate budgetary conference committee and begin negotiating the only thing that will remove the threat of a shutdown – an actual budget for the United States government. Once the Committee convenes, the two chambers should pass a two month Continuing Resolution to keep the government open until a final budget is negotiated. All other negotiations – over partial CRs, debt ceiling, etc – are tabled.
The President has an extraordinary obligation to proceed in this way. He cannot allow one party to decide not to participate in the age old process our democracy has created for funding its government. He cannot allow a minority party to unilaterally, extra-Constitutionally, dictate the terms of how our democracy will work. He cannot allow the country to be governed this way. It weakens our democracy and our national security, is terribly expensive and unsettling to global markets. And perhaps worst of all, in a time of great global challenge it sends a signal to the world that the world’s most important democracy is itself having a terrible time making democracy work at home. In that sense it not just undermines our democracy, but undermines and weakens the global movement to bring more political freedom and opportunity to people throughout the entire world.
My hope is that the President stands firm in the coming days. There is much at stake in this fight. His focus should be clear: re-open our government, negotiate a budget deal, and protect our democracy. Reject half-steps or pointless negotiations. Do the right thing, and we will all benefit.
According to press accounts, Speaker Boehner is considering the following in his negotiations over raising the debt ceiling: a one-year delay of the Affordable Care Act, a “fast-track” tax reform authority, Keystone XL Pipeline construction, an overhaul of Dodd-Frank regulation, more offshore oil drilling, more permitting of energy exploration on federal lands, suspending the Environmental Protection Agency's efforts to regulate carbon emissions , rolling back regulations on coal ash, elimination of a $23 billion fund to ensure the orderly dissolution of failed major banks, elimination of mandatory contributions to the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, limiting medical malpractice lawsuits and increase means testing for Medicare, and repeal of the Public Health Trust Fund.
“NDN applauds the new immigration reform bill introduced by Representatives Grijalva and Vela today. If we are to pass immigration reform this year, it is time for the House to get going. Our hope is that this thoughtful bill can help jump start the House process, and help produce a good immigration reform bill by year’s end.“
“Aplaudo esta nueva ley de reforma migratoria presentada por los congresistas Vela y Grijalva. Si vamos a pasar una reforma migratoria este año, es tiempo de que la Cámara Baja se empiece a mover. Esperamos que esta ley bien pensada pueda ayudar a arrancar el proceso legislativo del congreso en la Cámara de Representantes y que se cristalice en una buena ley de inmigración para finales de este año.”
Be sure to see my recent op-ed arguing the two parties are much closer to a deal on immigration reform than many realize.
Tue AM Update - News reports indicate House Democratic Leadership is planning to introduce their own bill next week. See this piece from the Greg Sargent of the WaPo, and this one from Politico. Possible that the demise of the Gang of 7 makes a broader debate in Congress more possible now. Dems are leaning in. Rs promising October votes. Things seem to moving now.
The basic thrust of our discussion last week with immigration reform experts Frank Sharry and Tamar Jacoby - where we discussed the state of play, and what was possible this year - looks even more spot on.
I have a new op-ed running on the Huffington Post home page. It is cross-posted here:
GOP to Hispanics: Drop Dead Again, ACA Edition
For those Republicans worried about getting their party right with the new American electorate, I would be more than a bit concerned about the current attack on the Affordable Care Act. No group will benefit more from the ACA than Hispanic Americans. Estimates are that as many as 10 million Hispanics could gain health insurance in the coming years due to the new American health care system.
The Republican narrative to them this week, just days before the ACA kicks in? We are so committed to denying you health insurance that we are not just opposed to the ACA, but are willing to shut the government down, default on our obligations, and throw the US and global economy into chaos to make sure you don’t get it.
The ferocity of the GOP’s opposition to the ACA will be long remembered by tens of millions Americans whose families directly benefit from our modernized health care system. For Hispanics, the most underinsured portion of the US population, the material gains in health and well-being from the ACA will be greater than for any other demographic group. Estimates suggest 10 million Hispanics will be eligible for health insurance in the coming years. To put that in perspective, these 10 million are about 20 percent of the total US Hispanic population, and millions more than the 7-9 million Hispanics who could gain legal status under the proposed immigration bill.
This suggests that as the act kicks in over the next few years, and millions of Hispanic families sign up for insurance, the damage to the GOP’s brand for opposing this commonsense and powerful health care reform could equal or surpass the damage done by the GOP’s opposition to immigration reform. The math is simple here. More Hispanics are likely to benefit from the ACA than immigration reform. Most polls taken in recent years show that Hispanic voters care more about health care issues than immigration reform. Not a big surprise as the ACA will have a much bigger effect on the families of Hispanic citizens than immigration reform will. The potential for long term damage to the already damaged GOP brand with Hispanics here is huge, and lasting.
There is a precedent for House Republicans dramatically impacting the political alignment of thenational Hispanic electorate. In 2005 the House GOP passed the Sensenbrenner Bill, which called for the direct deportation of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the US. This harsh bill directly led to the rallies and demonstrations we saw in the spring of 2006, some of the largest civil rights demonstrations witnessed in US history. Polling NDN conducted at the time found a huge shift in sentiment against the GOP because of their harsh anti-immigrant actions. In the fall elections, the Hispanic electorate broke dramatically against the GOP, going 70-30 for the Democrats even without the Democrats mounting any campaign at all at any level geared towards the Hispanic electorate.
George Bush’s able campaigns began a re-alignment of the Hispanic electorate towards the GOP. The Republican share of the Hispanic vote jumped from 21% in 1996 to 35% in 2000 to 40% in 2004. These gains were essential in flipping states like FL, CO, AZ and NM carried by Bill Clinton in 1996, and arguably the single most important component of the only GOP Presidential wins since 1988. These gains were undone by the virulent anti-immigrant politics of 2005 and 2006, when the Hispanic electorate shifted to about a 70-30 structural advantage for the Democrats, a margin we first saw in 2006, and one replicated in each of the last three elections.
As I showed earlier, it is possible that the GOP’s extraordinary opposition to the ACA could have an impact on the Hispanic electorate equal to or greater than this critical 2005-2006 moment when the GOP became defined as an anti-immigrant party. For the Republicans interested in the future of their party this should be very worrying.
Fortunately, the Republicans have two ways to mitigate – not erase - what is likely to be a catastrophic and searing event with Hispanics. First, drop the ACA hostage taking and work with the President and the Senate to pass a budget. Second, work with the Democrats to pass a good and reasonable immigration reform bill this fall. As I have argued elsewhere, the two parties are much closer to a deal than many realize. Given the enormity, and futility, of the mistake the House GOP is making on the ACA – Sensenbrenner 2 let’s call it – the urgency for the Republicans to pass immigration reform has never been greater. And there will not be another chance after this fall. This is it. Or it may be the way of the Whigs for the party of Lincoln, undone by the very reactionary racial politics that were ironically the genesis of the founding of the GOP a long time ago.
Note, Update - I've updated this piece a bit from its initial version, published this morning. While we know more Hispanics will be elibigible for health insurance under the ACA than are undocumented Hispanic immigrants in the country, what we don't know is whether more will gain insurance that will get legal status. While it is likely, I have softened that sentence above a bit, as we don't really know.
None of the changes the basic argument . This debate over the ACA is going to have a very impact on the GOP brand with Hispanics, and there are ways for the Rs to mitigate this damage, including passing Immigration Reform later this year.
Update - The Washington Post's Greg Sargent references this analysis in a new piece. And what remains most remarkable is that it is two of the GOP's most important Latinos - Cruz and Rubio - leading this effort to take away something so important to the aspiring Latino community. The desire of Cruz, Rubio and Paul to gain advantage in the GOP primary has left taking a position on an issue which will cost them dearly with Latinos should they be on a future Republican ticket.
Update - Stories like this in the NYTimes showing how minorities are disporportionatiately effected in the states refusing the ACA's Medicaid expansion will not help the GOP.
Today, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) will put in place a set of critical changes in how it measures America’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The most important change reclassifies what businesses spend on research and development, which now will be counted as economic investments rather than ordinary business expenses. By so doing, the country’s official national accounts finally recognize that ideas play the same role in prosperity and income growth as new factories and equipment. More important, the change signals that Washington – or at least its accountants –accepts that the United States has an idea-based economy.
I was present at the creation of these changes. In the late 1990s, while overseeing the BEA as Under Secretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs, I helped them set up the first tests of how to approach R&D as an investment. Then as now, this shift was a no-brainer. Those of us who study what makes economies grow all learned as students that innovations drive growth even more than new capital investments. Based on the strict patent protections which the United States has embraced since the time of the Constitution, Americans have always known this intuitively. So for more than 200 years, the world’s most market-based economy has granted temporary monopoly rights to anyone who comes up with a new invention.
Investors clearly believe in the value of patents and the inventions they animate. A new study covering more than eight decades of U.S. patents (1926-2010) has found that when a company receives a new patent, its stock market value increases on average by $19.2 million (measured in 2013 dollars). Even setting side such blockbuster patents as the core innovations from Apple or Google, the researchers found that the medianbump in a firm’s stock market valuation after receiving a patent was $5.9 million.
In fact, intellectual property and, more broadly, intangible assets now dominate American business. Since the mid-1990s, American firms have invested more in new, intangible assets – databases, brands, worker training and competencies, as well as R&D and patents – than they have in new physical assets. That tells us that businesses now expect to earn more from ideas in their various forms than from their plant and equipment.
Here, too, investors agree. In 1984, the “book value” of the 150 largest U.S. corporations – what their physical assets would bring on the open market – was equal to about three-quarters of their stock market value. So, nearly 30 years ago, large American businesses were worth about one-quarter more than the plant, equipment and real estate which generated their profits. By 2005, the book value of America’s 150 largest companies equaled just 35 percent of their stock market value. By that time, about two-thirds of their value came from their intangible assets, because those assets had become the main source of the value and profits which large companies generate.
This shift to intangible assets is not confined to popularly-recognized “idea-based” industries such as information technologies and biotechnology. A 2011 analysis by Kevin Hassett and myself found that by 2009, intellectual property strictly defined accounted for at least half of the market value of not only the software, telecom and pharmaceutical sectors, but also such disparate industries as food, beverages and tobacco, media, healthcare, professional services, household and personal products, consumer services, and autos. And when we expanded the category to all intangible assets, broadly defined, those idea-based assets accounted for at least 80 percent of the market value of all of the industries just mentioned, plus capital goods, materials, transportation, and consumer durables and apparel. That covers every major industry except retail, real estate, banking, energy, and utilities.
Now that the official accounts for the American economy finally treat the R&D that leads to most patents and innovations as economic investments, we can also better track and compare their value. For instance, we now know that U.S. businesses have spent less on R&D in recent years than they did in the 1990s – and that nevertheless, the United States spends more on R&D than all of Asia and Europe combined.
Turning to the results, we find that about 25 percent of the world’s patents are held by U.S. companies and individuals, a share close to America’s 22 percent share of worldwide GDP. America’s real advantage, however, probably lies in its outsized willingness to fund the young enterprises that often develop new, patented advances. So, while the United States claims 25 percent of all patents, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reports that we also account for roughly half of all worldwide venture capital investment.
America’s shift to an idea-based economy will shape much of our economic future. The information and Internet technologies so integral to creating and managing ideas have spread across every economic sector. Within each industry, those firms most adept at applying those technologies to their operations will, on balance, be the ones most likely to succeed. That has already become a gauge for investors to use and watch. More important, a widening gap has opened between the incomes of most Americans and the incomes of roughly the top 20 percent of workers who are already adept at creating and managing ideas, or at least operating in workplaces dense with information and Internet technologies. Finding news way to enable most Americans to prosper in an idea-based economy will be the most pressing economic challenge facing Washington policymakers over the next decade.
Time Magazine DC Bureau Chief Michael Scherer recently wrote about the impact of NDN’s work, citing a chart from developed by our team as the “most important chart in American Politics:”
"There is a single chart — three colored lines on a grid — that shapes the political reality of this country. During the 2012 campaign, one of President Obama’s senior strategists called it “the North Star” and started his internal PowerPoint presentations with it…The chart was originally created by NDN and the New Policy Institute, and it helped Democrats change the way they talked about the frustration of the American people.”
This article, and the impact it describes, is the best way to understand what we do – through powerful ideas, cutting edge analysis, and relentless advocacy. It is in this way, through these means, that the team at NDN/NPI has done much this past decade to lead the center-left to a much better day.
Our summer fundraising drive is off to a good start, having brought in close to $40,000 in our first few weeks. But our goal is to raise another $60,000 before August to bolster our programs for the rest of the year. We hope you will do your part and support us today.
“This diagnosis draws on many of the ideas bubbling away in Mr Miliband’s unabashedly academic salon of economists, politicos and philosophers. One chart in particular informs its arguments. Devised by Simon Rosenberg, the founder of the NDN, “the most important chart in American politics” shows that US household incomes have lagged behind GDP and productivity growth since the early 1990s. The same observation, reckon senior Labourites, lies at the heart of Britain’s woes, too.”
We are known for many things at NDN/NPI, including groundbreaking work on immigration, the Middle East, the role of technology in our lives and American demographics. However, I believe that it our economic work - guided by former chief economic advisor to Bill Clinton, Rob Shapiro - which has had the most impact on the politics on both sides of the pond these last few years. We can only do this work with your support, and I hope we can count on you, today to keep this essential work flowing.
I have a new op-ed running on the Huff Po home page. Check it out and let me know what you think. A version can also be found below:
Immigration Reform Is Very Much Alive
Contrary to recent news accounts, we are closer to passing a meaningful immigration reform bill than at any point since John McCain and Ted Kennedy introduced their bill in 2005. Consider:
The Senate passed a bill with 68 votes, the most any immigrant reform bill has received since this process began. The last time an immigration bill passed the Senate it was in 2006, and it received just 62 votes.
The House, whose last major vote on immigration reform was in 2005 and called for the deportation of the 11 million unauthorized migrants in the U.S., has already passed five immigration and border related bills out of committee. Last week Speaker John Boehner said he believed the House needed to do something on immigration reform this Congress, and next week Republicans are having a public hearing on the DREAM Act.
While much has been written about the need Republicans have to support immigration reform to get back in the game with Latino voters, I think an equally compelling reason why the House is already taking significant strides towards passing an immigration reform bill is the pressure they feel to meet the very high bar set by the Senate "Gang of Eight" framework. Their framework will give the country a better legal immigration system, one more based on bringing growth producing skilled labor. It will close some of the holes in our interior enforcement system, build on the significant gains made in border security in recent years and make the border region even safer. It will make needed investments in 47 ports of entry with Mexico, facilitating more trade and tourism, creating more jobs on both sides of the border. It creates an arduous but achievable path to citizenship for the 11 million unauthorized immigrants already in the country. And remarkably, it will grow the economy, create jobs and lower the deficit by a $1 trillion over 20 years.
In a time where Americans have so little faith in their government to meet the emerging challenges of our time, the Gang of Eight framework is a bit of a political miracle: incredibly thoughtful public policy, broad bi-partisan support, a deep and diverse political coalition backing it. It just is very hard for the House Republicans to walk away from all that too.
And they haven't. In the last few months the House Republicans have passed bills relating to border security, interior enforcement and changes in the legal immigration system. They are talking about the DREAM Act and a "path to legalization." The Border Caucus is floating smart proposals to invest in our ports of entry, something that could help bring border state Republicans along. Some House Republicans have even said they expect a bill with citizenship to eventually pass and be signed into law.
The characterization of the House Republicans as standing in the way of immigration reform is only half right. They are, as the Founders intended, moving this issue through their chamber at their own pace. This is to be expected, frankly. Unlike the Senate the House hasn't really debated the issue since 2005, and there are many new members particularly in the Republican Conference. There just isn't a lot of institutional knowledge about the issue. Institutional bluster, perhaps, but not a lot of knowledge or understanding. So they need time.
Another reason the House Republicans need time to work through the issue is the House chamber's unique history with immigration reform. Just a few months after Senators McCain and Kennedy introduced their thoughtful bill in 2005, the House voted to arrest and deport the 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. In 2006 when the Senate passed McCain-Kennedy, the House refused to even consider it. The default position for many in the House GOP -- that the solution to the 11 million is for them to all leave the country -- was in the platform of the Republican Party in 2012, and carried by its nominee. While there have been immigration reformers like Bush and McCain in the GOP over the past decade, much of the Republican Party has strongly held views that what the unauthorized immigrant population did by jumping the immigrant line was wrong, and that as a matter of policy, the nation cannot reward bad behavior. Getting those who hold this position to change is not, and was never going to be, easy. If dozens of Republicans are to sign on to a bill that has provisions they have said they will never support and deeply oppose, that too will require time.
As someone who has worked on immigration reform since the summer of 2005, I don't think the immigration bill is dead -- it is very much alive. You can see the outlines of an eventual deal. The House will likely accept much of the Senate enforcement framework, dropping the expensive and reckless border surge but adding to the interior enforcement provisions. Dems might have to accept more W low skilled visas to get the House to go along with the Senate vision for the new skills-based legal immigration system. Adopting some of Senator Cornyn's savvy proposals on border infrastructure investment could help bring him back to the table, and entice more border and growth oriented GOPers to sign on.
This of course leaves us with the 11 million, and legalization and citizenship. My own read of the situation is the House Leadership knows it must do something here, that leaving the 11 million or even a large potion of the 11 million in limbo just won't fly. As we saw in the Senate process the GOP was willing to trade and deal on citizenship. With the House GOP talking about DREAMers, Ag workers and legalization the elements of an eventual deal are on the on table. The Washington Post's Greg Sargent reported yesterday that the bi-partisan "gang" in the House has worked out a path to citizenship, adopting a new trigger process, recasting the early stages of the path, and making it longer. So it is possible to for House Republicans to craft a citizenship path that the president and the Dems can support if all the parties can sit down and work it all out.
Reports of the death of immigration reform are premature. The Senate Bill may be dead in the House, but immigration reform isn't. What the House comes up with will be different than the Senate, but that's why we have conference committees. I don't think the differences between the two chambers are as great as many believe; the Senate bill provided an extraordinary framework to build from; and the House needs time to work through it in their own way. Of course it is possible that the House conservatives block any progress on immigration reform this year, but I think their arguments will weaken over time, not strengthen. Why? Simply, they just aren't very good, and the politics of recent years has made them jarringly obsolete. Being on the side of fixing the broken immigration system, creating jobs and reducing the deficit is just better politics than once again doing nothing about a very challenge facing the country -- even if it means citizenship for the 11 million.
Something will pass the House this year. Whether it is good, and can become something signed by the president will depend to a great degree on how well our leaders work together to bring this tough process to conclusion. But a deal is out there to be made. I hope the tribes of Washington can seize this moment and give America a far better immigration system than we have today.
October 18 Update - Rep. Bob Goodlatte's recent floating of the idea of "no special path" for undocumented immigrants is a promising development. By allowing qualified undocumented immigrants legalization and then the ability to apply for a green card and legal permanent residence as any other immigrant, it shows the House GOP might be able to get to a place that allows legal status and citizenship for most of the 11m undocumented immigrants.
Again, looking at this through a negotiator's eye, the House GOP has moved, is playing ball, and one can see a deal struck between the two parties this fall. Byron York's new article reports that the House GOP leadership is working on a bill despite the fallout of the shutdown fight. The House Democrats came closer to the House GOP's approach by smartly dropping the border surge in their new leadership bill. And with 87 House GOP Members choosing a different path than the House radicals, it is further evidence that with the right kind of patient leadership, a deal could be struck.
It is that time of year again for friends of NDN/NPI – the time we come to you and ask for your financial support of our path-breaking work.
Over the next few weeks on this site and through other means we will explaining what we’ve done these past few years with the money our supporters have generously given to us, and what we intend to do going forward. We are proud of what we have contributed to the national debate here in the US, and we are confident that, with your support, we can keep making a difference during a time of significant global transition and change.
We write now because this is the time of year we most need your support. Our generous supporters keep us well-nourished and in the black throughout the year. But to avoid that summer cash-flow lull – as many head out on vacation – it is important that we raise $100,000 before August 2nd.
I hope you will help us by contributing what amount you feel comfortable - $15, $25, $50, $100 or more.
You can make a secure, online donation here, or learn how to use other means of payment. We know that you have spent time with us recently, and we hope that experience will move you to contribute today. It will certainly set off some celebratory and seasonal fireworks here if you do!
Thanks again for your interest, and support, of our important work here.
Today, we join in celebrating the passage of the Senate immigration reform bill. As we’ve written before, we believe the bill at its core is ambitious, bold and super smart. It improves the legal immigration system, strengthens border security and interior enforcement, puts unauthorized immigrants on a path to citizenship and makes prudent investments in our ports of entry with Mexico which will create jobs on both sides of our border.
As the CBO noted last week, the bill will also accelerate economic growth in the US, create jobs and reduce the deficit by as much $1 trillion over the next two decades. Politically, it has gained votes as it moved through the Senate legislative process and passed today with a veto-proof super majority. Given what little good has come from Washington in recent years, both the integrity of the bill and its broad political support are truly remarkable accomplishments for the original Gang of Eight.
This is not to suggest the legislation as it comes out of the Senate is perfect. In the months ahead we will be advocating that there is a much better way to throw money at the border than the one imagined by the Corker-Hoeven amendment. Adding more fencing and doubling the border patrol is bad policy. It is incredibly expensive while promising little return on investment, damaging to border states and communities, and is sure to antagonize our Mexican neighbors and other allies throughout Latin America. As a matter of policy, having far more troops on our friendly border with Mexico than we do on the North Korean border is a global embarrassment for the US. Given the huge security gains along the US-Mexico border in recent years, and the ambitious border provisions already in the Senate bill, this massive “surge” simply isn’t needed (see my recent op-ed for more on this).
If Congress is so interested in throwing money at the border there is a better way – investing in modernizing our 47 ports of entry with Mexico and adding more customs agents at all our air, land and sea ports of entry. Given the enormous amount of trade and tourism now flowing through these ports due to rising standards of living around the world, modernizing our ports of entry has become one of the most important infrastructure investment priorities for the nation.
Take trade with Mexico, for example. In 2009 total trade with Mexico was $300 billion. In 2012, it had grown to $536 billion and is on track to hit close to $600 billion this year. Mexico is now our third largest trading partner in the world, and our second largest export market. We trade more today with Mexico than we do with the UK, Germany and Japan combined, and Mexico now buys twice as much from the US as China does. In recent years the trade relationship between our two countries has evolved into one of the most important binational trade relationship between any two countries in the world. Estimates are that fully 6 million American jobs now depended on this trade, a number which is going to increase as the trade flows grow in the years ahead.
The infrastructure which facilitates this exploding trade relationship, however, was designed for an era of trade much less robust than what we are seeing today. Wait times on the Mexican side of far too many ports are unacceptable today, let alone what they may be in 5 to 10 years as Mexico continues to grow and modernize.
The US needs a more aggressive plan to ensure that the economic opportunity these trade flows offers our businesses and workers can be realized. Doing so is going to require investment. Investment in ports will provide significant return by creating millions of jobs on both sides of the US-Mexico border, something that new border strategy of the Senate bill threatens rather than supports.
There are at least three things Congress can do with the $40-$50 billion of new spending on the border that would be far more beneficial to the US than the current Senate plan:
First, Congress can increase the number of customs agents from the proposed 3,500 to an additional 10,000. These agents will help facilitate the increased levels of trade and tourism while providing more security at all our ports. Second, Congress can provide $10 billion over 10 years to the port of entry infrastructure grant program in the current Senate bill. Third, Congress can adopt Senator John Cornyn’s thoughtful proposal to open up ports to public-private partnerships, deploying private capital to help grow and maintain this vital national infrastructure.
The original Gang of Eight Senate border and immigration bill was one of the most impressive legislative accomplishments of the Obama and Bush eras. It is a good bill, bipartisan to the core, ambitious while also creating jobs and reducing the deficit. Whether the rest of Congress can keep the integrity of this bill as it moves forward in the coming months remains to be seen. We remain hopeful, but have no illusions how about much work needs to be to ensure that President Obama signs not just an immigration bill later this year, but a good one.
Part of the joy of running an organization is seeing people grow, learn and then move on to new challenges and opportunities. This week we send off two really good members of our team to exciting new positions. Chris Bowman, who has been a terrific assistant to me, moves into the Congressional office of Mike Doyle, a home state Congressman for him. Kristian Ramos, who has been a high-impact and vital member of our team for three years now, takes on an important new assignment as the Communications Director of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
Kristian also joins an important club, alums of NDN's pathbreaking Hispanic work, a wonderful club which includes Joe Garcia, Sergio Bendixen, Maria Cardona, Jimmy Learned, Alicia Menendez, Fernand Amandi, Andres Ramirez and Gil Meneses. Over the 11 years of our project few have done more to advance a greater understanding of the changing demography of the US and advance immigration reform than this intrepid and wonderful group. I am proud of what we have done together, and for what they continue to do every day to make our politics more modern and responsive to the challenges our country faces today.
Stepping up to become Policy Director of our 21st Century Border Initiative is Emma Buckhout who has already been a welcome and talented addition to the project. Emma comes to us from the Latin America Working Group, where she worked on their Mexico and Border program. Prior to moving to DC, she spent two years on the other side of the border working on community development with Incarnate Word Missionaries in Mexico City. She graduated Summa cum Laude in International Relations from the University of Pennsylvania.
So please join me in saying thank you and good luck to Kristian and Chris, and welcome to Emma.