immigration reform

Clinton Extends Her Lead; Brexit, Rising Wages, Immigration and the American Election

2016 Overview – Despite recent turmoil, Secretary Clinton and the Democrats remain in a very strong electoral position. If anything, things may have improved for the Democrats in recent weeks, in part driven by the continued erratic performance by Donald Trump and the slow consolidation of Democrats by Hillary Clinton after winning her nomination a few weeks ago.

Let’s look at the numbers (using Huffington Post Pollster site as our guide):

Clinton/Trump – Clinton’s lead is now 7 points, the highest of the year - 45.8 to 39. Importantly, Trump remains under 40, a place few general election candidates have found themselves at this point in the past several decades of polling. While Clinton’s negatives are higher than she wants at 42/54, Trump’s are twice hers, 36/60 (24 points net negative compared to 12). Polls over the past week have Clinton’s leads at 2, 4, 5 (3), 6, 7, 9, 10 and 12. The trend line continues to favor Clinton, and more gains are possible in the coming weeks.'

Obama/National Environment/Party – Obama’s job approval is 50/46, personal approval 50/45. On the economy he is 47/47, health care 42/48 and foreign policy 42/46. The approval rating of the Democratic Party stands at 45/46, while in perhaps one of the more important pieces of data of the election, the Rs are at 30/61. The GOP brand was only 53% negative and net 20 negative in the fall.

The bottom line is that these numbers do not find an electorate unhappy with the status quo, and ready to throw the bums out. While there are some weaknesses for the Democrats here, the wildly negative ratings of both the GOP and Trump suggest it will be very difficult for them to exploit them this fall. If these numbers hold, expect Democrats to make substantial gains in both the Senate and House, and perhaps even putting the House into play.

Obviously the new big unknown at this point is whether Brexit will bring an economic slowdown to the US in coming months, something that could impact the overall environment.

2016 and A Post Brexit Politics – With Brexit in the air, it is important to understand what is similar here in the US to the circumstances in the UK and throughout Europe, and what is different. First, economic conditions are better here. Our recovery from the 2007-8 financial collapse has been far better than Europe’s by virtually every measure. Importantly, as Rob Shapiro has been writing for months now, wages and incomes for most Americans have been rising since 2013 as our recovery gained steam (see Robert Samuelson for another cut on this “rising wages” theme today). The strength of the Democratic Party we see in the numbers above is to a great degree a reflection of voter’s perceptions that things are better, and continuing to improve.

The success of the Democratic Party in the US is the second biggest difference. Throughout Europe, traditional social democratic and socialist parties (the center-left) are in collapse. The most striking example of this is in the UK of course, where the Labour Party suffered an historic defeat in the last general election. Europe and the UK are losing their ideological alternatives to center right and far right politics, leaving the playing field more open for nationalists. This is not true in the US. The Democratic Party not only has high marks from the public, it has won more votes in 5 of the last 6 elections, leads in this coming election, and has left America better than it found it in both the Clinton and Obama Presidencies. The success of a liberal and open Democratic Party in the US has given our country a far more effective break on rising nationalist sentiment than the UK/Europe (and we will leave the investment vs austerity debate for another day). 

Finally, immigration.

There is a fair bit of anecdotal evidence and real data that the inability to control migrant flows is driving more of what is happening in the UK and Europe today than even economic discontent. These tensions, long simmering, have been heightened by recent terror attacks on the Continent and the truly challenging Syrian refugee crisis. A collapsing Middle East and North Africa could present Europe with a terror/migrant challenge for many years to come, and is a legitimate and serious concern for everyday UK/European citizens.

I would argue, perhaps controversially, that this area is perhaps more similar to our domestic debate than many here in the US understand. While yes we have a larger immigrant population, and one that is overwhelmingly from non-jihadi parts of the world, what has been clear in the polling data in recent years – and frankly this is just common sense – the American people want an orderly immigration system, with the government not migrants in control. The Trumpian argument is that Democrats are advocating for “open borders,” out of control migration driven by the migrants themselves. And of course the Supreme Court failed to rule in favor of the Administration last week on its signature immigration reform effort of the 2nd term, leaving these matters more unsettled than is desirable at this point (here is my statement on the US vs Texas non decision decision).

While I don’t think Trump is winning this argument with the public, it is important that in the months ahead Democrats do define their immigration position and make it clear what we are for. Vague references to comprehensive immigration reform (which has failed to pass for 11 years now) and our proud immigrant tradition are insufficient given the current political breezes blowing through the West.

And the good news is that Democrats have a very strong story to tell. During the Obama Administration, due to new and far better enforcement strategies, crime along the border region is down and the two largest cities on the border are two of America’s least violent and safest; after 15 years of huge flows of undocumented immigrants into the US, the flow is way down and with net migration of undocumented immigrants into the US is at zero for the entire Obama Presidency; our smarter enforcement strategies have prioritized deportation of criminals (something opposed regularly by the GOP), and created a significant deterrent at the border that has helped drive down flows to historically low levels.  It should also be noted that there has been no domestic US terror attack conducted by a foreign fighter since 9/11 - a rather remarkable achievement. 

While doing all this, the Administration has also essentially stopped deporting long settled law abiding families from the interior of the US who used to have to fear deportation every day; shown that a program like DACA (for DREAMers) could be successfully implemented without creating new flows; and seen trade with Mexico during this period more than double. Today Mexico is our 2nd largest export market for American goods in the world, buying more from us than Japan, Germany and the UK combined.

I have argued, and still believe, that the smart and effective management of the US border remains one of Barack Obama’s most unheralded policy successes. Despite rancorous politics and the defeat of his two major reforms of the system itself, Obama has shown that we can indeed manage the border and the US immigration system while expanding trade flows all at the same time. Coupled with our strong and spirited advocacy for broader immigration reform, this is a record Democrats should be embracing and running on in 2016 (akin to a more aggressive defense of our economic progress over two consectutive Democratic Presidencies).  

What may, of course, upset this narrative this year is what has been known as the Central American migrant crisis, something that looks a bit like the Syrian crisis in Europe. There can be little doubt that the politicization of this ongoing challenge in 2014 contributed to a late GOP surge that helped Rs win a significant number of seats in Congress despite the Administration eventually getting their arms around the crisis. Flows from Central America have begun to tick up again this year.  Anticipating that things could become more unsettled here, it would be wise for Democrats to prepare for Trump and his allies, emboldened by Brexit, to rachet up their attacks on Obama's management of the immigration system and the border itself.  Democrats need to keep it front of mind that the desire for an orderly immigration system is a reasonable and every day concern for Americans of every backgroud while challenging the Republicans to join us in solving these challenges rather than just playing politics with them every electon year.

………I will have more on our post Brexit politics in the coming weeks. In the meantime, read Rob Shapiro’s smart take on it, and check out my quotes in a major Washington Post piece on it from the Washington Post this weekend.  For my previous weekly columns on the 2016 election, visit here

NDN Statement on US vs Texas Supreme Court Decision

Like many, we are disappointed with the Supreme Court’s Decision today. But as we move forward, a few things to keep in mind:

Hispanics Are Upbeat About Their Future – Despite rising anti-immigrant rhetoric and insufficient progress on immigration reform, Hispanic Americans are optimistic about their future and have made substantial economic gains in recent years. 81% of Hispanic families believe their family’s economic situation will improve this year. Millions of Hispanics have jobs who didn’t a few years ago; millions have health insurance who didn’t a few years ago; and millions of Hispanics have seen their wages rise in recent years. These last few years have been good ones for Hispanic families in America, and it is testament to the work ethic and grit of this community that they continue to make such valuable contributions to our country when the political climate has grown so hostile.

For more on this subject, see this recent memo.

The 5m Who Would Have Been Covered Should Not Fear Deportation w/Democratic Presidents – Since changes made in our in enforcement strategy in 2011, the United States government has prioritized the deportation of two classes of undocumented immigrants – recent border crossers and those with criminal records. Since 2011 the number of undocumented immigrants who have been deported outside those classes has been very small. To be clear – it has been the policy of the United States government for five years now to not deport long settled immigrants without criminal records who would have been covered in the new Obama Administration rules blocked by the Supreme Court today.  Advocates and the media need to work a little harder to get this part of the story right. 

It is very unlikely that a President Hillary Clinton would change these new far smarter enforcement priorities. However, if Donald Trump becomes President, those 5m, and another 6m not covered by the new Obama rules, should fear immediate efforts to remove them from the country. For these families and their relatives in the United States, this has now become a very consequential election.

For more on Obama’s reforms of our immigration enforcement system, see this recent memo.

Republicans Continue to Block Democratic Efforts to Reform the Immigration System – In the 11 years since John McCain and Ted Kennedy introduced what is known as Comprehensive Immigration Reform, GOP hard liners have repeated blocked legislative efforts to reform the immigration system. GOP-led Houses refused to take up bi-partisan Senate passed bills in 2006 and 2013; Senate hard liners tanked efforts in the Senate in 2007 and 2010; Republican elected officials led the lawsuit that blocked the President’s reform today; and of course Republicans passed a bill to deport all 11m undocumented immigrants through the House in 2005, and in 2012 and now again 2016 the GOP Presidential nominee has called for all 11m undocumented immigrants to leave.

For 11 years, one party has tried to reform and modernize our immigration system in America; the other has unfortunately lost its own internal battle to hard liners who have ended up repeatedly, and successfully, blocking the efforts of reformers in both parties.

On Immigration Enforcement, The GOP's Decade of Blocking Sensible Reform

This week we will see, even by Washington standards, a breathtaking level of cynicism from the national Republican Party on the issue of immigration enforcement (the data backing up the arguments in this piece can be found here, here and here).

For a decade now there has been broad consensus that the huge wave of undocumented immigrants who came into the United States from the early 1990s to the later part of 00s needed federal legislation to resolve; that this enormous influx has overwhelmed law enforcement and immigration courts responsible for managing domestic immigration enforcement, degrading the integrity of a system built for a much lower level of unauthorized migration; that local enforcement desperately wanted to spend their limited resources on going after serious criminals and not law-abiding, job holding undocumented immigrants; that enforcing immigration law is a federal not a local responsibility, something reinforced repeatedly in the courts over the past decade; that the passage of comprehensive reform would have created an orderly process allowing law enforcement agencies at all levels to better focus on the imprisonment and deportation of serious criminals.

As we head into a week of significant debate then on immigration enforcement, it is important to remember a few things:

- Since Comprehensive Immigration Reform was first introduced by Senators Ted Kennedy and John McCain in 2005, Republicans in Congress have blocked its passage on four separate occasions. The most significant instances came in 2006 and 2013/4, when the House Republicans refused to even consider sensible bi-partisan bills passed by the Senate and supported at the time by President Bush and then President Obama. Each of these bills would have helped unclogged an overwhelmed immigration enforcement system in the United States, making incidents like what happened in San Francisco far less likely.

- In 2010, recognizing that the primary method we had for helping unclog the overwhelmed immigration enforcement system – CIR – was not going to happen in the President’s first term, DHS implemented new enforcement priorities known as the “Morton Memos” which prioritized illegal border crossers and undocumented immigrants with serious criminal history for deportation. These reforms brought immediate change to the huge immigration enforcement system in the US, and have resulted in the deportation of more serious criminals and has helped keep illegal entries into the US at historic lows.

- In 2013 and again in 2014, the House Republicans passed legislation designed to overturn these smart reforms, making it impossible for example for DHS to prioritize felons like the suspect in the San Francisco shooting for rapid removal through the immigration enforcement system. And the House doubled down on this approach by threatening to shut all of DHS down earlier this year in a standoff over the implementation of these reforms, including the new Priority Enforcement Program. PEP as it is known was launched last year to forge a higher level of cooperation between federal and local law enforcement to more rapidly remove serious criminals from the country.

Finally, it must be said that the attacks on President Obama’s immigration enforcement record are ridiculous. The President has deported more unauthorized immigrants than any President in American history; after a decade and a half of the US absorbing half a million new undocumented immigrants into the county, the net flow of new immigrants on this President’s watch has dropped to zero (an extraordinary public policy achievement); crime along the entire US side of the border is way down, and the two safest large cities in the US today sit on the border, El Paso and San Diego; reforms initiated by DHS throughout the Obama Presidency, including a new round in late 2014, have made the deportation of violent criminals the highest priority for our immigration system. All of the policies used to achieve these outcomes have been opposed by the House Republicans, and further reform, comprehensive immigration reform, has been repeatedly blocked.

So a proper read of the last decade has been one party, the Democrats, have repeatedly advanced proposals and policy that have strengthened our immigration enforcement system and made the rapid deportation of criminals a priority. The other party, has repeatedly block sensible bi-partisan reforms which would strengthened our immigration enforcement system, and have passed additional legislation preventing DHS from continuing policies which have clearly made our border safer and immigration system far more focused on deporting murderers and not moms. If there is a national Party to blame for the tragic event in San Francisco it is far more the fault of the Republicans than the Democrats.

The national GOP’s effort to politicize the tragic shooting in San Francisco is an act of breathtaking and insulting cynicism. For a decade now they have blocked reforms and legislation designed to make incidents like this one far less likely. The new legislation being discussed to crack down on “Sanctuary Cities” will only make a terribly broken system worse, it will generate enormous political ill-will between local and federal law enforcement making the management of our entire national system far more difficult. These bills are hasty, political and ill-thought out. They will only make a serious national problem far worse and seemed far more designed to change the subject from Donald Trump’s recent attacks on legal, law abiding immigrants to the US than to solve a vexing national problem made far worse by their refusal to advance sensible reform over a decade of intense debate. 

If indeed the national Republican Party is serious about building on the extraordinary gains we’ve made in immigration enforcement in recent years, it can:

1) Pass comprehensive reform. HR15 introduced by the Democrats last year included the GOP’s Homeland Security Committee’s package of immigration enforcement provisions. CIR will help allow law enforcement and immigration courts to better target and more rapidly remove serious threats to public safety

2) Fully fund and support the post Morton era reforms by DHS, including the expansion of PEP. These reforms have already produced real results and improvements in border security and domestic enforcement.

3) Fund the Administration’s Central America proposal to help staunch the flow of unauthorized migrants from nearby El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Last summer the House GOP deeply politicized the border crisis, and is now unwilling to follow through on sensible investments which will make future events like this far less likely while improving regional security and economic growth.

This latest focus on "Sanctuary Cities" is another disappointing episode in the GOP's decade long commitment on immigration reform to put politics over smart, sound solutions to a vexing national challenge. 

Backgrounder: The GOP, Trump and Hispanics

With Donald Trump putting the issue of our changing demography front and center in the 2016 Presidential election, we’ve put together some of work in this area to help our community make better sense of it all.

Polling/Analysis

"Donald Trump and the Cattle Car Caucus," Greg Sargent, Washington Post, 7/30/15. 

"Unintended consequences: Could Trump wake sleeping Latino vote?" Carla Marinucci, San Francisco Chronicle, 7/19/15. Marinucci writes on the impact of Trump on the GOP primary, coming from a historical perspective of how the GOP lost Latinos in California for a generation, and interviews Simon on the political fallout for the Republicans. 

"Poll finds Hispanic disapproval of Trump rhetoric on illegal immigrants," Dan Balz and Peyton Craighill, Washington Post, 7/16/15. 

Univision: The Latino Vote, Bendixen & Amandi International for Univision Noticas, 7/16/15. 

"How Durable Is The Democratic Advantage Among Latinos?" Greg Sargent, Washington Post, 7/7/15. Sargent interviews Simon on the Hispanic Vote and potential GOP tickets for 2016.

NDN Materials

Memo: On Immigration Enforcement, The GOP's Decade of Blocking Sensible Reform, Simon Rosenberg, 7/21/15.

Hispanic Uninsured Rate Plummets, Millions Gain Coverage, Corey Cantor, 7/15/15.

"Gallup: 1/4th of Hispanics adults gained insurance in the past 18 months thanks to the ACA," Simon Rosenberg, 7/10/15. 

NDN Memo on "Hispanic Unemployment Rate Bushes vs. Obama/Clinton," Corey Cantor, 7/7/15. As in the broader population, for Hispanics things have gotten far better under recent Democrats and far worse under recent Republicans.  

"The GOP's Hispanic Problem - The Hole Is Very Deep,"Simon Rosenberg, 5/5/15. While the GOP may be able to put a promising candidate on the ticket in 2016, the hole they've dug with Hispanic voters is very deep, and will be hard to dig out of next year.

"The State of Immigration in America," Simon Rosenberg, MSNBC, 01/18/15. After 50 years, it is time to declare Hispanic immigration into the US a success? 

""Thoughts on the New ICE Enforcement and Removals Report," 12/19/14. A  report released by ICE contains another year of data showing how Obama era policies have made our immigration system better and border safer.

"The Battle over Immigration Action is Just Beginning," Simon Rosenberg and David Leopold, MSNBC, 11/19/14.  Simon and David write about the steps that President Obama took to improve the US immigration system and the legal battles ahead.  

NDN Report on Central American Migrants, Obama Border/Immigration Enforcement Record, 7/18/14. NDN/NPI's report finds that the Obama Administration has made the border safer, the immigration system better while dramatically expanding trade with Mexico.  

Related Issues

"NDN Offers a Path Forward on Puerto Rico," Simon Rosenberg and Rob Shapiro, Fusion/Univision, 7/8/15. We tried to look beyond the short-term, limited fiscal measures at hand, and towards a longer term strategy for the Island that can help reverse its current, economic “death spiral.” 

"A New Day for the United States and Cuba," Simon Rosenberg, 12/17/14. The Obama Administration’s historic policy changes towards Cuba will be good for the US, the Cuban people and for the hemisphere.  

Classic Articles

""Forward, or Backward?" My Letras Libres Article on The Choice America Faces," Simon Rosenberg, Letras Libres, 10/25/12. The English language version of my major essay about the 2012 elections which originally appeared in the October issue of the Mexico City based Spanish language journal, Letras Libres.

"On Obama, Race, and the End of the Southern Strategy," Simon Rosenberg, Huffington Post, 1/8/08. Liberating American politics from the pernicious era of the Southern Strategy should be one the highest strategic priorities for left-of-center politics.

"The 50 Year Strategy: A New Progressive Era (No, Really!)" Simon Rosenberg and Peter Leyden, Mother Jones, 11/07. The article lays out a grand strategy for how today's Democrats could build a lasting electoral majority and today's progressives could seize the new media, build off new constituencies like Hispanics and the millennial generation, and solve the urgent governing challenges of our times.

Thoughts on the New ICE Enforcement and Removals Report

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.”

New NDN Report on Central American Migrants, Obama Border/Immigration Enforcement Record

Today, NDN/NPI’s 21st Century Border Project is releasing a new report looking the Central American migrant crisis and reviewing the Obama Administration’s border and immigration enforcement record.   The subjects covered in this new report, released in a PDF/Powerpoint format, are at the center of the current debate about how to best fix the US immigration system.   You can find the report at the bottom of this post in pdf format. 

Among the report’s key findings:

On Border/Immigration Enforcement – The Border is Safer, Immigration System is Better, While Trade With Mexico Is Soaring

  •  Crime is down along the US side of the border.  The two largest border cities, El Paso and San Diego, are the two safest large cities in America today. 
  • Out of the five high-traffic migration corridors across the US-Mexico border, four are already at or near the Senate bill’s goal of 90% effectiveness rate.
  • The flow of undocumented immigrations is way down, at net zero today.  Under Pres. Bush the undocumented immigrant population grew by over 3m, an average of almost 400,000 a year.  Under Obama there has been no growth in the undocumented immigration population – a sea change from the Clinton and Bush years.   
  •  The new prioritization of removals begun by ICE director John Morton in 2011 known has “prosecutorial discretion” has brought significant changes to the immigration/border enforcement system.  In 2013, all but 10,336 of those removed from the country were either criminals in the interior of the US or caught entering the country illegally.  The result of these policy changes is that the threat of deportation has been lifted from the vast majority of undocumented immigrants in the US,  while simultaneously providing more effective border deterrence - flow has remained low even while the US economy has recovered. 
  • In 2012, the Obama Administration implemented Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), allowing  over 1m DREAMers, unauthorized immigrants brought to US as youths, to work and study legally in the US.
  • Trade with Mexico has jumped from $340b in 2009 to about $550b in 2013.  Mexico is America’s 3rd largest trading partner, 2nd largest export market.  $1.3 billion worth of goods and 1m people cross the 2000 mile US-Mexico border each day.

On The Central American Migrant Crisis - A Review Of The Data, and Thoughts On The Path Forward

On the Central American migrant crisis, the report goes through data on the significant challenge of an overwhelmed immigration court system, and the recent increase in unauthorized arrivals in the Rio Grande Valley.  It then offers recommendations of what needs to be done to stem the tide, with a particularly emphasis on passing Comprehensive Immigration Reform - the most powerful tool in the toolbox the United States government has at its disposal today to bring the crisis to a humane and rapid end.     

Additional NDN Resources 

On Immigration, the House GOP has one answer: Deport the Kids, MSNBC, 7/15/14

The Border Migrant Crisis is a Big Test for the GOP, NDN, 7/7/14

What Congress Can Do To Help with the Central American Migrant Crisis, NDN, 6/24/14

GOP Attacks on Obama Enforcement Record are Ridiculous, NDN, 4/25/14

Backgrounder, The Surge of Central American Migrants at the U.S.-Mexico Border

The Border Migrant Crisis Is A Big Test for the GOP

The crisis at the border has already started impacting the broader debate over immigration reform.   The most interesting immediate change we are seeing is that the crisis is making it much harder for the House Republicans to maintain their current position that the status quo is preferable to some set of legislative fixes.   With GOP House Members starting to introduce bills to address the border crisis, we have stumbled now back into a debate over what Congress can do to fix the broken immigration system.  The White House and the Senate have a powerful answer to that question, Senate Bill 744 and other requests which will come from the President this week.   What will the GOP response be?  

Will the GOPs’ answer to the latest manifestation of a broken immigration system really be limited to just giving the President expedited authority to remove minors at the border?  No fixes to the legal immigration system? No legalization process for undocumented immigrants here prior to 12/31/11 as the Senate bill provides?  No additional money for more humane detention centers?  No additional monies for the immigration courts to help remove the judicial backlog which is contributing to the crisis?  No additional money for Central America to help stabilize and improve conditions there?  

It is our view that the single most powerful thing Congress can do now to help bring an end to the border migrant crisis is to pass the Senate bill in the House.  It will send a loud and clear signal to Central America and Mexico that our Congress, our parties and our President are united in improving our immigration system.  It will make clear that those who’ve come or will come after 12/31/11 will not be able to stay.   It will help alleviate the growing judicial backlog which has contributed so much to the current crisis.  It will give DHS even more powerful tools to make an already improved border even safer.   All of these things will be critical to bringing a rapid and humane end to the crisis. 

The Obama Administration is taking prudent and smart steps to bring an end to the border migrant crisis, including making clear that passing the Senate bill is a needed and important piece of what is required.  But the House GOP cannot continue to cry that the house is on fire and then prevent the Administration from using all the water we have to put the fire out.  While the border migrant crisis is clearly a test for the Administration, it is also an important test for the House GOP – and our hope is that they will work with the President in the days to end the migrant crisis while bringing long needed reform to our broader immigration system.  Failure to do so means that they will be acting to extend the crisis, worsen human suffering, slow our economic recovery, add to the deficit and strengthen the cartels profiting from the increased human trafficking from Central America.  America deserves better than that.

Update: See our recent essay, "What Congress Can Do To Help With the Central American Migrant Crisis;" and this one from earlier this year, "GOP Attacks on Obama's Immigration Enforcement Record Are Ridiculous." 

What Congress Can Do To Help with the Central American Migrant Crisis

Last Friday the Obama Administration took a series of smart and sure footed steps designed to bring an end to the Central American migrant crisis we are now experiencing on our Southern Border.  While we all welcome Congress’s attention to the issue this week, the discussions should be focusing on what Congress can and should be doing to support the Administration’s aggressive actions to date.  I offer up four things in particular Congress can do to help bring this crisis to a more rapid close:

  • Allocate necessary resources to ensure safe temporary detention facilities, expedited adjudication for unaccompanied minors and sufficient legal representation for those requiring it.  Other measures which will hasten adjudication or give temporary authority to the President should be considered. 
  • Publically support the Administration’s short and long term efforts in Central America designed to prevent reoccurrences of this recent surge.   Should include short term measures to ensure repatriation is both rapid and humane, and longer term efforts to bring more economic opportunity, citizen security and rule of law to the region.   A whole of government approach to combating the growing regional influence of trans-national organized crime should be developed and implemented.
  • The House should pass something akin to the Senate Immigration Reform bill in the next few weeks.  There is no doubt at this point that confusion about our immigration system has played a role in the recent surge.   The single most effective way our government has of clearing up this confusion is by passing immigration reform swiftly so it can be enacted by the end of this year.   The rules of the road will be clear as day at point, ensuring that all in Central America understand that no migrants arriving here after Dec 31st, 2011 will eligible for legalization. 
  • Speak with one voice.   Again, by Congress passing a plan like the one outlined here and showing their support for the Administration, the United States government will be sending a loud and clear signal to those South of us that the US is determined to bring a swift and humane end to the crisis.  This unaminity will itself be a powerful deterrent, and help us bring an immediate slowing of the northbound flow.

This week the House Republicans have spent far more energy beating up on the Administration about this crisis than acting as a responsible partner in bring the crisis to a close.   In the coming weeks they and all of Congress will have an opportunity to do their part in bringing this unfortunate chapter in our immigration system to a close.   The Administration has taken smart and aggressive first steps.   They have done their part.  It is now time for Congress to do its part.  Failure to act will prolong the crisis, worsen human suffering and strengthen the cartels south of the border prospering from the enlarged flow. 

For more information on the migrant crisis, please look at the new "backgrounder" we at NDN have put together. In particular, Greg Sargent has a great piece outlining how Congress can approach this issue. 

Backgrounder: The Surge of Central American Migrants at the US-Mexico Border

The recent surge of migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras is the latest challenge to an overburdened US immigration system.  Here are some of the resources that we at NDN found most useful to learn more about this highly complex problem:

From the Obama Administration

From The Media

Other Important Resources

 Resources on Central America/Cartels

NDN Resources

Also, be sure to attend our Webinar on this issue at Thursday, June 26th at 3 PM or Friday, June 27th.  

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

GOP Attacks On Obama’s Immigration Enforcement Record Are Ridiculous

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

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

 

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