NDN Blog

Weekly Immigration Update: Republican Leaders Get Immigration Reform

One of NDN's main arguments for passage of immigration reform legislation this year (CIR) is the fact that: 1) the broken immigration system is a major national problem, 2) voters want a solution to fix it (particularly Hispanic voters) and 3) it is a legislative achievement within easier grasp of this Congress and Administration than other issues given the history of bipartisan support on this issue (lest we forget that a bill did pass the Senate in 2006, under Republican control).  U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) reiterated this last point on yesterday's Meet the Press. President Obama has reiterated his commitment to getting immigration reform passed - hopefully all Democrats in Congress will move just as quickly to get this done this year.  Clearly there is no political or policy-oriented argument not to that can stand the test of scrutiny.

[Emphasis added]

MR. GREGORY:  Let me just spend a moment talking more generally about the future of the Republican Party.  I spoke to a prominent Republican this week who said the problem for Republicans is that they have failed to take stock of what happened last year in the election. They have failed to take stock of the demographic changes in the country.  Who are the leaders of this party and what are the issues that bring it back to power, Senator?


MR. GREGORY:  Is Sarah Palin also a leader of this party?

SEN. GRAHAM:  Absolutely.  I think Huckabee, Palin, Mitt Romney, John McCain--because he's the most recognizable public, public figure as a Republican, because he ran for president with a good approval rating--congressional leaders.  A guy like me who'll try to find common ground on the issue on immigration.  You know, one thing long-term about this party, the demographic changes in this country are real.  We lost ground with Hispanic voters because of the way we behaved and the things we said on immigration.  Obama won younger voters because of the image he projected and his positive agenda….


NDN Comments on President Obama's Meeting on Immigration Reform; Key Materials Provided

Following yesterday's meeting between President Barack Obama and Members of Congress on the need to fix our nation's broken immigration system, NDN is releasing the two most important analyses we have written in the past few months on the critical issue of immigration reform. If you read nothing else, please read the key materials listed below.

As stated yesterday by Simon, passing Comprehensive Immigration Reform won't be easy, "but nothing of significance is in Washington."

And of course the votes 'aren't there yet,' but at this point neither are they for health care reform, cap and trade or financial regulatory reform.  So with this event the hard work begins, and we are at NDN are prepared to work along side many groups across a broad political spectrum to make progress on this issue in the months ahead.

Today, several advocates analyzed the outcome of yesterday's meeting during a press conference hosted by America's Voice. During the call NDN President, Simon Rosenberg, pointed out: 

"There can be no doubt that the conditions for significant movement on immigration reform this year have become more favorable," stated Simon Rosenberg, President and Founder of NDN.  "An overwhelming majority of Americans want action taken to fix the broken immigration system now and support the Comprehensive Immigration Reform legislative approach. While the road to passing Comprehensive Immigration Reform will not be an easy one, with strong leadership, progress this year is within Washington's grasp." 

For more background, including a Wednesday statement from NDN President Simon Rosenberg and NDN Vice President of Hispanic Programs Andres Ramirez on the prospects for immigration reform, please click here.

Making the Case for Passing Comprehensive Immigration Reform This Year (PDF), Simon Rosenberg, 6/16/09 - Rosenberg lays out the basic foundation for why Congress must pass comprehensive immigration reform. This summary is a good introduction for those wanting to learn the fundamentals of this issue. 

Making the Case: 7 Reasons Why Congress Should Pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform this Year, Huffington Post, Simon Rosenberg, 4/30/09 - Rosenberg argues that the answer to whether Congress can pass reform this year is "yes."


Rahm Emanuel Leaves Door Open for Immigration Reform This Year

In an important statement today to the Washington Post, Rahm Emanuel left the door wide open for tackling immigration reform this year:  

"It's not impossible to do it this year," he said. "Could you get it in this year? Yes."

...Responding to a question about the political implications for Democrats of delay, Emanuel said, "It's better that it happens, politically." 

FYI - the list of the attendees at today's meeting on immigration reform at the White House.  It is important to note the presence of Members like Sen. Specter, Rep. Joe Crowley, Rep. John Conyers, and others who might not be considered the "usual suspects" on this issue, but they will be essential players when it comes time to pass reform:


Office of the Press Secretary



June 25, 2009


The President and the Vice President will meet with a small group of Senate and House members from both sides of the aisle and both sides of the issue to discuss immigration reform in the State Dining Room at 2:00 PM today. The meeting is intended to launch a policy conversation by having an honest discussion about the issues and identifying areas of agreement and areas where we still have work to do, with the hope of beginning the debate in earnest later this year. There will be a pool spray at the bottom of the meeting. 

Below is a list of expected attendees at today’s meeting on immigration reform:


Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano

Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis

Deputy Attorney General David Ogden

Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel


Senator Richard Durbin 

Senator John Cornyn     

Senator Dianne Feinstein 

Senator Lindsey Graham 

Senator Jon Kyl

Senator Patrick Leahy 

Senator Mel Martinez 

Senator John McCain 

Senator Robert Menendez 

Senator Chuck Schumer 

Senator Jeff Sessions 

Senator Arlen Specter 

Representative Xavier Becerra

Representative Howard Berman

Representative Anh Cao

Representative James Clyburn 

Representative John Conyers

Representative Joe Crowley

Representative Lincoln Diaz Balart

Representative Gabrielle Giffords

Representative Luis Gutierrez

Representative Sheila Jackson Lee

Representative Zoe Lofgren

Representative Adam Putnam

Representative Silvestre Reyes

Representative Loretta Sanchez

Representative Heath Shuler

Representative Lamar Smith

Representative Nydia Velazquez

Representative Anthony Weiner


NDN Comments on President Obama's Remarks on Immigration at Hispanic Prayer Breakfast

President Obama's remarks today show that his commitment to comprehensive imigration reform has not wavered.  The President's speech is consistent with what he has said all along -- that he supports fixing our broken immigration system.

For additional background information, NDN released new video, presentations and background on immigration reform, including video of yesterday's presentation and more:

NDN Forum Immigration Reform: Politics, Public Opinion and Legislative Prospects,   Simon Rosenberg and Andres Ramirez, 6/16/09. Please click here for video of Simon Rosenberg's presentation; please click here for video of my presentation.

Making the Case for Passing Comprehensive Immigration Reform This Year (PDF), Simon Rosenberg, 6/16/09 - Rosenberg lays out the basic foundation for why Congress must pass comprehensive immigration reform. This summary is a good introduction for those wanting to learn the fundamentals of this issue.

Recent Polling on Immigration Reform, Benenson Strategy Group, 6/2/09 - Since a previous America's Voice poll in November, Pete Brodnitz of the Benenson Stratagey Group finds that support for comprehensive reform has been stable (and high), but increasing numbers of voters see the economic benefit of passing comprehensive immigration reform. The poll is consistent with NDN polling by Bendixen & Associates in its affirmation of overwhelming public support for immigration reform.

Making the Case: 7 Reasons Why Congress Should Pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform this Year, Huffington Post, Simon Rosenberg, 4/30/09 - Rosenberg argues that the answer to whether Congress can pass reform this year is "yes."

The GOP's Impossible Dream: Republicans Can't Win Without Latino Support in Millennial Era, Mike Hais, 6/10/09 - NDN Fellow Hais writes that on his fivethirtyeight.com Web site, Nate Silver recently raised the possibility that the Republican Party could more effectively compete in the 2012 and 2016 elections by turning its back on Hispanics and attempting to maximize the support of white voters in enough 2008 Midwestern and Southern blue states to flip them red. The Republican Party rode similar exclusionary strategies to dominance of U.S. politics during most of the past four decades. But America has entered a new era.

Latinos Vote in 2008: Analysis of U.S. Presidential Exit Polls (PDF), Andres Ramirez, 1/18/09 - I provide an overview of the Hispanic electorate in key states from the 2008 presidential election. The analysis concludes that Hispanics participated in record numbers in this election cycle, increasing their turnout from the 2004 election;  Hispanics significantly shifted towards the Democratic nominee in 2008, reversing trends from the 2000 and 2004 presidential election cycles; Hispanics played a key role in Obama’s victory in Colorado, Florida, Nevada and New Mexico; Hispanics are poised to make other states competitive in future elections; and if these trends continue, the national map will continue to get harder for Republicans.

National Survey of Hispanic Voters on Immigration Policy
, Bendixen & Associates, 5/18/09 - Bendixen & Associates conducted a poll for America's Voice that comprehensively documents Hispanic voters' view on immigration policy.

NDN Backgrounder on Judge Sotomayor and Our Changing Demography, Melissa Merz, 5/26/09 - In response to President Barack Obama's nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to serve on the Supreme Court, Merz compiles key NDN commentary and analysis on the great demographic changes taking place in America today.

Weekly Immigration Update: Not all Immigrants Equal Before the Law

Last week we observed the awesome unity of immigrants from all backgrounds as they met in Washington, DC for a major conference gathering activists for immigration reform from all over the country.  Unfortunately, U.S. immigration law does not recognize the similarities between all immigrants.  In an interesting article by Julie Wolf, the Miami Herald notes that the new reason for Mexican immigration to the U.S. is drug violence, the entire piece is reprinted below. 

The families and individuals who are currently under seige in Mexico have not only suffered a more drastic economic crisis, many fear for their lives.  But Mexican immigrants have no "Temporary Protected Status" provision guaranteeing them safety from such persecution, nor is living under drug cartel violence in Mexico akin to living under a communist regime in the face of the INA.  But who is to judge that a Cuban living under the Castro regime is any better or worse off than a factory worker in Ciudad Juarez or a poor farmer in the state of Guerrero living under the terror of drug cartels or armed militias?  It is an unfair comparison, and thus our immigration laws need to be overhauled so that they are no longer based on alternative realities and unqualified judgements, but rather respond to individual cases - regardless of nationality.  We do not have rule of law in America when a U.S. citizen friend of mine who is trying to bring her sister and mother here from Ciudad Juarez legally has been waiting patiently "in line" for 15 years for USCIS to process their paperwork.  As she says: for Mexicans "there is no line." 

One does not dare suggest the U.S. should have "open borders," but it would be a great improvement to our broken immigration system to treat each individual case as an individual, who can apply for asylum or refugee status and have their particular circumstances considered, regardless of the country from which they originate.  Right now, most Mexicans who apply for asylum are denied, which will only put increased pressure on the undocumented flow of people in the long term.  The drug crisis will get worse before it gets better.  Let's stop encouraging the trade of humans crossing the border, let's pass comprehensive immigration reform this year and create realistic legal channels for entry into the U.S.  It is a mistake for border officials and government officials to "worry more about the drug wars than about immigration,"  because the two go hand in hand.

New reason for Mexican immigration to U.S.: Drug violence

Mexican immigration to the United States has been almost entirely an economic issue for the past few decades. Politicians have fine-tuned their positions around what to do about illegal immigrants who supposedly take jobs from Americans.

Now, however, as violence on the border continues to increase, a new kind of immigrant to the United States is appearing: people seeking asylum to escape the drug-fueled brutality in Mexico.

More than 5,400 people were killed in the violence last year, and more than 8,000 in the two years since President Felipe Calderon sent thousands of troops into the drug war zones.

"Some families living on the frontier are leaving, and the easiest way to live in the U.S. for them is by asking for the status of refugee," said Damaso Morales, a professor of international studies at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, the largest university in Latin America. "It's a way to get into the U.S. in a legal way."

Already, there have been two celebrated cases of asylum-seekers: a journalist who fled the northern state of Chihuahua after drug cartels threatened him, and the mayor of Ciudad Juarez, a major border city opposite El Paso, Texas, who pulled out when drug traffickers threatened his family. Though both succeeded in getting into the U.S., their tactic is still relatively untested in U.S. courts.

Ana Maria Salazar, a U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense during the Clinton administration who's now a political commentator in Mexico City, said that people were moving away from the country's crime-plagued border towns, if not yet to the U.S.

"Many people fearing for their lives in border towns are moving to big cities within Mexico," said Salazar, who has Mexican and American citizenship. "As descriptions of the violence continue to become public, there will definitely be talk about the refugee status" in the U.S., although she added that the violence would have to be "very high."

The increase in violence, experts said, has replaced immigration as the major source of friction in U.S.-Mexican relations. In March, Mexicans ranging from Calderon to local editorial writers were outraged when a U.S. official suggested that the government had lost control of some parts of the country to the drug lords.

The incident wasn't smoothed over until Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama visited Mexico and acknowledged that the U.S. bore a share of responsibility for Mexico's drug wars, not only from the billions of dollars sent south to purchase illegal drugs but also because of the high-powered weapons that are purchased legally in U.S. border towns and sold to Mexican gangs.

The fear created by this border violence, Morales said, is "a real problem, as Mexicans are coming in to the U.S. claiming asylum. These people would rather be in jail in the U.S. waiting to see if Uncle Sam grants them mercy than be in Mexico, where drug traffickers are killing family members."

Although the number of people entering the United States may increase if the violence continues to escalate, the number of Mexican citizens emigrating to the U.S. has dropped almost 25 percent within the past five months, according to the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City. Though it's hard to say why, the faltering U.S. economy most often is blamed.

"The economy here is really tied up in the economy of the U.S.," Morales said. "Things are very different and are changing in this economic crisis."

Francisco Gonzalez, an associate professor of Latin American studies at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, said that officials on both sides of the border now worried more about the drug wars than about immigration.

"The country has become very violent," Gonzalez said, "and it is very easy to see that things there could get even worse."

(Wolf is a student at Penn State University. This story was reported from Mexico City for a class in international journalism.)

Judge Sotomayor – and All Hispanics – Deserve More Than Silence

Last week I was in Mexico City, and soon after my arrival I was thrilled to hear that President Obama had named Judge Sonia Sotomayor as his nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court.  As a woman, as a Latina, and as a Latina lawyer I could not be more proud of his choice.  It is an important step towards having a court that reflects the diversity of opinion that was intended by the founding fathers, which can only lead to a clearer – more balanced – interpretation of the law to the benefit of all Americans.  However, upon my return to the U.S. this week, I was greeted with the unpleasant news of all the race-baiting and hateful rhetoric that was being used against Judge Sotomayor. 

As a woman, as a lawyer, and as a Latina, I am extremely disturbed by the comments made over the past few week by characters like Tom Tancredo, Rush Limbaugh, and Newt Gingrich.  Mr. Gingrich’s comments are particularly disturbing because he is actually considered one of the Republican Party leaders.  Over the past few days Mr. Gingrich has tried to backtrack on his statements, but it is too little, too late.  An apology does not suffice because his comments are merely the latest example of an overarching attitude and practice on the part of the Republican Party.  The only way the Republican Party can begin to make amends with the Hispanic community will be by renouncing comments and people like Newt Gingrich with the same force with which the offensive comments are made.

As a political analyst, I am also disturbed by the blind anger and hate that seems to dominate Republican Party politics.  From a pragmatic perspective, the Republican Party just does not get it – the consistent anti-Hispanic rhetoric has cost Republicans countless Congressional seats and the Presidency.  It is no coincidence that Hispanic support for the Republican presidential candidate dropped an astounding 31 percent from 2004 to 2008.  Tom Tancredo, who continues to vociferously oppose Hispanics on the bench, Hispanics in leadership (the presence of Hispanics in general, it seems), forgets that he received only 1% of his own party’s vote during the Republican Presidential primaries, while his “left leaning” Republican counterpart, John McCain, secured the Republican nomination (secured in Florida, largely due to the Hispanic vote).

The aggression and hate that dominates their Party politics must go if Republicans intend to survive as a national party.  For example, today I noticed a piece posted by the DCCC, "Will Rep. Sessions Repudiate Gingrich’s Offensive Remarks about Judge Sotomayor?" in which Ryan Rudominer, National Press Secretary for the DCCC brings up an interesting point:

"Representative Pete Sessions has a simple choice to make, will he strongly denounce Newt Gingrich's shameful rhetoric or stay silent and just take his money…" "Representative Sessions needs to decide whether he agrees with Gingrich's offensive remarks or whether he will join fellow Republican John Cornyn in coming to the defense of Judge Sotomayor."

On June 8th, Newt Gingrich will headline a fundraising dinner to benefit Congressional Republicans. [The Hill; May 21, 2009.]

It is a fair question to ask – will the Chairman of the RNCC consider these comments “no big deal” and continue with Gingrich at his fundraiser?  Hispanic voters will be watching, and it is fair that they question – is this kind of race-based attack alright with Republican Party leaders?  And if Party leaders don’t come out firmly against these offenses, can we presume they agree with the hateful point of view that is expressed? 

As the saying goes, el silencio otorga. 

Weekly Immigration Update: New Reports Reveal Immigration Does Not Increase Unemployment

This week, two new reports prepared for the Immigration Policy Center (IPC) by the consulting firm Rob Paral & Associates debunk the all-too familiar and simplistic myth propagated by anti-immigration activists that immigrants fill U.S. jobs only at the expense of unemployed native-born workers.  We have made the case why this is not so, and we have argued that reforming our broken immigration system will help eliminate the existing market for false documentation for immigrant workers and the demand for human smugglers.  We must overhaul the current system and focus on providing sufficient legal pathways for current and prospective immigrants, rather focusing on border enforcement that has not worked, and will not work.  Even at the high levels of migration seen around 2005, those levels of migration (legal and illegal) were still only a minor fraction of the population and a small, but important, proportion of the workfoce. 

Rep. Loretta Sanchez touches on the security argument in an op-ed published in The Hill:

Addressing the current drug cartel violence must go beyond training Mexican policemen, adding Customs and Border Protection agents, and increasing the frequency of outbound gun checks. Although these tactics are essential to the fight, security measures alone cannot end the illegal flow of drugs, humans, and arms into the United States and Mexico....We must adopt a three-pronged strategy that will strengthen legitimate trade and commerce between the U.S. and Mexico; invest in economic development in Mexico; and implement appropriate security measures in the U.S and Mexico.

Immigration reform should serve as an important component of the plan to strengthen the commercial ties and security of which Rep. Sanchez speaks.  And for those who refuse to accept that immigrants have always and will always help bring prosperity to the U.S., the full article on the reports: 

New Reports Reveal Immigration Does Not Increase Unemployment

By Walter Ewing, Immigration Impact
Posted on May 20, 2009, Printed on May 22, 2009

Two new reports prepared for the IPC by the consulting firm Rob Paral & Associates debunk the simplistic myth propagated by anti-immigration activists that immigrants fill U.S. jobs only at the expense of unemployed native-born workers. The reports use data from the Census Bureau to demonstrate that there is no discernible relationship whatsoever between the number of recent immigrants in a particular locale and the unemployment rate among native-born whites, blacks, Latinos, or Asians. This holds true even now, at a time of economic recession and high unemployment.

These reports are the first two installments of a three-part series, Untying the Knot, which seeks to unravel the complex and frequently misrepresented relationship between immigration and unemployment. The first report, “The Unemployment and Immigration Disconnect,” analyzes the relationship (or lack thereof) between recent immigration and the general unemployment rate in different regions, states, and counties. The report finds that areas with high unemployment rates do not necessarily have large numbers of recent immigrants. For instance, recent immigrants are 7.3% of the population in New Jersey and only 0.8% of the population in Maine, yet unemployment rates are nearly identical in both states. On average, counties with lower unemployment rates have larger populations of recent immigrants.

The second report, “Immigration and Native-Born Unemployment Across Racial/Ethnic Groups,” analyzes the relationship between recent immigration and unemployment among native-born whites, blacks, Latinos, and Asians in different states and metropolitan areas. According to the report, the unemployment rate among African Americans is, on average, lower in states and metropolitan areas with the most recent immigrants in the labor force. For example, recent immigrants are 17% of the labor force in Miami and only 3% of the labor force in Cleveland, yet the unemployment rate of native-born blacks in Cleveland is double that of Miami. Rob Paral, Principal of Rob Paral & Associates, points out:

“On the question of race we find that there’s just no connection between immigration and unemployment. The culprit when it comes to unemployment is not immigration.”

Among serious immigration researchers, these findings should come as little surprise. Immigrants go where the jobs are, and the causes of unemployment among the native-born are far too complicated to be reduced to some simple-minded “immigrant vs. native” arithmetic. In addition, employment is not a zero-sum game in which workers compete for some fixed number of jobs. In the real world, workers don’t just fill jobs, but also buy homes and consumer goods, save and invest money, start businesses, and pay taxes-all of which increase the demand for labor. During a press call hosted by IPC today, Dan Siciliano, Executive Director of the Program in Law, Economics, and Business at Stanford Law School, explains:

“The level of unemployment in the U.S. is painful, scary and difficult-so we shouldn’t belittle it. However, the very notion that immigration has anything to do with unemployment does just that. It belittles the challenge of unemployment.”

Although it might be politically expedient in some circles to blame immigrants for unemployment, it is-quite simply-wrong.


Weekly Update on Immigration: Hispanics Poised to Flex Muscle in Politics, Policy; NY Exemplifies Need for Immigration Overhaul

Hispanics Poised to Flex Muscle in Politics, Policy - Check out Andres Ramirez's op-ed published in Roll Call.  Andres writes:

There is no doubt the 2008 elections were indeed historic, but while the results of the 2010 midterms — and the decennial U.S. Census in the same year — may not have the rock star quality of the presidential contest, they very likely will have a far-reaching and long-lasting impact on our nation’s politics and electoral map.

In particular, Hispanics stand to gain substantially from the census as the U.S. Hispanic population continues its rapid rise...it is projected that Hispanics will represent at least 16 percent of the American work force by 2014...The political influence of Hispanics will be felt in key regions and politically important states.

Understandably, as Hispanics are the fastest-growing population and electorate, the issues of most importance to this demographic will become increasingly important.  As NDN's analysis and polling has showed since long ago, immigration remains a pivotal issue to all Hispanics because even if they are not immigrants themselves, it is very likely they have immigrant friends or family.  And also because of the way the tone of the immigration debate turned over the last few years to one that calls into question the most basic civil rights of Hispanics.

State of New York Exemplifies Need for Immigration Reform - It is understandable that Sen. Chuck Shumer (NY) is motivated to move immigration reform legislation; the state he represents is in urgent need of it as illustrated this morning by Kerry Kennedy on Morning Joe as she discussed the motivation behind an auction to raise funds for the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice, and the project to which proceeds will go:

K.Kennedy: In New York State we’re working on a change to a bill called the Farmworkers Justice Act.  Right now in New York State farm workers are not allowed to form unions; you can be fired for forming a union, and they don’t get the right to a day off per week.  In the duck business for instance, the people who feed the ducks to make fois gras have to work 32 days in a row, feed 350 ducks per day 4 times a day and get a total of only four hours off at a time.  So this has to change, and this bill will make that happen.

M.Barnacle: Does this apply also to the largely migrant worker field that arrives in state after state? States like New York, seasonal work?

K.Kennedy: The problem is that there is not Federal legislation, so each state makes its own laws on it.  This will apply to all workers here in New York State.

The trap door under wages will continue due to the undocumented population, and the abuses that take place under the current system of legal immigration will continue until we overhaul our current ineffective federal immigration law in order to protect all workers and all Americans.

The Biggest Untold Story of the Obama Presidency - White House Outreach to Hispanics

At the 100 day marker of President Barack Obama's time in office there were many articles going over what he's done, has not done, wants to do, will do, etc.  The most important untold story is the way Barack Obama has continued to revolutionize the way in which he communicates with the public - namely, a concerted and unprecedented Hispanic outreach strategy.  Long ago, NDN began arguing the importance of the Hispanic electorate and the importance of speaking in Spanish for candidates and public officials. 

Years later, candidate Barack Obama came along with record-breaking levels of outreach to Hispanics and the first television ad in a U.S. general Presidential election in which the candidate speaks entirely en español.

Now, at the White House, President Obama has continued this full fledged effort to communicate with Hispanics - in English and Spanish - at a level of sophistication never seen before.  Spanish language media has caught on, with major outlets like La Opinión, CNN en Español, and EFE highlighting this unprecedented effort.  Notably, "mainstream" media has not reported on Obama's efforts to reach every corner of the fastest growing electorate - often in their own language.

Most recently, on Friday May 8 the White House held its first ever Spanish-language town hall with Latino activists, community leaders, and health care providers from all over the country.  A feat that Univision (who coordinated the event with the White House) described as "an unprecedented and an historic effort to establish a dialogue with the Hispanic community, the largest minority group in the country."  Click here for the entire video and transcript of the town hall.

Just a few days before the town hall, President Obama continued the practice of celebrating Cinco de Mayo - a date of historical importance for Mexico.  President Obama has also demonstrated a commitment to the "shared challenges" between the U.S. and Mexico and to establishing a new dialogue with the Latin American region through a concerted diplomatic mission.  During March and April this mission took the U.S. Vice President to Chile and Central America, the U.S. Secretary of State, Secretary of Homeland Security, the U.S. Attorney General, and the President himself to Mexico and to the Summit of the Americas.

Prior to his travels, the President announced a historic shift in U.S. policy towards Cuba.  The change in policy was matched by its equally historic presentation, with a briefing in Spanish by Dan Restrepo.  When Mr. Restrepo, Senior Adviser to the President on Latin America, addressed the Spanish-language media in their native tongue, he became the first person to speak a language other than English during a White House briefing:


Hispanic voters also love Spanish-language entertainers - President Obama had a guest appearance that rocked the Premios Lo Nuestro award ceremony:

These targeted efforts complement an unprecedented general practice of bi-lingual press and communications by the White House.  President Obama has also held two major interviews with the most popular radio host in the country (who happens to be a Spanish-language radio host), "El Piolin," in addition to already having held four full-length interviews with the two principal Univision News anchors, Jorge Ramos and Maria Elena Salinas (two interviews with each).  These examples clearly highlight the way in which President Obama "gets" that most Hispanics (80% by most polls) speak Spanish and listen to Spanish language media, even if they are English-language dominant.  We congratulate the President on his continued efforts to building a new bridge of understanding between the White House and the vast Hispanic community.

Weekly Update on Immigration: Heritage Foundation Feels Compelled to Respond to NDN's Case for Passing Immigration Reform

As noted earlier, Heritage felt the need to respond to our Case for Passing of Comprehensive Immigration Reform This Year.  We begin our week with a response to their claims:

1.  Illegal Immigration and Labor Supply

NDN argues that, "Legalizing the five percent of the work force that is undocumented would create a higher wage and benefit floor than exists today for all workers …"

Heritage wrote:

Legalization absolutely would create a flood of new immigrants. The 1986 immigration reform granted amnesty to 2.7 million illegal aliens and sent the message that we are not serious about enforcing our immigration laws. By 2006 the number of illegal immigrants in this country had risen to 20 million.

Our response:
1) It is telling that instead of citing Census data, GAO reports, Congressional research service, or other neutral and accurate sources of data, Heritage cites itself as the source for the “20 million” number of estimated undocumented immigrants in the country.  The Census and other Government sources have admitted how difficult it is to project a statistic of undocumenteds and are careful to highlight that we have only estimates.  Yet the confidence with which Heritage throws out numbers gives the impression that it has gone over every inch of the U.S. and been able to magically locate each and every single immigrant to provide such an unequivocal assertion.  Even if this assumption of a number were true, that only helps us make the case for the urgency of CIR.  The more people we have in this country that are unknown to our government, the greater the security threat, the greater the number of individuals we need to bring under the protection of U.S. labor laws and tax laws, and the greater amount of revenue we will generate through taxes if we bring these people out of the shadows.

2) Yes, the 1986 law did provide amnesty.  The CIR proposal being discussed today allows no such amnesty.  To become legalized, individuals would have to pay fines, pay taxes, undergo background checks, and a series of other requirements before they could begin the process.

3) Yes, the 1986 law failed to adequately deal with future flow of immigrants, setting unreasonable quotas and limited legal channels, thus making it easier and much, much less expensive for immigrants to come here illegally rather than legally.  That is why we propose broadening legal channels for immigrants, not limiting them.  The absence of accessible, cost-effective legal channels for workers or immigrants in 1986 did not deter people from crossing illegally then, so what makes us think it will suddenly deter immigrants in the future?

2. Illegal Immigration and Federal Deficits

In response to our contention that putting the undocumented population on the road to citizenship will also increase tax revenue in a time of economic crisis, as the newly legal immigrants will pay fees and fines, and become fully integrated into the U.S. tax-paying system, Heritage writes:

This assumes that these individuals will not take anymore social services than they do as illegals. But with an unemployment rate of 8.5% it is difficult to assume that people that are largely high-school dropouts would be able to get jobs with millions of Americans looking for work. In reality, they are more likely to be on unemployment. Furthermore, statistics that are used to show they would bring more money fail to recognize the cost of providing entitlements like Social Security and Medicare to 11 million more people—already broken systems. Overall, amnesty will cost taxpayers at least $2.6 trillion.

First – unless I missed something, it is not looking like those unemployed GM assembly-line workers in Detroit are on their way down here to rural Virginia to pick apples and tomatoes.  There are jobs to do – Americans just don’t want them.  Furthermore, the 2.6 trillion is another number that was just pulled out of the Heritage hat.  In fact, if Heritage were interested in data, they might have read the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate for that same bill they cite (S.1348).  Including the legalization provision, the CBO score for S.1348 stated [emphasis added]:

CBO and JCT estimate that enacting this legislation would:
• Increase federal direct spending by $10 billion over the 2008-2012 period and by $23 billion over the 2008-2017 period.
• Increase federal revenues by $15 billion over the 2008-2012 period and by $48 billion over the 2008-2017 period. That increase would stem largely from greater receipts of Social Security payroll taxes, which are classified as off-budget.

Thus leading to a net gain of at least $30 billion.  Heritage is concerned about Social Security – in fact, there is something called the “Earnings Suspense File” (ESF) held by SSA.  The ESF holds the funds from all the people who pay into the system because it is deducted from their paycheck, but cannot claim those benefits.  For example, undocumented immigrants who use a false or stolen SSA number pay into SSA with each paycheck, but cannot retrieve that money.  The ESF is currently at over $520 billion.

3. Illegal Immigration and Border Violence

NDN wrote:  Tackling the growing influence of the drug cartels in Mexico is going to be hard, cost a great deal of money, and take a long time. One quick and early step toward calming the region will be to take decisive action on clearing up one piece of the problem — the vast illegal trade in undocumented migrants.  Heritage commented:

We do need to reform our immigration system. But not through an amnesty which is what most of the left calls “comprehensive immigration reform.” We need to 1) secure the border and enforce workplace laws (2) support economic development and governance reforms in Latin America (3) reform USCIS (4) strengthen citizenship and (5) improve legal worker programs.

Thanks Heritage, for supporting our argument.  Everything mentioned here by Heritage WOULD BE INCLUDED in our recommended CIR legislation and supporting administrative policies.

4. U.S.-Latin American relations

NDN believes that just as offering a new policy toward Cuba is part of establishing that it is truly a “new day” in hemispheric relations, ending the shameful treatment of Latin migrants here in the United States will go a long way in signaling that America is taking its relations with its southern neighbors much more seriously than in the past.  Heritage commented:

A fundamentally dishonest immigration policy that claims to legalize only those illegal aliens now here is no way to start a “new day” with Latin America. Building a real US-Latin America Partnership takes patience and time.

Absolutely, we don’t believe that only tackling the plight of those who are already here is a solution (more will inevitably come).  NDN argues that CIR must put in place a realistic system for future flow, to serve as a first step in building a partnership with immigrant-sending nations.  President Barack Obama believes working with immigrant-sending nations is a key component of CIR as well.

5. A Clean Census

On this, NDN believes passing immigration reform this year would go a long way to ensuring we have a clean and effective census count next year.  Heritage:

The census does need to be cleaned up. But cleaning up the census isn’t an excuse for amnesty.

Easy response: NDN AND ADVOCATES FOR CIR DO NOT SUPPORT AMNESTY (see response number 1).  Glad Heritage agrees that the Census must be a clean one. 

Having established that no one is for "amnesty," if Heritage is against the plan to provide those who are currently undocumented with a path to citizenship, even once they have had to undergo a series of background checks and fulfilled a number of requirements, then Heritage is in the unpopular spot supported by approximately 2/10 of voters.  And what would Heritage propose?  Would Heritage propose deporting the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants?  The status quo does not work.  Keeping people in the shadows or blanket deportation won't work for several reasons:

1.  As we mention in "Making the Case," legalization is an untapped source of revenue in a time of economic crisis.
2. It would be impossible to deport the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants.  If legalization would cost $23 billion, DHS has reported that deportation would cost taxpayers over $100 billion (DHS's entire budget is around $35 billion), not to mention it would take around 200 years to carry out that many deportations.
3. About 2/3 of families with undocumented immigrants are mixed status, meaning they also include U.S. citizens.  As such, deportation of immediate family of citizens, or citizens themselves not only brings serious human rights issues to surface, it can bring about a series of legal challenges.

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