21st Century Border Initiative

In April of 2010 the governments of Mexico and the United States issued a Declaration of the 21st Century Border. This declaration stated an understanding that: ‘’a joint and collaborative administration of their common border is critical to transforming management of the border to enhance security and efficiency.’’

The 21st Century Border Initiative of NDN/NPI has been designed to support, promote and develop this important vision for how our two countries manage our common border region. We have done this by facilitating events, papers, essays and creating a network of like minded individuals both inside and outside the beltway.

It is the core belief of this initiative that the bi-lateral relationship between the United States and Mexico is one of the United State’s most important relationships in the world. By the end of this year Mexico is set to be the United State’s second largest trading partner with more than a billion dollars in goods a day moving between our countries. The US domestic population is now 10 percent of Mexican descent, making our cultural, economic and familial ties extensive and deepening.

Through a new and better strategy, more resources and greater cooperation with our Mexican partners, the border region is much safer today. Crime is down, illegal migration has slowed, seizures of illegal drugs, guns and bulk cash has soared, all while trade and legal border crossings have increased. Despite the very real challenge of the cartel violence, the US side of the border has seen great progress in recent years. And while there has been great success in recent years in bringing about a better border region, of course much more must be done.

Below, please find some key materials and highlights from our past work on the 21st Century Border Initiative. 

NDN Backgrounder: The Border Is Safer, Immigration System Is Better For a history of our work and salient news from the current immigration debate check out our website, 21border.com. Below please find a collection of NDN resources on the release of the Senate and White House immigration proposals:

Simon's Statement - The U.S. Border Strategy Is Working

Simon outlines how the U.S. border strategy is working: Crime along the border is down,deportations of criminal aliens has increased, the flow of unauthorized immigrants has dropped as has the domestic population of undocumented immigrants in the United States.   There has been little to no spillover from the gang-related violence in Mexico into the United States, and seizures of narcotics into the country and bulk cash leaving the country have increased.As a result of this new and deeper partnership between our countries the American side of our common border is clearly safer today. 

President Barack Obama: Building A 21st Century Immigration System

In this speech, President Obama forcefully articulates the progress made in creating a 21st Century Border and connects it back to the broader struggle to reform our nations broken immigration system.

Video: Building a 21st Century Immigration System

Transcript: Remarks by the President on Comprehensive Immigration Reform in El Paso, Texas

NDN/NPI's 21st Century Border You Tube Page

For months, members of NDN/NPI's 21st Century Border Initiative have been busy cultivating a network of stakeholders throughout the Southwest and capturing their thoughts about the state of the U.S. - Mexican border region. You can watch them and other content on our new You Tube page.

Arturo Sarukhan & Alan Bersin Address on a 21st Century Border

Our inaugural 21st Century Border Project event was held over a year ago, and featured CPB Commissioner Alan Bersin and the Mexican Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan discussing the merits of the United States and Mexico working together to create a true 21st century border.

Video: Arturo Sarukhan & Alan Bersin Address NDN/NPI on a 21st Century Border

Transcript: Arturo Sarukhan & Alan Bersin Address NDN/NPI on a 21st Century Border

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano on Progress Made Along U.S. Mexican Border

NDN/NPI hosted a key note speech from Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano where she outlined the positive progress made along the Southwest Border.

Video: Napolitano Speech Details Progress Made Along US-Mexican Border

Department of Homeland Security Panel Discuss Progress on 21st Century Border

A panel of senior DHS officials discuss progress made along the 21st Century Border.

Video:  Distinguished Panel Discuss Progress on 21st Century Border

A Mayor's Perspective on the U.S. - Mexico Border

Chappell Lawson, associate professor of politics at MIT and Mayor of Nogales, AZ Arturo Garino talk about the perception, the reality and the positive gains in safety along the southwest border. 

How a 21st Century Border is Essential to Prosperity in Both the U.S. and Mexico

Maria Luisa O’Connell, Senior Advisor for Trade and Public Relations Office of the Commissioner US Customs and Border Protection, led a roundtable panel discussion on how the border between Mexico and the United States is an economic benefit for the country as whole

NDN Report: The Governments Strategy on The Border Is Working

After years of investment by the federal government along the border between the United States and Mexico there has been significant progress in creating a more harmonious region.

Key Materials:

21st Century Border Declaration by The Government Of The United States and Mexico  -  This intermestic agreement pledges to strengthen cooperation between Mexico and the United States by enhancing the economic competitiveness by expediting lawful trade, while preventing the transit of illegal merchandise between their two countries, facilitating lawful travel in a manner that also prevents the illegal movement of people between our two countries.

Comexi Report Managing the United States-Mexico Border: Cooperative Solutions to Common Challenges:  Under the auspices of the Pacific Council for International Policy (PCIP) and the Mexican Council on Foreign Relations (COMEXI), thirty distinguished businessmen, civic leaders, and former government officials from Mexico and the United States committed themselves to devising ways to improve management of our common border.

Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano: Making The Border More Secure":  This landmark speech by Secretary Napolitano encapsulates all of the work the Department of Homeland Security and Mexico have done on the border while also charting a path forward on what the future of the Border looks like. University of Texas at El Paso A Safe on: Secure Border Zone, Additional Steps and Reforms,  Southwest Border Results, Interior Enforcement and the Future of Border Security.


Simon Rosenberg: President, NDN/NPI

Alicia Menendez: Senior Advisor, NDN/NPI

Jake Braun: Director, 21st Century Border Initiative

Kristian Ramos: Director of Policy, 21st Century Border Initiative


For all press inquiries please contact Kristian Ramos at kramos@ndn.org

For all booking inquiries please contact Alicia Menendez at alicia@ndn.org

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

Video: Expert Panel on Obama Immigration/Border Enforcement Record

With the topic of immigration very much in the news, and the release of more specific data from DHS’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) this year, NDN/NPI put together a panel discussion on the Obama Administration’s immigration and border enforcement record. 
Marc Rosenblum, Deputy Director of the US Immigration Policy Program at the Migration Policy Institute, Edward Alden of the Council of Foreign Relations, and Tamar Jacoby, President and CEO of ImmigrationWorks USA shared their latest findings and analyses of the current state of affairs. The discussion aimed to help unpack what this new DHS data means, allow experts to weigh in on the Obama Administration’s enforcement record, and take questions from the audience.  We think it was a terrific discussion.  Please find the C-SPAN and NDN video footage of the event below. 

For more on NDN's work in this area of late, please see this recent, comprehensive backgrounder.

Expert Panel on Obama Immigration/Border Enforcement Record

See video

A timely discussion on the Obama Administration’s immigration and border enforcement record with noted experts Ted Alden, Tamar Jacoby and Marc Rosenblum.

NDN Analysis on Deportations Picked Up by the Media

NDN's latest analysis on the Obama Administration's Immigration Enforcement Record got picked up by the media, here are some of the latest stories:

-Griselda NevarezAmid calls to halt deportations, progressive group defends Obama,  VOXXI, 4/10/14 (also running on La Opinión English home page)

-Laura MecklerNDN Defends Obama’s Deportation Record,  Wall Street Journal, 4/9/14

-María PeñaDemocratic group says the amount of deportations have decreased under ObamaLaOpinión, 4/10/14


NDN in Voxxi - Reasons for Optimism on Border Section of Immigration Legislation

With the first week of the Senate Judiciary Mark-Up behind us, it is clear the Senate Immigration Bill (S.744) retains significant bipartisan momentum. While there were many amendments offered to the Title I Border Enforcement section of the Senate legislation, the “Gang of Eight” was able to retain the balance of enforcement and investment in the critical needs of staffing at our ports of entry at the border. In the House, the Committee on Homeland Security, has quietly been marking up their own Border Enforcement legislation, and thus far has kept the balance of enforcement/investment at the border established by the Senate intact.

These developments can be attributed to a couple of very important developments at our southern border.

Border Communities Are Safer: Since 2008, the budget for U.S. Customs and Border Patrol has grown from $9.3 billion to $11.8 billion in 2012. That is 2.5 billion dollars invested in the the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol alone. Within CBP, the amount of money allocated to the U.S. Border Patrol grew from $1.5 billion in FY 2003 to $3 billion in FY 2010 and continues to grow today. As a result of greater investment, cooperation with Mexico and better strategy has also resulted in an increase in apprehension rates in high traffic crossing areas. A December report from the Government Accountability Office reported that of the Border Patrol’s nine southwest-border sectors, five had more than 30,000 apprehensions in fiscal 2011, making them a “high traffic” corridor. Of these five, San Diego, CA had a 92 percent apprehension rate, El Centro, CA 91 percent, Tucson, AZ 87 percent, Laredo, TX 84 percent and the Rio Grande corridor in Texas was 71 percent. As such the Senate legislation acknowledges these gains in security by balancing enforcement and economic investment in the region.

The U.S.-Mexico relationship is essentially a commercial one: For years the U.S. has viewed our relationship through the prism, today while there are certainly security issues on the Mexico side of the border, there is now an equally compelling economic story to be told. In a new NDN/New Policy Institute report “Realizing the Strategic National Value of our Trade, Tourism and Ports of Entry with Mexico” we note: Six million U.S. jobs depend on our trade with Mexico. Mexico is our nation’s number two export market in the world and our number three trading partner overall. Mexico is our nation’s second most important foreign tourism market as well as the fourth-ranked in terms of spending by tourists.

The bipartisan “Gang of Eight’s” Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 proposes the addition of 3,500 additional Customs and Border Protection officers to staff the ports of entry on the southern border. Twenty-three states have Mexico as their number one or number two trading partner. As such it should come as no surprise that after the first week of markup the additional staffing has remained in the legislation and is likely to be included or enhanced in the House version of the bill.

Bottom line: there is fairly broad bipartisan agreement in Congress on the need to improve our land ports of entry with Mexico, which are responsible for screening and facilitating legitimate trade and travel. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) is sponsoring a bill in the Senate that enables public-private partnerships at the ports of entry; in the House, Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX 28) is sponsoring an identical bill.

This additional staffing is badly needed to relieve commercial, passenger and pedestrian congestion at our ports of entry with Mexico. A continued shift in attitude and approach, a bit of investment and some creative thinking on how to most efficiently and safely move people, goods and services between our two countries through our numerous, highly congested land ports of entry would greatly improve this already robust economic relationship.

A version of this piece was orginally published on VOXXI and can be read here

NDN's Take on Senate Border/Immigration Bill After First Day of Judiciary Committee Markup

From NDN’s Kristian Ramos:

“After the first day of Senate Judiciary Mark-Up, it is clear the Senate Immigration Bill (S.744) retains significant bipartisan momentum.   Some smart amendments were added to the bill, but more importantly bad ones were rejected.   The thoughtful bipartisan core of the bill remains intact.  The adept management of this early stage of the Committee process leaves us optimistic about the bill’s passage.  Some additional observations:

The Grassley amendment Extending the Higher Border Apprehension Goals To The Whole Border – The Gang of Eight Bill called for new border security targets of 100% surveillance and 90% apprehension rate of people attempting to cross the border in what are called “high traffic” corridors where most of the north-bound flow lies.   Senator Chuck Grassley’s amendment #1 adopted yesterday extended that goal to the entire border.  

It remains to be seen if this is a good idea.   The original target appears achievable with the amount of money allocated, the time required (5 years) to achieve these goals, and taking into account where these apprehension rates are today.   A December report from the Government Accountability Office reported that of the Border Patrol’s nine southwest-border sectors, five had more than 30,000 apprehensions in fiscal 2011, making them a “high traffic” corridor.  Of these five, San Diego, CA had a 92% apprehension rate, El Centro, CA 91%, Tucson, AZ 87%, Laredo, TX 84 % and the Rio Grande corridor in Texas was 71%.

Given where things stand now, it seems reasonable that with the time allotted and additional resources the 5 high traffic corridors, where the overwhelming majority of the north bound flow lies, can hit the new 90% apprehension rate target.  Whether it is prudent to extend that goal to areas where far fewer migrants pass, and in places that are often remote and difficult to police, is something that deserves debate in the coming months. 

The Feinstein Infrastructure amendment - We were further heartened to see that Senator Diane Feinstein’s amendment #10, was adopted. This important amendment would allow the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and the Secretary of Transportation, in consultation with the governors of the States in the Southwest border region and the Northern border region to establish a grant program “to construct transportation and support infrastructure improvements at existing and new international border crossings necessary to facilitate safe, secure, and efficient cross border movement of people, motor vehicles, and cargo.”

Coupled with the far-sighted commitment in the Senate Bill to add an additional 3,500 new customs agents, the improved legislation makes a truly significant commitment to investing in expanding legal trade and travel with Mexico.  As our new paper, Realizing the Strategic National Value of our Trade, Tourism and Ports of Entry with Mexico details, the economic relationship between the US and Mexico has become one of the most important in the world.  In just the past 4 years, trade between US and Mexico has grown from $300 billion to $536 billion last year.  Mexico is now our 3rd largest trading partner, 2nd largest export market.  23 states in the US count Mexico as their number 1 or 2 export market of all the countries in the world.  The smart investments in this bill directed towards border infrastructure investment will help ensure that this explosive trade relationship continues to expand, and jobs on both sides of the border continue to be created.   

Bad Amendments Rejected, A Few More Good Ones Get Through –  Thankfully Senator John Cornyn’s amendment #1 and Ted Cruz’s amendment #1 calling for significant increases in US Border Patrol, and  gratuitous new border triggers, were rejected.  

Another positive note was the Committee's acceptance of Senator Chuck Grassley amendment #2 and Senator Jeff Flake’s amendment #2, each of which added greater oversight and accountability to the border provisions of the legislation. Finally, Senator Cornyn ‘s Amendment #6 enhances data collection and increases penalties on human trafficking.

Border Bulletin: No furloughs for CBP, Business balks at immigration deal, and priced out of citizenship

Your Daily Border Bulletin is up! Today's stories include:

Homeland Security Today: No furloughs for CBP. Continuing Resolution to Provide CBP Boosts to Maintain Staffing: President Barack Obama is set to sign a continuing resolution (HR 933) to fund the federal government for the rest of fiscal year 2013, ostensibly increasing funding for border security efforts for the year.  The appropriations bill allocated $39.6 billion to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), detailing DHS spending while keeping the overall budget within the caps set by the Budget Control Act of 2011 — at $984 billion overall for FY 2013. The White House has not yet announced if Obama will sign the consolidated appropriations bill Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.

Politico – Business balks at immigration deal A deal between the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and labor groups on visas for low-skilled workers was supposed to clear a path for an immigration reform package in the Senate. Instead, some business groups are grumbling about the deal and they’re gearing up for a lobbying battle on Capitol Hill — where powerful interests helped doom immigration reform over the same issue before.

New York Times Op-Ed: Priced Out of Citizenship by Rahm Emanuel and Rep. Luis V. Guttierez AS Congress debates creating a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants, it must at the same time remove one of the biggest obstacles on that path: the cost of applying for citizenship. Citizenship and Immigration Services, part of the Department of Homeland Security, charges $680 (including a mandatory $85 “biometric fee” to cover fingerprinting) to apply for naturalization. This steep fee, which can amount to more than two weeks’ wages for some immigrants, is so high that it effectively denies legal permanent residents a chance to become citizens.


Daily Border Bulletin: NPI Analysis Business Labor Immigration Deal, Rubio, Graham Pump Breaks on Immigration Reform Deal, More

Your Daily Border Bulletin is up! Today's stories include:

NPI Analysis of Business Labor Immigration Deal: On Friday night Thomas J. Donohue, the president of the United States Chamber of Commerce, and Richard Trumka, the president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., the nation’s main federation of labor unions, agreed in principle on a guest worker program for low-skilled, year-round temporary workers. The eight Senate negotiators still need to formally sign off on the deal between the business and labor groups, but they are expected to do so by the end of the weekend.  Below are highlights of the deal, and for an AFL-CIO fact sheet detailing the agreement in principle please click here.

Rubio, Graham Pump the Breaks on Immigration Reform Deal: Days after labor and business announced a major breakthrough in their negotiations on the future flow section of immigration reform. Senator Marco Rubio and Lindsay Graham took to the airwaves to caution that while they had a “conceptual agreement” There was not as of yet an actual agreement on the legislation.  Senator Rubio was particularly forceful in his assertion that the legislation be taken through “regular order” which involves public hearings and amendments from other Senators both in committee and on the Senate floor.

Invite: 2 Live Web Briefings on US-Mexico, Border, Immigration Reform: With the President announcing a May trip to Mexico, and members of the Senate’s “Gang of Eight” taking a constructive trip to the border, NDN/NPI’s 21st Century Border Initiative has put together two timely, informative background briefings on Mexico, the progress made in the US-Mexico border region and how this may impact the all-important immigration reform debate this year.  Both live web briefings take place next week, and are free and open to the public.  Feel free to invite others you think might be interested, and we look forward to connecting with you next week.


Daily Border Bulletin: Senate immigration deal close to Obama plan, Negotiations continue for business and labor More

Your Daily Border Bulletin is up! Today's stories include:

Senate immigration deal close to Obama plan: The nation’s 11 million illegal immigrants would have to wait a full decade for a green card but could earn citizenship just three years after that, under a provision being finalized by a bipartisan group of eight senators working to devise an overhaul of immigration law, several people with knowledge of the negotiations  said. Taken together, the two waiting periods would provide the nation’s illegal immigrants with a path to United States citizenship in 13 years, matching the draft of a plan by President Obama to offer full participation in American democracy to millions who are living in fear of deportation.

Negotiations continue for business and labor Talks led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO over a new guest-worker program for lower-skilled immigrants are stalled, prompting members of the bipartisan group of eight senators to get personally involved to try to nudge the negotiations toward a resolution. Business and labor groups have been meeting for weeks in an attempt to put together a system that would allow employers to find foreign labor when American workers are not available and that would allow foreign workers into the country. The idea is to create a new “W” visa category for lower-skilled guest workers. No such visas exists right now, leaving a vacuum that undocumented workers have been filling.

Arizona Border More Secure Because of Enforcement Flying low along the Mexican line in a Black Hawk helicopter, the United States Border Patrol officer saw surveillance towers rising above the cactus. He saw his agents’ white and green trucks moving among the mesquite, scouting for illegal crossers. Far overhead, a remotely guided drone beamed images of the terrain to an intelligence center in Tucson. Pilots cruised in reconnaissance planes carrying radars and infrared cameras that could distinguish a migrant with a backpack from a wild animal from many miles away.

NDN Backgrounder: How The Immigration Reform Landscape Has Changed Since 2005

Yesterday Simon briefed the House New Democrat Coalition, a group of 51 Members, on immigration reform and border issues. I wanted to share with you the Power Point we developed for the briefing. If you are interested in learning more about some of the issues at the heart of our current immigration debate this is a great place to start.

The presentation is called, “Immigration Reform: How The Landscape Has Changed Since the House Last Voted in 2005 - Our Border Is Safer, Our Immigration System Is Better and Mexico Is Modernizing and Growing.” You can find it here.

To learn more about the topics discussed in this presentation, be sure to read Simon’s recent Huffington Post Op-ed, “The Border is Safer, Our Immigration System is Better;” see our round-up of our most important work on these issues; and stay in touch with us via our website, 21border.com.

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