Fixing Our Broken Immigration System

Since 2007, NDN has a demonstrated commitment to achieving a sensible immigration system that reflects the needs of the 21st century. NDN began to fight for reform by investing in a Spanish-language radio and television media campaign designed to counter anti-immigrant campaigns.  In addition to reaching out to media outlets, NDN has regularly hosted forums with members of Congress to discuss proposals to fix our current broken immigration system. Through research and polling, conducted most recently among voters in Colorado, Florida, Nevada, and New Mexico, NDN has found that a majority of Americans support a legislative overhaul to fix the broken immigration system, as opposed to passing limited enforcement measures.  

Below, please find some past highlights of our work on immigration reform:



NDN's Immigration Blog

2010 Highlights

Senator Robert Menendez's Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2010 Summary

NDN Statement on New Immigration Framework

Immigration Reform Enters a New Phase by Simon Rosenberg

Commentary on Arizona Bill by Alicia Menendez

2009 Highlights

Presentation: Making the Case for Passing Comprehensive Immigration Reform this Year

7 Reasons Why Congress Should Pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform this Year by Simon Rosenberg

Video: Simon Rosenberg makes his case on why congress should pass CIR

Event: Politics & Policy: What to Expect from the Immigration Debate

Video: NDN Forum on Immigration Reform

The Census and Immigration Reform by Simon Rosenberg

Senator Kennedy and CIR by Andres Ramirez

2007 - 2008 Highlights

Event: "Immigration Reform and the Next Administration" - at the DNC in Denver

Polling: Immigration Polling in battleground states

A Responsible Immigration Policy by Simon Rosenberg

Can Democrats Seize the Opportunity the Immigration Debate Offers Them? by Simon Rosenberg

Event: NDN Bicameral Event for CIR


New Report: "Realizing the Strategic National Value of our Trade, Tourism and Ports of Entry with Mexico"

President Obama’s recent trip to Mexico emphasized the growing economic relationship between our two countries. In this spirit NDN and NPI's 21st Century Border Initiative is proud to release a new report, "Realizing the Strategic National Value of our Trade, Tourism and Ports of Entry with Mexico." This new report will build on two previous papers produced with NPI by ASU's Erik Lee, "Realizing the Value of Crossborder Trade With Mexico" and "Realizing the Full Value of Tourism from Mexico to The United States."

As the report states: “Trade between Mexico and the United States is among one of the great untold success stories of the last four years. Key policies and investment in infrastructure can either help or hinder the enormous economic exchange between our countries. The current negotiations in Congress on comprehensive immigration reform offer a key window of opportunity to expand our ability to facilitate legitimate trade and tourism with Mexico and grow our economy in the process.” Below please find some key statistics featured in the report:

  • Six million U.S. jobs depend on our trade with Mexico. Trade relationship is critically important to our economic activity.  Bilateral trade is estimated to have reached $535.9 billion in 2012, nearly double the amount of trade since the President took office.
  • Mexico is on the rise, economic growth integral to Americas Economy. Mexico has a $1.76 trillion dollar economy, the twelfth largest in the world (measured by GDP purchasing power parity)
  • Investment in Infrastructure is Key.  Twenty-three states have Mexico as their number one or number two trading partner, multiplying jobs in both countries. Forty-seven U.S.-Mexico land ports of entry facilitate several hundreds of billions dollars in U.S.-Mexico trade every year

At an event announcing the report’s release NDN President Simon Rosenberg stated: "Our report shines a light on one of the most important economic stories of the last decade, one more American policy makers need to pay attention to - the rise of the Mexican economy, and the exploding trade relationship between Mexico and the United States.  Our report finds that trade between the US and Mexico was a staggering $536 billion last year up from $300 billion just 4 years ago.  These extraordinary results, validating the hemispheric ambition of NAFTA, have turned the US-Mexican economic relationship into one of the largest, and most important, in the world today."

Congressman Filemon Vela, (TX-34) said:  "The State of Texas has a 1,254-mile long border with Mexico. Texas’ multiple border crossings makes it the largest port-of-entry for goods traveling from Mexico into the United States as well as goods heading south from the US into Mexican markets. The Estimated Value if this trade for Texas is $285 Million,  which creates 3,037 jobs in Texas,  45% of imported produce comes through Texas and over last 15 years, imports have tripled in volume with 100K of the 160K loads of fresh and frozen produce that came through a single bridge in Hidalgo County I represent but not in my district. Trade with Mexico is critically important to both the United States and Texas. We hope to see it continue to increase in the future."

Jonathan Rothschild, Mayor of Tucson, AZ said: "As the Mayor of a city impacted by the state of Mexican-American relations, I have gone to great lengths to lay out a vision for an ever more productive and cooperative relationship with our neighbors to the South.  Truly, our relationship with Mexico is a symbiotic relationship with the potential to yield vast dividends, both financially and culturally.  Trade with Mexico generates jobs for Tucson in exports, logistics, supply chain management, tourism, scientific, technical and professional expertise- but in order for Tucson to be a hub for international trade, we need the right infrastructure at the border.  Throughout our nation's history, we have always thrived when engendering the best ideals of a diverse and complex country. In 2013, with new and emerging demographics, this ethic has never been more important."

Erik Lee, associate Director at Arizona State University’s North American Center for Transborder Studies (NACTS) and writer of this report noted: "US-Mexico bilateral trade hit $535.9 billion in 2012 and is an economic force that all of us need to appreciate and understand better. President Obama’s extensive references to this enormous economic relationship last week essentially confirmed what we have known for years: the U.S.-Mexico relationship is essentially a commercial relationship, rather a security-based relationship.. We have a window of opportunity to increase this economic bonanza that includes key legislation (including immigration reform), new trade agreements and important pending infrastructure investments to facilitate trade and tourism. If we can get this done, we can set the stage for tremendous future shared prosperity."

For background on the event be sure to read Simon’s recent Huffington Post Op-ed, “The Border is Safer, Our Immigration System is Better;” Kristian's recent NBC Latino Op-Ed "Want to make the border safer? Pass common sense gun violence legislation;" see our round-up of our most important work on these issues; read some of our key reports, "Realizing the Value of Crossborder Trade With Mexico" and "Realizing the Full Value of Tourism from Mexico to The United States." Also, stay in touch with us via our website 

Open Position – 21st Century Border Initiative Policy Associate (Temporary)

Open Position – 21st Century Border Initiative Policy Associate (Temporary)

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.’’

With immigration reform before Congress, the border, security and our bi-lateral relationship with Mexico is central to the debate before the country. 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.

About the Position:

The 21st Century Border Initiative Associate supports and reports directly to both the Policy Director and the President. The Associate manages the 21st Century Border Initiative blog, updating it daily with news salient to the southwest border region and the ongoing immigration debate. The Associate also supports NDN senior staff in creating program priorities and talking points, and provides updates on legislative developments as they occur. The Associate is also responsible for helping to plan large events and assisting with outreach efforts targeting southwest border networks, members of Congress, and administration officials. Outreach assistance includes developing, managing, and maintaining media and contact lists. The Associate will have the opportunity to write original content and conduct original research to be posted on the 21st Century Border Initiative website and on the NDN homepage.


Ideal candidates will have an undergraduate degree as well as a background in politics and a working knowledge of the current immigration reform debate. Candidates must possess strong research and writing skills, and be able to work independently and communicate with high level staff both at NDN and elsewhere. Knowledge of social media (including twitter and Wordpress) are required. Spanish proficiency is a plus.

To apply, please send your resume and a cover letter to

The deadline to apply for this posting will be Monday, April 29.


4 (Relatively) Quick Takeaways From Senate Immigration Reform Bill

The just released Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 is 844 pages long piece of legislation crafted by a bi-partisan group of 8 Senators, four Senate DemocratsChuck Schumer (NY), Dick Durbin (IL), Bob Menendez (NJ), and Michael Bennet (CO and four Senate Republicans John McCain (AZ), Lindsay Graham (SC), Marco Rubio (FL), and Jeff Flake (AZ). There is a lot of immigration policy to navigate in this legislation, below please find four big takeaways from the bill.

1. Pathway to Citizenship is Earned: The Senate bill provides a legalization program that could put most of the 11 million undocumented immigrants on the road to eventual citizenship.  This is a several step legalization program that first allows people to apply for “Registered Provisional Immigrant” (RPI) status and then, after 10 years, for lawful permanent resident status, and then after 3 more years U.S. citizenship.

Below are some of the specifics to orient your understanding of this process.

  • Registration Requirements: Immigrants who entered the United States before December 31, 2011 and have been physically present in the U.S. since that time will be eligible to apply for Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) status provided they pass a background check, have not been convicted of a serious crime, pay any assessed tax liability, and pay appropriate fees and a $500 fine. Initial registration will be valid for six years. It provides for work and travel authorization, and includes spouses and children in the United States on the same application. 
  • Renewal: RPIs applying for renewal will be subject to a new background check, payment of processing fees, payment of taxes, and a $500 fine. RPIs must provide evidence of having been 1) regularly employed while meeting a requirement that he/she is not likely to become a public charge or 2) having resources to demonstrate 100% of the poverty level.
  • Adjustment of Status to Permanent Residency:  At the end of ten years, RPIs may apply for adjustment of status, provided that they demonstrate: 1) they are admissible, 2) pay an additional $1000 fine per adult plus application fees; 3) prove they are learning English; 4) pay their taxes; 5) pass a background check and 6) demonstrate compliance with the employment requirement. Specifically, they must show: 1) theyhave regularly worked in the U.S. such that they are not likely to become a public charge or 2) they have resources to meet 125% of the Federal Poverty Level. Under the revamped legal immigration system, individuals present in the U.S. for 10 years in lawful status can adjust status to lawful permanent residence including RPIs and other legal immigrants. RPIs may apply for naturalization after an additional three year wait, making the total path to citizenship about 13 years. The bill includes a “back of the line” requirement: RPIs may not adjust status until the family and employment backlogs are cleared.

2. Border Plan is Comprehensive: Stage one requires the DHS Secretary to develop a Comprehensive Border Security Strategy and Southern Border Fencing Strategy within six months before the registration period for Registered Provisional Immigrant status (RPI) begins.  These strategies must be designed to achieve persistent surveillance of the border and a 90% effectiveness rate for apprehensions and returns in high risk border sectors. The bill appropriates $3 billion for this plan which will include technology, personnel and other  resources.  It also provides funding for 3,500 additional Customs agents (OFO Officers) nationwide.

The “triggers” require the Secretary of Homeland Security to submit, within 6 months of enactment, two plans. The first is a strategy to achieve a 90% effective rate goal in high risk sectors of the Southern border. The second is a fencing plan designed to reinforce current fencing and barriers. The initial legalization program does not begin until these plans are submitted.  The legalization program also will not begin until implementing regulations are issued – within 12 months after enactment of the bill.

If, after five years, the 90% effectiveness rate in high risk sectors has not been achieved, an additional pool of resources will be authorized for appropriation and a commission of experts and elected officials from border states will be formed. The border commission will issue recommendations to DHS regarding additional measures that should be adopted to help reach the 90% effectiveness rate goal. 

Two other enforcement “triggers” that have to be met before RPIs can apply for permanent residence involve  implementation of the E-Verify program and entry-exit controls at air and sea ports. Both of these triggers are achievable and should not delay the path to permanent residence.

  • Reallocation of Customs Agents From Northern to Southern BorderThe second thing that this section of the legislation does is allow the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to reassign or station U.S. Customs and Border protection officers and agents from the northern border to the southern border. They are authorized to be appropriated as such from the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Trust Fund established by this piece of legislation.
  • DHS Oversight: To protect the integrity of the system, additional resources and training will be devoted to implementing a DHS-wide use of force policy and associated training in appropriate use of force and the impact of federal operations on border communities.  A Border Oversight Taskforce is established to take testimony and conduct hearings in order to review and recommend changes to existing border policies.  The current duties of the USCIS Ombudsman’s office will be expanded to encompass all DHS immigration functions. DHS will be required to issue regulations on racial profiling that are based on a study analyzing individualized data on DHS officers enforcement activity.

3. Expedited Path for DREAMERs and Farmworkers: DREAMERs can earn permanent legal status within five years, and are then immediately eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship.  DREAMERs who have been previously deported may still be eligible to apply for legal status if they meet certain requirements, even if they don’t have a qualifying U.S. relationship. Farmworkers are eligible for an expedited five year path to permanent legal status and then eventual citizenship under current law.  In order to qualify, among other things, they must continue working in the agricultural sector for an additional 3-5 years post-enactment. 

Other essential workers may apply for a new “W” worker visa which will allow them to enter and work in the U.S. for participating employers, change jobs to other W employers, and eventually self-petition for lawful permanent status under the new merit based program.

Both the W visa program and the new agricultural worker program are subject to important standards for wages and working conditions, negotiated by labor to protect both immigrant and native-born workers. Finally, there are new protections against employers using immigration status to intimidate workers and to prevent international recruiters from misleading or otherwise mistreating those they bring to the U.S.

4. Changes To High Skill Visa Programs Are Significant:   This legislation does away with caps for the highest skilled employment based green cards.   The legislation also changes the H-1B high skilled visa program by expanding the current cap from 65,000 to 110,000 with an option to ultimately increase the cap to 180,000 visas annually based on a High Skilled Jobs Demand Index.

The legislation also allows for work authorization for spouses and children.  Increases requirements for recruiting and offering jobs to U.S. workers at higher wages prior to hiring foreign workers. Increases fines and wage requirements for companies that are heavy-users of H-1B visas. After 3 years, companies whose workforce is more than fifty percent H-1Bs are barred.

At NDN, Mexican Ambassador Medina Mora, Meissner, Alden Talk US-Mexico, Border, Immigration Reform

With the President announcing a May trip to Mexico, members of the Senate’s “Gang of Eight” taking a constructive trip to the border, and the Senate set to announce their bi-partisan immigration legislation, please take a moment to watch our timely event on U.S.- Mexico relations, our southwest border and immigration.

This event contextualized many of the issues at the heart of the coming immigration debate and featured Eduardo Medina-Mora Icaza, Mexican Ambassador to the United States with respondents: Doris Meissner, Senior Fellow and Director of the US Immigration Policy Program, Migration Policy Institute, and Edward Alden, Bernard L. Schwartz Senior Fellow, The Council of Foreign Relations. Nelson Cunningham, President and co-founder of McClarty Associates, and former special advisor to President Clinton moderated the discussion.

NDN President Simon Rosenberg opened the event by noting:"Because of an increased investment, a better strategy, better cooperation between the U.S. and Mexico, perhaps unprecedented cooperation between our two countries, our border is safer on the U.S. side, our immigration system is better, and Mexico itself is modernizing and growing.

Ambassador Medina-Mora in his key note speech highlighted the deep connections between our two countries. by commenting: Migration between Mexico and the United States is in constant tranformation but the pace of change has been faster and more dramatic in the last twenty years. In that time span we have seen both an exponential growth of Mexican immigration to this country in the 90's and a significant slow down that has reached almost a zero net balance in 2010 according to the Pew Hispanic Center.

Doris Meissner's response to the Ambassadors key note contextualized exactly how long it has taken to get the U.S. Mexico border to where it is today: Borders that work is another key idea to the coming immigration debate. Borders are designed both to prevent illegal entry but also to facilitate legal entry of both people and goods. Borders are part of both countries prosperity well being and we needed to make them both be more effective and more functional.

The final responded was Edward Alden, who talked about metrics for border security are still a key component of measuring progress in the region. "In 1965 the U.S created the architecture of the modern immigration system, in 1986 the Congress tried to solve what was then the growing problem of illegal immigration, this bill is an effort to do both. To rewrite our immigration system for the future, and to estsblish rules for controlling in an ongoing basis illegal immigration.

This is just a snap shot of the many converations that took place at our event please watch the full video presentation here. This is just the latest in a series of events we are putting on ahead of the release of Congressional immigration legislation. Simon delivered his new presentation titled "Immigration Reform: How The Landscape Has Changed" This original work tells how immigration, the safety along the border, and the complex economic relationship between the U.S. and Mexico have improved since 2004. Check out the power point here.

Also be sure to check out this web video presentation which took a deep look at how Mexico is modernizing and growing. NPI Policy Director Kristian Ramos hosted this live web video briefing, “Understanding Modern Mexico,” with former Mexican Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan and noted Mexican economist and author, Jorge Suarez-Velez.  To watch this video briefing please click here.

For background on the event be sure to read Simon’s recent Huffington Post Op-ed, “The Border is Safer, Our Immigration System is Better;” Kristian's just released op-ed "Want To Make The Border Safer? Pass Gun Violence Legislation." see our round-up of our most important work on these issues; and stay in touch with us via our website

Kristian Ramos on Fox News Live Talking Congressional Immigration Action


4/4: On Bloomberg TV, Simon Debates Immigration Reform w/Mark Krikorian


On Thursday, April 4th, Simon debated noted restrictionist Mark Krikorian on in an extended segment on Betty Liu's morning show on Bloomberg TV.  He argued: "the politics of this are not impossible... I'm very optimistic we're going to get something done this year." He then continued to defend the progress on the border, explaining "Crime is way down along the entire US side of the border... There's been tremendous progress made... and to disregard that is just lying," largely crediting the Adminsitration for this success.   It is a spirited segment, well worth a watch.

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.

Daily Border Bulletin: House and Senate Groups Nearing Agreement On Immigration Deal, The Cost of Sealing Our U.S. Border, More

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

Both House and Senate Groups Nearing Agreement On Immigration Deal The bipartisan group of House members that has been meeting quietly for nearly four years to discuss an overhaul of the nation’s immigration system is nearing agreement on a framework, and is briefing their respective leadership this week. On Thursday, the four Democrats in the eight-person group — Representatives Xavier Becerra of California, Luis V. Gutierrez of Illinois, Zoe Lofgren of California and John Yarmuth of Kentucky — briefed Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader. The Republicans of the group — Representatives John Carter and Sam Johnson, both of Texas, Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida and Raúl R. Labrador of Idaho — met with Speaker John A. Boehner on Friday.

The Cost of Sealing Our U.S. Border Last year President Obama spent $11.7 billion on security at the U.S.-Mexico border—more than any of his predecessors, according to the Migration Policy Institute. That big of an investment might make you think illegal immigrants were storming the 2,000-mile stretch of desert that separates Texas and California from Mexico, but in fact, the opposite is true. The net migration between the U.S. and Mexico last year was zero, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. Roughly 150,000 people, both illegal and legal, arrived in the U.S. from Mexico, and about the same number left the U.S. to return home.

The push for high-skilled immigration reform More than 100 chief executives of major tech companies and trade associations — including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer — urged President Obama and Congress on Thursday to reform the existing immigration rules for highly-skilled workers. In a letter sent to the president and lawmakers, the tech heavyweights said the need to hire and retain skilled foreign and domestic workers is one of the top economic challenges facing the country and the existing immigration laws are a hurdle to addressing this issue. They argue that high-skilled immigrants have gone on to create companies like Google, eBay and Yahoo, which have driven job and economic growth in the United States.

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,

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