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


McCain Blames Immigrants For Forest Fires In AZ and Other Stuff You Missed Over The Weekend

Arizona Senator John McCain is at it again, this week blaming undocumented immigrants for wildfires that are raging out of control in Arizona and New Mexico.

Salon has a great piece up already pushing back on the absurdity of the good Senators comments. Essentially his statements are unverifiable and purely conjuncture, as such his press person is already walking Senator McCain's statements.

Apparently it is a bad week for anti-immigrant firebrands, as it now seems that AZ State Senator Russell Pearce will face a recall election. To make matters worse for the beleageured state Senator a prominent Republican in Arizona wrote a full editorial in the Arizona Republic saying that conservatives in the state think that the demagoguery that Pearce practices is hurting the states economy.

As for actual legislative movement the news was dominated by two issues: E-Verify and Secure Communities.

For E-Verify there were a couple of really good editorials written in The Hill. The first by Eliseo Medina of SEIU does an excellent idea of highlighting the very real problems that making the E-Verify program mandatory would cause the economy.  The second written by Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren zeros in on the fact that E-Verify also creates very real job creation problems. 

Finally the reviews are in on the Obama Administrations fixes to the highly controversial Secure Communities program, which allows the government to run citizenship status checks on incarcerated immigrants. Critics of the program charge that among other things that the government is using the program to deport immigrants who have not been charged with any crime.

The reviews of the adminsitrative changes are unsurprisingly mixed.... The New York Times editorial board says, Too Little Too Late, The Los Angeles Times notes that the Administration taking steps to ensure that the program is actually targeting only criminals, and finally the Washington Post zeroes in on the reforms and notes that the new guidelines issued by ICE give greater discretion over which immigrants should be targeted for removal which should in the future stop the deportation of certain groups of immigrants who have not committed felonies.

21st Century Border-Weekly Roundup June 16, 2011

On U.S. immigration policy:

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg had some harsh words to say about current U.S. immigration policy, calling it "national suicide."  He says:

“We will not remain a global superpower if we continue to close our doors to people who want to come here to work hard, start businesses and pursue the American dream,”

An article from Huffington Post here details the reforms that Mayor Bloomberg supports, such as a startup visa provision, a policy that would graduates with advanced degrees in essential fields to obtain green cards, more H1B visas, and immigration reform for agriculture and tourism.  The full text of the speech is here.

It's impossible to talk about immigration issues this past week without mentioning the House Committee on the Judiciary hearing on “E-Verify- Preserving Jobs for American Workers”.  The debate on whether to make it mandatory for all employers, a move that some said would cause about 1 million Americans to lose their jobs and others believe will be a huge step forward in ensuring that job openings only go to legal citizens, was extremely heated.  Video footage of the hearing can be found here.

On the U.S.-Mexico Border:

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce presented a report today outlining recommendations for a 21st century U.S.-Mexico border; namely: focusing on security, facilitating the flow of trade at the border, significantly investing in infrastructure, and pursuing immigration reform.  Some excerpts are below: facilitation and security should be viewed as mutually conducive. No factor is more fundamental to future investment, economic growth and job creation than security and the rule of law.

Immigration reform could help substantially alleviate the strain on our border, while adding to the economic vitality of our country. History shows an increase in the number of legal immigrants and temporary guest workers means a decrease in illegal immigration.

At a time when tempers are already strained over the flow of weapons and drugs across the border comes the new discovery of over 150 tunnels strewn along the U.S.-Mexico border used to smuggle people and drugs into America.  According to the AFP article some had been operating for as long as two decades and were sophisticated enough to even have internal rail and ventilation systems. According to James Dinkens, a US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) official, this discovery is symptomatic of a larger trend:

"Over the past several years, law enforcement has seen a marked increase in the number and sophistication of tunnels," he told a Senate hearing.

California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein is looking to pass legislation that would elevate the offense of illegal tunnel-making to the level of "conspiracy", calling tunnel-making: "a real serious penetration into the US."

According to a new report from the Department of Homeland Security dozens of U.S. Customs agents have been complicit with Mexican drug cartels, receiving gifts of money or sexual favors in exchange for looking the other way as drugs and people entered the country. The CNN video coverage and article can be found here.

And finally, one thing that you may not have thought about illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border: nearly 200lbs of iguana meat.  Not kidding.  The LA Times story is here.

With House GOP Prepping Mandatory E-Verify Legislation Supreme Court Sustains Az. Employer Sanctions Law

As the House preps legislation that would make E-Verify mandatory nationally, the Supreme Court has ruled that Arizona's other immigration legislation which revokes the business licenses of businesses that knowingly hire undocumented immigrants.

After the Supreme court rendered their verdict, Chairmen of the House Judiciary Committee Lamar Smith noted that the House would be moving forward on their own legislation to make E-Verify mandatory:

Smith said he would soon introduce a bill expanding E-Verify and making it mandatory for businesses, many of which have been expecting it this congressional session and have been meeting with Smith and his staff to discuss their concerns. E-Verify will help "turn off the jobs magnet that encourages illegal immigration," Smith said Thursday.

As for the Supreme Court case,  Joan Biskupic of USA TODAY has the full rundown:

By a 5-3 vote, the court rejected arguments from a coalition of business and civil rights groups, including the Chamber of Commerce and ACLU, that the Arizona law conflicts with overriding federal immigration policy and could lead to race discrimination.

This verdict puts a wrinkle in the federal domain argument that the Government has used to fight Arizona's other immigration law SB1070:

key question in challenges to state efforts is whether they are trampling on the domain of the federal government. Congress generally has authority over immigration and for decades has established comprehensive schemes for the admission and treatment of foreigners. In Thursday's case, Chief Justice John Roberts said the 2007 Arizona law penalizing companies that hire illegal immigrants meets a "licensing" exception to the general federal rule dictating that states not set their own civil or criminal penalties in the immigration area.

More on this as it develops.

Contrary To TX Gov Perry's Claims New FBI Data Shows Significant Drop In Crime Along Border

Earlier this week, Texas Governor Rick Perry went on a tour of the border with Greta Van Susteran for her show on Fox News, over the course of the piece Perry made several questionable statments. Chief among those is that  'drug cartels have operational control of a substantial amount' of the border.

Shortly after Congressman Silvestre Reyes released a statement noting that contrary to Governor Perry's statements new FBI data shows violence along the Border is actually down significantly. According to the Congressman's release:

Austin, Texas, where Governor Perry resides in his $10,000-a-month rental mansion at taxpayer expense, reported a 72 percent increase in homicides in 2010.  The city of Austin had more homicides last year than El Paso, Laredo, McAllen, and Brownsville combined.

Congressman Reye's release utilizes FBI Crime Statistics to note that much of the Republican leadership in the House represent districts that have higher rates of murder then cities along the border:


Anti-Immigrant Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Office Accused of Aiding Drug, Human Smuggling Ring

Joe Arpaio, the virulently anti-immigrant sheriff from Maricopa County Arizona has long been under suspicion of corruption by both federal and state governments. Now it turns out that members of his office were actually helping human and drug smugglers in illegal activities in Maricopa country.

JJ Hensley of the Arizona Republic has the full story here:

Three Maricopa County sheriff's employees, including a deputy in the human-smuggling unit, were arrested Tuesday by authorities who say they were involved in a drug- and human-trafficking ring and used Sheriff's Office intelligence to guide smugglers through the Valley.

On top of this reports have been surfacing for some time that the Maricopa Sheriffs office was under investigation for corruption and civil rights violations. Now details of the corruption case are starting to leak into the press and they are not pretty...

JJ Hensley and Yvonne Wingett Sanchez of the Arizona Republic have the full story here:

Time and again, in public statements and in interviews, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has denied knowledge of the corruption and mismanagement within his headquarters. But information in thousands of pages of recently released public records refutes some of Arpaio's claims and, in some instances, places him in the middle of key controversial events.

Essentially these records paint a pretty terrible picture, which puts Sheriff Joe at the center of a very corrupt department. For example:

  • One detective told investigators that Arpaio participated in drafting a search warrant for a failed corruption investigation.
  • The sheriff's former chief financial officer said she warned Arpaio of overtime excesses and other financial problems, as well as former Chief Deputy David Hendershott's "demoralizing" mistreatment of subordinates.
  • Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk recounted to state investigators Arpaio's response in September 2009 when she asked why the Sheriff's Office arrested Maricopa County Supervisor Don Stapley after she had told them the case was not ready to charge. "Arpaio blows up: I had PC (probable cause) to arrest, no one tells me who I can/cannot arrest," Polk said.

These documents clearly show that the Sheriff knew what was occurring in his office, a video report on the human trafficking elements can be seen below:


Rethinking Immigration and Crime: Cities With High Influxes of Immigrants Have Seen A Drop In Crime

A new report shows that cities and neighborhoods where immigrants live actually show a decrease in crime.

Claude Fischer a professor of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, has written a report on crime during recessions. The main crux of what he is arguing is that traditionally during a recession crime goes up yet during this recession crime has actually dropped. One of the reasons why, may surprise you.

Recently, scholars have added yet another explanation: Immigration – although not in the way that some people might expect. Cities and neighborhoods that have received the largest influx of immigrants (including Mexican immigrants) have had – despite popular stereotypes to the contrary – the largest drops in criminal violence. (See, for example here and here. Thus, increased immigration may explain part of the crime drop since 1990.

The other reports mentioned are ones from Robert J. Sampson chair of the Sociology Department of Harvard, that document is entitled Rethinking Crime and Immigration, he advances the idea that Hispanic American's as a whole do better on a wide range of social indicators:

Consider first the “Latino Paradox.” Hispanic Americans do better on a wide range of social indicators—including propensity to violence—than one would expect given their socioeconomic disadvantages. To assess this paradox in more depth, my colleagues and I examined violent acts committed by nearly 3,000 males and females in Chicago ranging in age from 8 to 25 between 1995 and 2003. The study selected whites, blacks, and Hispanics (primarily Mexican-Americans) from 180 neighborhoods ranging from highly segregated to very integrated. We also analyzed data from police records, the U.S. Census, and a separate survey of more than 8,000 Chicago residents who were asked about the characteristics of their neighborhoods.

Within his study he actually found a drop in violence in areas with a high population of Hispanics:

Notably, we found a significantly lower rate of violence among Mexican-Americans compared to blacks and whites. A major reason is that more than a quarter of those of Mexican descent were born abroad and more than half lived in neighborhoods where the majority of residents were also Mexican. In particular, first-generation immigrants (those born outside the United States) were 45 percent less likely to commit violence than third-generation Americans, adjusting for individual, family, and neighborhood background. Second-generation immigrants were 22 percent less likely to commit violence than the third generation.

Certainly these studies are not conclusive but these new studies do point to a new way of viewing immigration and crime, which hopefully can begin a  new dialogue which can begin to end so much of the negative perception on immigrants.

Businesses Along The Border: Valuing The Economic Importance Of Proximity To Mexico

Speaker of the House John Boehner, and many who oppose engaging on Immigration Reform in Congress, have said that they cannot move forward on the issue until the violence on the border is secured. As we have since learned, border communities in places like El Paso are actually much safer then the speakers own home state of Ohio.

What has been missing from the current debate over the Border, has been the very real economic benefits that come from being next door to our 2nd largest trading partner. Richard Dayoub, of the El Paso Chamber of Commerce, does an excellent job of outlining the important economic benefits that Mexico provides to his city:

Money from Mexican nationals has also had real effects on the value of the retail market in El Paso. Some studies estimate that the percentage retail value of Mexican nationals' purchasing power in El Paso is 18 to 22 percent of the total market. Our proximity to Mexico has also created huge trade dividends nationally. Last year, alone, more than $71 billion in trade passed through El Paso. Texas is the largest trade partner with Mexico, but it is not just states along the border that benefit.

Dayoub also notes that Mexico was the United States largest trading partner for five of the U.S. States last year:

Mexico was the top trading partner for five of the 50 U.S. states last year -- Texas, California, Arizona, New Mexico and New Hampshire. Mexico ranked as the No. 2 trading partner for 17 states and No. 3 for six. Thirty-seven of the states have experienced growth in exports to Mexico over the last five years, 28 of which realized growth of at least 25 percent. Fourteen additional states experienced more than 50-percent growth in exports to Mexico during this period.

What's more trade with Mexico has proven to be a job grower for individual states in America:

Another example of the importance of our trade relations with Mexico is job creation. It is estimated that 11,500 jobs in North Carolina and 13,000 jobs in Pennsylvania are directly attributed to trade with Mexico. Mexico ranks No. 3 in total trade with the United States behind Canada and China. Our proximity to Mexico has created enormous economic benefits for El Paso, the state and the national economy. The single most important thing that the president said in his remarks is that we can no longer afford to not fix our immigration policies.

What all of this important economic data underscores is the fact that the border is safe. It is difficult to advance the notion that the border is a war zone, or intrinsically dangerous place when there is in fact billions of dollars of goods moved thru ports of entry daily. The more the economic reality of our ports of entry and the border itself enter into the national debate on immigration, the harder it becomes to advance the notion that the region is out of control.

The full op-ed can be read here.

U.S. to investigate Secure Communities Deportation Program

Secure Communities is a controversial program, which some local law enforcement officials believe is a legitimate way of dealing with criminal undocumented immigrants however, immigration advocates and Congressional Democrats have become increasingly wary of the program as they feel that it may lead to racial profiling.

Recently Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Enforcement  wrote a letter to the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General to request an investigation into the program. Lee Romney of The Los Angeles Times has the full story here:

The Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General plans an investigation of an immigration enforcement program that purports to target "serious convicted felons" for deportation but has ensnared many illegal immigrants who were arrested but not subsequently convicted of crimes or who committed minor offenses, a letter obtained Wednesday shows.

The Inspector Generals Review aims to: "determine the extent to which ICE uses the program to identify and remove dangerous criminal aliens from the United States."  The Program it self seems like a good idea in theory:

Under the program, fingerprints routinely sent by local jails to the FBI for criminal background checks are shared with ICE. Although local law enforcement does not actively participate, the program has turned jails in about 1,200 U.S. counties into immigration screening centers. All 58 California counties are on board, though San Francisco and Santa Clara sought unsuccessfully to opt out.

Proponents are quick to ponit out that the program is showing results:

Proponents, including Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, say the program is successfully targeting serious threats to public safety. According to ICE, about 28,000, or 35%, of the people deported so far had been convicted of felonies including murder and rape. An unknown number who appear in ICE data on the program as "noncriminals" or as having committed only misdemeanors had prior violent felonies here or in their home countries, or were previously deported and returned illegally, they note.

However detractors note that the program does not achieve the goals that it was designed for and is actually being used incorrectly:

But opponents contend that by also sweeping up minor offenders or those never convicted of crimes, the program is dissuading illegal immigrants from cooperating with law enforcement. ICE data show that about half those flagged for deportation since the program began were not convicted after their arrest or were convicted of misdemeanors. Immigrant rights groups also say the program has encouraged racial profiling, an allegation that recently prompted Homeland Security officials to hire an outside statistician to analyze the arrest data.

Arizona: Then And Now Progress Made Along The Southwest Border

NDN has been fortunate to have had conversations with elected officials and local law enforcement leaders in Arizona about the  border, across the board those that we have talked too have said that along the United States Mexico border there has been a marked improvements in security.

Denise Wagner of The Arizona Republic has written a piece that does an excellent job of contextualizing just how much the border has undergone a transformation over the last several years. The full article can be read HERE. The article starts by recounting how the Yuma Sector of the Border has come under control, and the steps that are being taken to achieve similar results in Tucson:

Along a bleak expanse of U.S. border in western Arizona, where the sun beats down mercilessly, Border Patrol agents nowadays spend a lot of time listening to wind blow across the sand dunes.  Once a thoroughfare for hundreds of thousands of illegal border crossers, the Yuma Sector now records barely 7,000 arrests each year. The 126-mile stretch of landscape is the only southwestern border segment listed under "operational control" by the Department of Homeland Security.

Operational Control, is what DHS uses to describe areas: where officials are reasonably ensured of capturing most crossers. Yuma achieved this status by:

  • Engaging in Operation Jump Start. This program employs National Guard troops  to build multilayered fences and vehicle barriers along the entire Mexican line.
  • The Border Patrol tripled its number of agents in the area.
  • Employing Observation posts, equipped with giant spotlights.
  • Engaging in a Justice Department program Operation Streamline which  imposed a new prosecution policy which does not engage in a catch release program but jails all immigrants that are caught

These strategies showed results:

As word spread about the campaign, drug runners and human smugglers abandoned their routes in the Yuma area. The number of illegal immigrants apprehended in the desert plummeted from 138,460 in 2005 to 7,116 last year. "It was chaos," said Rodolfo "Rudy" Karisch, acting chief agent of the Border Patrol's Yuma Sector. "Now, we've been able to manage it. . . . The border can be controlled if you apply the right resources."

While critics of the Administrations strategy are quick to point out that what worked in Yuma may not work in Tucson, where seizures of drugs have reached high levels, However the Border patrol is putting similar resources to work in Tucson.

A helicopter rises above Tucson, quickly leaving cityscape behind for barren desert.On board are Bersin and two other Department of Homeland Security officials most responsible for securing the border with Mexico: Mike Fisher, chief of the U.S. Border Patrol, and Randy Hill, head of the Border Patrol's Tucson Sector. The administrators note that criminals who operated in Yuma for decades now run their smuggling operations across the rugged terrain below, competing for routes. Although tactics used in Operation Jump Start are being employed in the Tucson Sector, they say, this is a different environment: The region is tangled with mountain ranges - the Chiricahuas, Huachucas, Patagonias and Baboquivaris - that provide forest cover with few roads and limited radio access. Even at lower elevations, the desert here is often thick with foliage and marked by arroyos.

While it would be impossible to know exactly how the situation will improve, CBP Commissioner Alan Bersin is confident that the "trends are right" for a marked improvement in the future:

Aboard the CBP helicopter, Bersin talks about progress in the Tucson Sector: A decade ago, 616,000 undocumented immigrants were captured. Last year, even with far more manpower and technology, there were 212,000 apprehensions. Bersin says, the numbers show illegal traffic is subsiding; smugglers are being forced into the wilds. "It's not inconsistent to say the border is safer and more secure than it's ever been and to say there's more to be done," he adds. As the helicopter lands at the Border Patrol station in Ajo, Bersin is asked when the government will gain "effective control" of the entire Arizona line. He hesitates. "I wouldn't tell you it will be a year from now or three years from now, but it could happen faster than you think," he says. "The trends are right."

NDN In The News: What’s At Stake With Mexico And How It Affects Our Immigration Policy

NDN has been at the forefront of examining how the U.S. Mexico Border is undergoing a profound change due to the unprecedented resources being provided by the Obama Administration. We have also been making the argument that securing the border should not be used as a reason not to move forward on comprehensive immigration reform.

Juliette Kayyem has written a compelling editorial in the Boston Globe, that provides further context to how the border has changed in recent years, the full story is here:

IN HIS address last week in El Paso, President Obama made a new push for immigration reform. Just a few feet away, the Mexican flag waved from that country’s side of the border. There were no decapitated bodies, lootings, or shootings during Obama’s speech. That may seem surprising, as fears of spillover violence from Mexico have captivated our national imagination. We tend to view Mexico through the lens of a border war. Such a focus overemphasizes the threat the United States faces at the border, and underestimates the challenges Mexico is facing internally. We blame Mexico for almost nonexistent violence here, and take no responsibility for how our conduct helps fuel violence over there.

The editorial also does a great job in showing just how much of what occurs on the Border has been politicized:

House Speaker John Boehner paints a picture of utter chaos when arguing that “our first priority must be ending the violence at the border — we really can’t deal with other issues until it is secure.” If that’s the standard, it has been met. Let’s consider, just for the fun of it, Boehner’s great state of Ohio. The six largest cities in Ohio all have higher rates of violence and crime than every major American city along the Mexican border. In fact, the speaker’s own district in Dayton saw more homicides in 2010 than Texas’s four largest border cities combined; Dayton’s population is only about one-tenth of the size.

Simon does an excellent job of contextualizing just how much progress has been on our southern border:

The reality is a dynamic border, better managed and protected due to investments in technology and increased manpower by the last two US administrations and the Mexican government. It is where legal trade flourishes, people and goods cross without incident, and where local economies grow. Daily, nearly a million people cross the border lawfully at 54 different checkpoints over 2,000 miles.

"We now let more of the things we want through: legal goods and people — and fewer of the things we don’t: smuggled migrants, drugs, bulk cash, guns,’’ said Simon Rosenberg of the think tank NDN, which works on border issues.

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