immigration

Some Thoughts About The Caravan

This essay was originally published on the website Medium.

Looking back, everyone involved in this Caravan story has to wonder how it led to the President declaring a national security emergency. It is about 7,000 poor, unarmed, mostly Honduran Central Americans desperately attempting to escape worsening economic and political conditions. It includes about 2,000 kids. As of today, October 23rd, the caravan is about 1,000 miles away from the closest part of the US, and at current rates will make it to the US border in early to mid-December. That is if somehow they can keep themselves fed, clothed, housed, and safe during this grueling trek north. No one is funding this journey, and recent news reports suggest many are tired and close to giving up. But what keeps them going of course is that in their minds they can’t go home, and have nowhere else to go.

A terrific Daily Beast story today details how this all started. Desperate conditions at home, and mistaken news reports that there was funding to send a caravan north. It would allow people to avoid paying $7,000 for a coyote, and there would be physical safety in numbers. Perhaps we will learn that some more nefarious plot was behind this unusual event but as someone who has studied these matters for a long time, this is all very believable. So today what has been described as a dangerous mob in right-wing media here in the US may very soon become a tragic humanitarian disaster as they run out of food and shelter far away from home.

What has been most extraordinary about this unfolding tragedy is the reaction of the President of the United States. Egged on by hysterical right-wing media, the President himself became hysterical and declared this far-away march of some of the hemisphere’s poorest people a national security emergency for the United States of America. To make it all the more threatening, the President claimed, without evidence, that terrorists and violent gang members had joined the caravan and were intending to use it to sneak into the United States (today he admitted he made up the Middle Easterner thing). The President threatened to cut off aid to the countries of the region if this Caravan kept going. The aid he was referring to largely goes to prevent further erosion of regional security so the President was essentially threatening to force the region into even greater chaos and weakening our own security along the way. Remarkably the Secretary of State and the Vice President echoed these claims in the last 24 hours. And there we had it — the most powerful nation in the world, the winners of World Wars and Cold Wars, was now officially terrified and mobilizing its military, financial, diplomatic, and homeland security resources to repel an “invasion” of a few thousand ragged, unarmed Central Americans far away from the US homeland and weeks away from arriving at the border itself. It has felt far more Monty Python than John Wayne.

Flows of authorized immigrants into US fraction of what it was — system has capacity to manage surges

For context, it has to be noted that the flow of unauthorized immigrants into the United States is a fraction of what it was 10–15 years ago, and even this year’s flow has been within recent norms. The President had already declared a national emergency earlier this year and added National Guard troops and military judges to the border region to help provide additional capacity to manage what was in fact a small and not historically significant increase in border arrivals. So the boy had cried wolf once, and when the flow didn’t decrease, the Administration moved on to its infamous “zero tolerance,” kids in cages strategy; a strategy voided by federal courts a few months ago. Not a whole lot of winning for the President on his immigration strategy these last two years.

2018 inline with previous years — not a crisis

So while this whole Caravan thing both feels and is absurd, it is now part of the political discourse in these closing days of the 2018 elections and Democrats need to make clear where they stand. As an old Clinton War Room guy I firmly believe that any attack must be challenged or it sticks. Democrats are being attacked daily by the President for something they have not done, and need to challenge both the President’s inaccurate story about immigration and its impact on America, and the President’s misguided policies to address an “immigration crisis” which never existed. So, in short, I think Democratic leaders should do three things:

Address Worsening Conditions in Central America — Democrats should make clear they know that the worsening economic and security situation in Central America is a problem which needs to be addressed by the next Congress. Unauthorized flows like the Caravan are wrong, and we need to find a way to keep people at home and to honor the legal immigration system in place today. Whatever plan we come up with will have be developed with our Southern neighbors and both parties and chambers in Congress. It will take work over many months to do something lasting and effective. Fox fueled fiats from an ill-informed President are making finding lasting solutions far harder, not easier.

Put Comprehensive Immigration Reform back on the table — Democrats should reaffirm their commitment to the bi-partisan and thoughtful McCain/Kennedy, Gang of 8 framework and offer to enter into talks with the President and the Republicans about a bi-partisan reform package. They should be open to reducing the # of green cards issued for a time if we can legalize millions of undocumented immigrants already living and working here.

Offer Ideas for Smart, Effective and Humane Reform Of Our Immigration Enforcement System — At a rhetorical and policy level, Democrats have to be more forceful in talking about how to make border and immigration enforcement better, more effective, and more humane. In our book President Obama did a far better job at managing our border and domestic enforcement system than many have given him credit for. DHS and ICE can certainly be improved, but talks of abolishing it are silly and should be rejected by responsible leaders in the days ahead. Creating a path for legalization — and I hope citizenship — for the 11m already here require a big rethink of our entire enforcement system.

So even if the Caravan disperses in the coming days, and this “urgent threat” is removed from the political debate, the underlying issues raised by the Caravan remain. The immigration status quo is unacceptable, and has been for a long time. Democrats have been trying to improve and modernize our approach to immigration, and address many of the problems that have surfaced here, for 13 years. We passed smart bi-partisan bills through the Senate twice, only to have them blocked each time by a reactionary Republican House leadership. If the Democrats control the House next year we will have the opportunity to do something truly meaningful on immigration; something which can grow our economy, cut a spiraling deficit, and humanely resolve one of the most contentious political issues in the nation today. The President sure does seem to want to do something — let’s challenge him to use his vaunted deal making skills and do right by the American people and our close neighbors to the South. It is time now.

Trump is right to be worried about Arizona (and Texas too)

When Donald Trump returns to Arizona tomorrow, he is returning to a state that is now among the most important Presidential battlegrounds in the country.

Though it was not heavily contested by the Clinton and Trump campaigns in 2016, a combination of Trump’s structural weaknesses with Hispanic and Millennial voters and the growing share of the vote in Arizona of both these groups have made this state far more competitive than it has been in the past. Some background, and data:

Arizona now a large, core Presidential battleground state. Of the 15 expanded 2016 battleground states (AZ, CO, FL, GA, IA, ME, MI, MN, NC, NH, NV, OH, PA, VA, WI), Arizona was Clinton’s 11th best (losing by a margin 3.5% points). Clinton performed worse in NC (3.7), GA (5.2), OH (8.4) and IA (9.1). Arizona has more Electoral College votes (11) than 6 of these battlegrounds – WI (10), CO (9), IA (6), NV (6), ME (4), NH (4) – and almost as many as VA (13) and NC (15).

Arizona is trending Democratic. In an election that swung 1.8 % points from 2012 towards Trump, the GOP margin slipped in AZ from 9.1% points in 2012 to just 3.5 in 2016. This 5.5 point shift was the 3rd largest shift towards the Democrats of any medium to large state in 2016, only outpaced by CA (7.0) and TX (6.8). According to the 2016 exit polls, 18-29 year olds went 53-35 for Clinton and 18-44 overall went 49-39. Non-white voters, making up a quarter of the electorate, and growing rapidly, went 61-31 for Clinton. This number could clearly get much worse for Trump and Rs given Trump’s embrace of a politics seen as anti-immigrant and anti-Latino.

Arizona a sign of continued Democratic gains in the “Latin Belt.” While much attention has been given in recent months to the Rust Belt, it is important to also pay attention to what I call the “Latin Belt” – AZ, CA, CO, FL, NM, NV and TX – states with large, growing Hispanic/Latino populations. The slow migration of these states from Nixon/Reagan Sunbelt Republican states to more competitive and even now Democratic states have been one of the most important demographic stories in American politics in recent years. This region includes the 3 biggest states in the country and has 29% (153) of all the nation’s Electoral College votes. According to 538, it will add another 7 Electoral Votes in 2024 due to reapportionment.

As recently as 1984, all of these states voted Republican. All but California voted Republican in 1988. Florida remains a contested battleground. New Mexico has moved solidly into the Democratic column. Colorado (4.9) and Nevada (2.4) gave Clinton two of her four biggest margins of victory in the battleground. The remaining two – AZ and TX – moved dramatically towards Democrats in 2016.

As I wrote prior to the election, it is possible that Texas joins Arizona as a new Presidential battleground in 2020. Texas has among the highest Millennial and Hispanic share of population of any state in the US, comparable to the shares of each of these fast growing and Democratic-leaning groups in true blue California. Trump did very poorly with both of these groups in 2016 – losing 18-29s 55-36, 18-44s 49-43 and Hispanics 61-34. In a recent Texas Tribune/UTexas poll Trump’s job approval was 43-51, one of the most dramatic drops of approval he has seen in any state (TT/UT poll has similar findings as the Gallup poll referenced here).

While Trump should be comforted that he won Texas by 9 points in 2016, if Texas sees a shift in 2020 comparable to its 2016 shift of 7 points Texas could indeed join Arizona as a new Presidential battleground.

Trump’s Presidency Has Been Hostile To The Southwest/Border Region In Ways Which Are Already Causing Him Problems – While focused like a laser beam on the industrial north, Trump’s Presidency has been hostile to much of the Latin Belt, the southwestern/border region in particular. The demonization of Mexico, the border wall, the renegotiation of NAFTA, the anti-Hispanic/anti-immigrant /intolerant stances are controversial and difficult positions for him in a region of the country with many recent immigrants and which has deep cultural and economic ties with Mexico.  According to the exit polls, 2016 Presidential voters in Arizona choose legal status over deportation by 76-18 (higher than the nation), and opposed a border wall 51-45.  A new poll just released in Arizona has Trump at a dangerously low 42-55 approval, and a clear majority opposing a possible Arpaio pardon. 

I warned the White House about misunderstanding these politics in a recent US News column, "Steve Bannon Meet Russell Pearce." 

It should be instructive that among the most important opposition to Trump in both parties is coming from this region of the country. Senators Flake and McCain have become perhaps Trump’s most important GOP opponents in the US Senate, and Gov. Jerry Brown, Sen. Kamala Harris and Rep. Ruben Gallego have become nationally recognized leaders of the Democratic opposition.

Whatever Trump does in Arizona tomorrow – pardon Arpaio, endorse Flake’s GOP primary challenger – he returns to a core 2020 battleground state that appears to be slipping away from him and more broadly, the Republican Party. He is right to be concerned.  Whether what he does tomorrow in Arizona helps or hurts him remains to be seen.

Note: Earlier this year Simon did a longish interview with Phoenix's KJZZ 91.5 on Trump, Arizona and immigration.    

Backgrounder: Trump and Immigration

Donald Trump and immigration are back in the news. We’ve assembled our most recent and most relevant work to help shine a light on a dark chapter.

NDN Materials

New immigration policies hurting tourism, disrupting US companies, breaking up families, Simon Rosenberg, Twitter Thread, 3/5/17. With the return of of the travel ban, Simon reminds us that WH's new immigration policies already hurting tourism, disrupting US companies, and breaking up families.

The 'Shackles' Are Off, Simon Rosenberg, US News & World Report, 3/3/17. Simon considers the dangers of Trump's new immigration policies for all Americans not just immigrants.

Steve Bannon, Meet Russell Pearce, Simon Rosenberg, US News & World Report, 2/21/17. Simon examines why potential blowback from Trump's immigration plan should worry Steve Bannon.

Trump's New Immigration Line is Consistent - Not Inconsistent - With His Arizona Speech, Simon Rosenberg, NDN.org, 9/2/16. Trump made it clear: supersized deportation force, national round 'em raids, everyone leaves, no legalization ever. No way to wiggle out of that.

Key passages from Trump Immigration Speech, Chris Murphy, NDN.org, 9/2/16. Several passages from Trump's speech are critical to understanding what Trump actually means and has proposed as future US immigration policy. We have compiled the passages we believe demand closer scrutiny. 

Trump's Mass Deportation Strategy Explained, Simon Rosenberg, NDN.org, 9/1/16. While there has been a great deal of confusion around Trump’s immigration wiggle and concepts like "mass deportation" in the past few weeks, his strategy towards the 11m and others here without authorization is very clear.

All They Have Is Fear Itself, Simon Rosenberg, NDN.org, 11/23/15. The one upsmanship for who could be harder on Muslims we saw among Republican President candidates this past week was a powerful reminder that the GOP has long ceased being a “conservative” party and has descended into a far more pernicious “reactionary” period.

On Immigration Enforcement, The GOP's Decade of Blocking Sensible Reform, Simon Rosenberg, NDN.org, 7/21/15. During the summer of 2015 we saw a breathtaking level of cynicism from the national Republican Party on the issue of immigration enforcement.

The state of immigration, Simon Rosenberg, MSNBC, 1/19/15. While the GOP’s latest rejection of immigration reform has dominated the headlines in recent weeks, the reality is that the United States is already undergoing a major societal shift as a result of significant Hispanic migration.

Questions About Melania's Immigration Path

4 Questions About Melania's Immigration Path That Still Need Answers, Simon Rosenberg, NDN.org, 8/10/16. Weeks after the Melania Trump immigration story broke, 4 key questions we still need answered.

Video of Trump Promising Presser, Saying It Is "So Documented"

NDN in the Press

"Melania Turmp, through a lawyer, details immigration history," Ben Schreckinger and Gabriel Debenedetti, Politico, 9/14/16.

"Trump returns to his old standbys: Xenophobia, hate, lies, and yes, mass deportations," Greg Sargent, The Washington Post, 9/1/16.

"TRUMP doubles down -- 'Angry reincarnation of Pete Wilson' -- DIAPER vouchers and cap-and-trade bills," Carla Marinucci and Andrew Weber, Politico, 9/1/16.

"After Mexico trip, Trump delivers tough talk on immigration," John Wildermuth, San Francisco Chronicle, 8/31/16.

"Stop getting played by Trump's scam job on immigration," Greg Sargent, The Washington Post, 8/30/16.

Simon's interview on AM Joy, Joy Reid, MSNBC, 8/27/16 (Video)

"Trump's new ad indavertently reveals the core absurdity of his whole campaign," Greg Sargent, The Washington Post, 8/19/16.

Simon's Interviews

Some Getting Sense of Deja Vu With Trump's Policies, SB 1070, Mark Brodie, The Show, KJZZ 91.5 FM, 2/24/17.

Imagen News, Ana Maria Salazar, Imagen Radio, 2/21/17.

Steve Bannon, Meet Russell Pearce

US News and World Report has published Simon's fourteenth column, "Steve Bannon, Meet Russell Pearce," in his weekly Op-Ed series that will now appear every Tuesday.

This piece was the focus of a recent interview Simon did with KJZZ 91.5, the public radio station in Phoneix, AZ.

Be sure to also read his recent column, "Has Donald Trump Already Abandoned the Fight Against the Islamic State?"

An Excerpt from "Steve Bannon, Meet Russell Pearce"

As the White House returns this week to immigration and travel bans, it would be wise for them to do a deep dive on the story of former Arizona State Sen. Russell Pearce. Pearce was the legislative leader of Arizona's virulent anti-immigrant wave of a few years ago, culminating in his passing of the famous "papers please" SB1070 bill that became a model for states across the country. Pearce rode these politics hard, using it to become in 2011 the Arizona Senate president, the most powerful legislative position in Arizona.

The core of Pearce's strategy, aided by many of the same people advising Donald Trump, was to create a climate so harsh for undocumented immigrants that they would "self-deport." The anti-immigrant "restrictionists" behind this approach had moved on from seeking direct deportation of all 11 million undocumented immigrants, pragmatically realizing that the cost of direct deportation and the tolerance of Americans for what would be years of raids and broken families made deportation politically impossible. Arizona was the testing ground for this new, refined self-deportation strategy, one that at its core required the terrorizing of immigrant communities to be successful. The more fear, the faster the folks would go and the cheaper and more politically palatable this would all be. Fear, lots of fear, was (and remains) critical for self-deportation to work.

To continue reading, please refer to the US News link. You can Simon's previous US News columns here.

Column: "The End of Pax Americana?"

US News and World Report has published Simon's eleventh column, "The End of Pax Americana," in his weekly Op-Ed series that will every Thursday or Friday.

Be sure to also read his column, "Chin up, Democrats," in which Simon argues that Democrats should have pride in their historic accomplishments and optimism about the future of their politics.
 
An Excerpt from "The End of Pax Americana"
 
In just his first week in office, Donald Trump has made moves that could set the nation back generations. He is trying to dismantle the global order that American built and led after World War II, which ushered in a relative Golden Age for Americans and the people of the world. For reasons that are still unclear, Trump seems intent on tearing down this successful global system without offering any kind of vision of what will replace it. Given that this system was erected as a way of preventing the developed world from slipping back into a frenzy of nationalism and protectionism that in the 1930s and '40s brought global economic collapse, mass unemployment and a World War that left tens of millions dead, this is no small matter.
 
Let's look at what Trump has said and done over the past few weeks. He unilaterally walked away from the Trans Pacific Partnership, a liberalizing trade pack with countries representing 40 percent of the global economy that would have not only extended the global system to more countries but modernized it for the Internet Age. He has called for the renegotiation of the core economic relationship with two of our three largest trading partners, Mexico and Canada, and already threatened to unilaterally leave what we call the North American Free Trade Agreement. The New York Times reports today that an executive order is coming that will dramatically cut back American support and involvement in multi-lateral institutions like the United Nations. Imposing unilateral tariffs and border taxes as Trump has threatened would begin to unravel the global trade regime that has been in place since the 1940s. He has called NATO obsolete, and has cheered on Brexit and encouraged other countries to leave the EU. On Wednesday he announced a series of highly xenophobic steps including the building of his famous wall with Mexico.
 
Taken together Trump is signaling a retreat to the very kind of politics – nationalism, protectionism, racism and xenophobia – that brought about actual carnage in much of the developed world a few generations ago.

To continue reading, please refer to the US News link. You can Simon's previous US News columns here.

AP Story Confirms Melania Lied, Broke Immigration Laws

This post was updated on August 31, 2017.   It must be noted that all President Trump has needed to do to put this story to bed was to release the documents in question - work visas, green card, and the applications for both.  They are sitting inside DHS/DOL and could be released within a coule of days.  Trump originally committed to hold a press conference "in a couple of weeks" to address the issue on August 9th, 2016.  The refusal to release them for more than a year now certainly suggests there are problems.  For a more detailed set of questions about Melania's path be sure to check out this analysis.

The new AP story about Melania Trump's early days in the US proves she and her husband have been lying for years – on camera, in writing – about her immigration path into the United States.  The key passage from the AP piece: 

"The documents obtained by the AP show she was paid for 10 modeling assignments between Sept. 10 and Oct. 15, during a time when her visa allowed her generally to be in the U.S. and look for work but not perform paid work in the country. The documents examined by the AP indicate that the modeling assignments would have been outside the bounds of her visa."

Which means of course that the story she has been telling for years is a fable, an imaginary tale as false as the words she spoke at the Republican Convention. 

For those interested in pursuing this story further several questions remain:

Work Visas – Trumpworld has never produced any documents or proven Melania ever had a work visa prior to her getting her green card in 2001.  Her on camera descriptions of her returning to her home country to "get her visa stamped" every few months (here is an example from Morning Joe) does not describe any work visa offered by the US government.  It suggests she was working in the US on a tourist visa - a common thing for many models to this day, but not legal.  If Melania lied about her early, messy path into the US on her green card and citizenship applications she almost certainly committed felony level crimes and gamed the US immigration system to become first a legal resident then a citizen. 

This Washington Post piece does a very good job at explaining why Melania's story about her early work in the US is hard to believe.

Green Card – Questions remain about how Melania recieved her green card.  A Trump family lawyer said in an on camera interview with Univision that she received her green card through marriage.  In the recent letter from her lawyer – which this new AP story now confirms was full of falsehoods – Melania claims, for the first time ever, to have received an “extraordinary ability” green card.  Few experts believe this is possible given that she was never a terribly successful model.   It remains my opinion that until we see her actual green card and application – we should assume she received her green card through marriage.   It is the only option that makes sense as her own lawyers eliminated the other likely possibility - that she received it through employer sponsorship.

And imagine that Donald Trump's wife received a green card usually reserved for Nobel Laureates and he never once has bragged about it in public, nor did she ever mention it in an interview or include it in her bio.  Perhaps the Turmps mentioned it at some point but there is no evidenc of this in any of the research we and others have done. 

Lying – Remember that the questions about Melania's immigration path began when the Trump campaign admitted that she had lied for years about having a dual degree from a college in her home country.  Turns outs she completed less than a year of college.  The embellishment was significant - not only did she go to college but had 2 degrees! -  and the lie was maintained for years.  It suggests of course that this embellishment/lie was critical to her getting either her work visas or green card, and thus the fiction had to be maintained long past when it was necessary. 

As we discussed earlier, all of this matters for lying about her degree or her early work history on her work visa, green card and citizenship applications is immigration fraud, a felony level crime. If was wasn't the First Lady, and DHS fully investigated and prosecuted the case the penalties could include the stripping of her citizenship.  The AP story also raises new questions about whether Mrs. Trump also committed tax fraud, a new area requiring exploration in coming days.  

It should be noted that being in the United States without authorization – undocumented/illegal – is not a federal crime in the United States.  So this means that what Melania likely did was far worse in the eyes of the law than anything a run of the mill undocumented immigrant has done.   It is as if there is one set of rules for the Trumps, and one for everyone else. 

The Bottom Line – For months the story that has been told about Melania’s path into the United States never really added up.  We also now know that the letter her lawyer produced to try to put this thing to bed, which seemed far-fetched and almost ridiculous at the time, cannot any longer be taken seriously.   Melania Trump broke American immigration laws.   She worked illegally in the United States.  She has lied about it for years, as has her husband.  And until she produces her works visas and green card, and their applications, we should assume she has also committed serious felony level crimes against the United States.    

An additional must read is Julie Ioffe's remarkable GQ article on Melania and her early path.  The compelling piece generated venemous anti-Semitic attacks against Ioffe, which Mrs.Trump praised.

Also be sure to review this powerful Mother Jones piece on Trump's modeling agency exploition of its young models.

CA State Senator Nancy Skinner has demanded Pres Trump release Melania's immigration file.  We at NDN humbly call on others to join her. 

Release: Rosenberg Statement on Trump Immigration Letter - "It Resolves Nothing"

Simon Rosenberg's statement on Melania Trump's immigration letter:

“Without producing the actual visas or green card application this letter resolves nothing. If they have all the documents, then release them. It is the only way we can answer the fundamental question here which is whether Melania Trump followed immigration law. Failure to release them suggests that they are indeed hiding something, or the narrative they spelled out today is false. It also would have been far easier and quicker to release the actual documents then to have created an outside review. This letter is another case of “believe me” - which is clearly insufficient given that we are talking about possible criminal behavior by the potential First Lady of the United States.

There are additional problems with the letter:

Extraordinary Ability - The claim to have gotten an “extraordinary ability” green card seems improbable given this particular green card's requirements. They are intended for Nobel Laureates or others whose achievements are widely recognized as extraordinary in their field, not middling models. And the most important question remains unanswered by the letter– if she claimed to have a double degree from a university in her green card application she committed fraud, a crime against the United States Government which would put her entire green card/citizenship path becomes in doubt.

It should be noted that the lawyer who produced the letter today is also the one who said on the record in a recorded interview she received her green card through marriage. So one assumes he has recanted his previous public statement about her immigration path into the US.

Questions about the H1B - The reporting by Julia Ioffe and others that she had no regular employer and infrequent work in the late 1990s is again inconsistent with her having been granted a series of H1B visas, or suggests that there were misrepresentations and/or fraud in her applications. It is also not traditionally necessary to return to the home country to renew an H1B, once again calling into question her own recollection of how she lived and worked in the US in the late 1990s.

Finally, the claim that she was never in the US until Aug 1996 has obviously been contradicted by several different eyewitnesses and news accounts.

So, where are we? The letter was well executed and smart. But it resolves nothing. The only way to clear up the question of whether Melania Trump followed immigration law is by releasing her work visas, green card application and green card. Her refusal to do this implies guilt, and this whole episode should be treated as seriously as the Donald Trump’s coming appearance with Dr. Oz."

Additional Resources: Be sure to review Simon's tweets on the topic: here, here, and here as well as his piece, "4 Questions About Melania's Immigration Path Which Still Need Answers".

On Trump, Immigration and Deporting Criminals First

“Monday Musings” is a new column looking at the 2016 elections published most Mondays. You can find previous editions here.

In recent days, some Trump supporters have indicated that the reported evolution in Trump’s thinking on immigration will focus on ways to ensure that unauthorized immigrations with criminal records become a more significant priority for deportation. Last night on the O’Reilly Factor, Trump confirmed that he is indeed attempting to land in some new place on immigration, though where exactly still remains to be seen.

For those reporting/commenting on this evolving issue in the days ahead it is important to keep a few things in mind:

Deporting Criminals First Has Been USG Policy Since 2011 – In the aftermath of the GOP’s blocking of immigration reform in 2010, the Administration took significant steps to prioritize its immigration enforcement efforts in two areas – border deterrence and those with criminal records in the US. The vast majority of those deported from the US in the years since have fallen into those two categories. If this indeed is the direction Trump is going in, he will be endorsing existing long standing Obama Administration immigration and border enforcement strategies. You can find out more about these changes in US policy in this long brief I did last summer.

This new and smarter policy direction has been successful – flow of undocumented immigrants into the country have plummeted; the number of undocumented immigrants in the country today is less than when President Obama took office; it allows limited federal, state and local law enforcement to focus on more serious criminals both undocumented and those legally here in the US; and those undocumented immigrants without criminal records have far less to fear from the US government and can keep working and contributing to the economy.

It is important to note that since the implementation of this new strategy in 2011, Hispanics in the US have made very dramatic economic gains.

Given the success of this new policy in recent years, it would be wise for candidate Trump to embrace it. But as Greg Sargent reports this morning, his apparent embrace of this approach is in direct conflict with the television ad he is currently running, and more than a year of statements he has made about “open borders” and our ineffective border and immigration enforcement system.

In his new piece, Sargent also reminds us that last night Trump only seemed to endorse Obama’s immigration enforcement priorities. No mention of what to do with the millions of unauthorized immigrants who remain.

House GOP on Record Opposing Deporting Criminals First – In 2013 and again in 2014, the House GOP, led by restrictionist Rep. Steve King, voted to prevent the Administration from using its power of “prosecutorial discretion” to prioritize the removal serious criminals and recent border crossers over those without criminal records. This means that if Trump heads in the direction already embraced by the Obama Administration, he will be breaking from the restrictionist wing of his own Party, and his allies in the Paul Ryan led House. Politically, this is no small matter.

So, yes, lot's still to be learned about Trump’s ugly damned if I do, damned if I don’t dance on immigration.

One of those felons to be deported first might be Mrs. Trump – Last night it was reported that Trumpworld has threatened to sue Politico for their reporting on Mrs. Trump problematic immigration story. Weeks after this story first broke, this threatened law suit appears to be the first official response by the Trump campaign to the growing body of evidence that Melania Trump violated immigration laws. It is not exactly the response many of us were led to believe would be coming from Trumpworld on this important matter.

To be clear – the reporting by Politico, the Washington Post, Univision, Bloomberg and others suggest that Mrs. Trump committed a series of grave immigration crimes that could easily rise to the level of a felony, and even trigger a process that could strip her of her citizenship. Just yesterday Vanity Fair reported that Mrs. Trump committed perjury in a 2013 court case where she repeated some of these same fabrications about her past.

I review the seriousness of what has been reported about Mrs. Trump in this recent post, and once again call upon Trumpworld to immediately release all of Mrs. Trump’s work visas she acquired prior to 2011 and her green card and green card application. The only way for us to know whether Melania Trump followed immigration law is by the release of these and other immigration documents.

Mondays Musings: All They Have Is Fear Itself

In a time of challenge, the GOP panics - The one upsmanship for who could be harder on Muslims we saw among Republican President candidates this past week was a powerful reminder that the GOP has long ceased being a “conservative” party and has descended into a far more pernicious “reactionary” period. This is a subject I have discussed at length over the years, including in this long form magazine piece and in this recent piece about how fear will drive the Republicans this election cycle. The fear of modernity that is driving the reactionary right these days is perhaps the most significant force in American politics today, one that is crying out for an equally muscular and modern liberalism to challenge it head on.

Another example of this kneejerky fear of others and foreign threats was the House GOP’s terribly disappointing reaction to the Paris attacks. Of all the things the House GOP could have done last week, the Ryan-led House rushed out a bill – with no hearings and overriding their own internal rules about time needed to consider legislation – making it far tougher for the US to admit Syrian refugees. Regardless of the merits of the bill, the haste in which it was rushed out made it appear to be designed more to undermine and embarrass the President in the middle of an important foreign trip than to develop a more effective, bi-partisan response to the growing threat of the Islamic State. Paul Ryan’s choice was craven, nasty politics in its purest form in a time of challenge, the very opposite of patriotism.

Contrast this not ready for prime time behavior with that of the Democrats: the President continued his important trip to Asia, selling among other things his newly negotiated Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement; and Hillary Clinton gave a thoughtful and mature speech about defeating the Islamic State. Senate Democrats also made a valuable contribution to this nascent debate, countering Ryan’s refugee with a proposal to close the NRA supported loophole that allows those on the terror watch list to legally buy guns in the US (something we think has happened several thousand times, and yes this is a real debate).

There can be no doubt that the nation needs to both develop a better response to the Islamic State and have a respectful, public debate about it. Given how the two parties responded last week to Paris, I am proud of how the Democrats have responded, and worried about where the GOP is headed at a time when we need to come together, work with our allies and be smart (see here for my thoughts on the US should move forward now “After Paris.”)

The US remains a welcoming, generous nation - And while I disagree with Ryan’s refugee bill, I also want to challenge the assertions by some that we are an ungenerous nation when it comes to allowing immigrants into the US. Since 1950 the US has allowed close to 50 million immigrants into the US legally. Another 4 million refugees have resettled here, and another 11 million or so have come here without authorization. In the past 65 years, the US has absorbed 65 million new immigrants – an extraordinary number, equal to 1/5th of our total population today. We are currently taking in 1 million new legal immigrants every year in the US; so over the next 100 years at current rates we will take in 100 million more new immigrants. This graph does a good job capturing both the scale of the recent migration into the US, and its diversity. So while we may head into the Thanksgiving break disappointed with the GOP, we should not for a moment buy into the argument that America is anything but a generous and welcoming nation to immigrants from throughout the world.

See the graph below for US immigration trends ("200 Years of Immigration to the U.S.", Natalia Bronshtein).

I remain convinced that the Democrats should make it far more explicit on their strategy for improving the immigration system. I offered this three part plan as a starting point, one that would include reintroducing the House Democrats immigration bill from 2014, fully funding the Vice President’s Central American plan and supporting the aggressive efforts by this Administration – and repeatedly blocked by the GOP – to make the deportation of dangerous criminals the highest priority of our immigration enforcement system.  Pro-reform advocates should stop playing defense now and go out and make it clear how we want to modernize and improve America's terribly broken immigration system. 

Polling/National Landscape – The GOP field saw changes last week: Trump’s lead increased across the nation and in the early primary states; Carson, as we predicted, has begun to fade; Cruz and Rubio are making meaningful gains. If current trends continue the GOP race could soon be a three way among Trump, Rubio and Cruz with a large group in the back of the field hanging on by their fingernails and not much else.

The Democratic side saw Hillary having another good week, appearing Presidential and competent in the days after Paris. Bernie Sanders, however, choose to go ahead and give a major address on “democratic socialism,” an act that seemed to reinforce both the liabilities and limitations of his spirited candidacy. What should be worrisome to the Democrats, however, is the initial hit in the polls Obama took this week. After what was the very best run he had had in almost three years in Gallup, the President lost 5 or so points in the last few days. It is a reminder to Democrats that while there is now great optimism about the revitalized Clinton campaign, the performance of the President over the next year will matter as much to 2016 as what she does. It will be important for the President to return from his foreign trip and take control of the substance and politics of this debate about how to best rid the world of the Islamic State and bring a better day to Syria and the broader Middle East.

"Monday Musings" is a new column looking at the national political landscape published most Mondays here on the NDN site.  You find previous versions here

Challenging The GOP's Arguments About Sanctuary Cities and Immigration

The piece was originally entiteld "On Immigration Enforcement, The GOP's Decade of Blocking Sensible Reform."  We have been recirculating it of late, for it remains helpful to understand the current broader debate about immigration.  - Simon Rosenberg, Nov 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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